Luke 12: 22-34
I am no more immune to the materialism than anyone else. Being a pastor does not automatically kill the materialism gene that resides in us. I want. I want a big house, a rambling house, one you can get lost in, one with a spacious library where I can study. And it needs a room for my wife, call it a sewing room. The kitchen will have a lot of room, a big island in the middle, and a real grill with a vent to pull the smoke out of the house. I haven’t gotten any further with that fantasy but we have food and hobbies covered.
I like cars too. I would not mind driving a high end BMW or maybe a Corvette wearing a pair of $300.00 sunglasses. A top of the line pickup truck would be delightful. And a few late 60s muscle cars to waste gas in would be an added bonus. While we are at it, let’s throw in a big boat and a nice camp with a dock. And how about a nice vacation home in the mountains some place. It over looks a long valley where you can watch the storms roll up in the summer and see the snow fall in the winter. The deer play there.
Being a baby boomer, I like technology and gadgets. So, of course I want the latest computers and sound systems, GPS systems, satellite systems, high end video systems and enough time to enjoy it all.
Speaking of time, I want to travel. There are all kinds of places I want to see. So, for us to travel, we need new wardrobes and luggage and all the things that make travel comfortable. And, of course, I need lots of free time to travel.
Whew, it is tiring being materialistic. Thinking about all of this makes me so depressed because I ain’t gonna get it. Don’t you think that is how the world thinks? Don’t you think that much of the modern discontent comes from the fact that I can’t get all that I want? And have you noticed that even those who have, are not too happy as a result?
It is a sad state of affairs. It is true that a certain amount of material pursuit makes the economic world go around. Nevertheless, I don’t think that God ever intended for us to be consumed with consumerism, or to be mad with materialism. Keeping up with the Jones or whoever has all the cool toys is not how God intended for us to use our time. In fact, it was this kind of obsession that caused the first murderer to kill his own brother.
Americans and Westerners are addicts. Materialism produces an Endorphin high that only lets us down demanding more and more. Sadly, there are preachers and pastors and evangelists within the Church today who tell you that God wants you to be prosperous. He wants you to have the unreconstructed desires of your heart. In other words, they say that God wants you to be a materialist. Yet I tell you, this is false.
When we become obsessed with things, the Bible calls it Mammon. No matter how rich or poor we are, if things, the drive for money, the wants of our life become our obsession, God cannot, at the same time, be our obsession. If we are serving materialism, we cannot be serving God. Jesus said that you cannot serve two masters.
What does Jesus mean? "I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Jesus knew the troubles of man. So what Jesus offers is a principle by which members of the kingdom of Heaven are to live their lives.
We who are followers of Christ are people who have placed our full trust in God. We have been called to place our treasure in heaven. Our conviction is that God loves us and wants the best for us. Yet, when the hard times come, we begin to doubt God even though we know that God never promised that Christians that we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. We feel choked by life. We stumble and come to believe that God is not able to take care of our needs or that we are not of infinite value to God. In that sense, anxiety becomes blasphemy, it becomes an accusation against God. He does not love us nor can help us, we accuse. Either our wants and needs will be our master or God will. It takes us a long time to figure this out. Instead we live our lives with all kinds of fear and anxiety.
Jesus said that, that kind of fear and anxiety is unnecessary. Look at the birds of the air, how beautiful they. They don't farm and harvest and gather into barns. God feeds them. Are you not of far more value to God than these? Jesus said, don't you understand, you are of ultimate importance to God. So much so that God became flesh and died for us.
Jesus calls on us to place our trust in the Father who loves us and will take care of our needs. He said that worry will not add one inch to your height or one minute to your life. And as to clothing, look at the flowers how beautiful they are. God made them that way, will he not do much more for you?
"So God will take care of our needs" we might ask with some skepticism. What about the people in Sudan who are starving and have no clothes or shelter? The response from God might be, What is your treasure? Perhaps you are laying up for yourself treasure on earth rather than treasure in heaven. Perhaps they starve because Christians have not done their job to feed them, to educate them, to take the gospel to them. We need to minister to those who are less fortunate than we are. We need to get our hands dirty with those who need help and they need to see a real Christian acting in their life.
The bottom line is, we have been called to seek first the kingdom of God, FIRST, before anything else and all of the other things shall be added to us. There is an economy in God's kingdom. It is an economy based on our commitment to follow Christ.
In God’s economy, he blesses us so that we can bless others. In the Old Testament, Israel was much like us. They were obsessed with money and profit and things. Their materialism stole their heart from God. Through the prophet Amos, God said to Israel:
6 Thus says the LORD, "For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for money And the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 "These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless Also turn aside the way of the humble; And a man and his father resort to the same girl In order to profane My holy name.
8 "On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar, And in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined. (NASB)
These are serious matters. God’s judgment comes when his people refuse to serve him and particularly when we refuse to serve the poor and needy. Israel was just like us. God brought judgment on them because they did not carry out the basic functions of the kingdom of God. Do you think God will do anything less to us? Doesn’t the violence and death in the world make you nervous? It could easily turn to a kind of global war where weapons of mass destruction would render all our materialistic pursuits into a cruel joke. What good are houses and cars and kitchens and vacation homes and gadgets if there is no power to operate them or people to live in them? What good is our materialism if we are starving to death, or dying of disease or watching our skin peel off after a few survive a nuclear detonation? When we place our minds and desires on the wrong things, we humans will run headlong to destruction.
God’s priorities call us to lay up treasure in heaven through our good works. God’s will defines our treasure and where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.