For the love of money is a root of all the evils, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1Timothy 6:10

Materialism is a mindset that substitutes the things of this world for the promises of God. This includes security, comfort, peace, joy, etc. In the Scriptures, materialism is called by another name:  Idolatry.

The use of “wandered” – in the verse above – is interesting. In the Greek, it means “to go astray, stray away from”.  It is a passive action; like a child wandering away from his mother.

In other words, materialism is not something we actively set our minds to pursue, like adultery or murder. It comes to us like an unseen toxin or cancer, many times wrap in attractive packaging. We don’t have to ask for materialism; it is an active agent – a catalyst for many kinds of sin.

Most American Christians are born into materialism. It is a big part of our culture – an inherent measure of the American Dream. “Keeping up with the Joneses”, once viewed as a negative pursuit, has now become an obligation. Homeowners’ association and our kids demand it. We have been deceived into thinking that making our neighbors and children happy is a redeeming activity. In reality, it is simply an excuse to procure more stuff.

From a Romanian pastor: “In my experience, 95% of the believers who face the test of external persecution pass it, while 95% of those who face the test of prosperity fail it!” Church leaders in China are recognizing the same threat. While persecution serves as a catalyst for church growth, China’s newfound prosperity is drawing believers away.

Assuming that Americans are somehow immune to this disease is both arrogant and dangerous – for ourselves and our children. To avoid or break free from the poison of materialism, we must recognize and respect it as our enemy. We must set our minds against it.

Once we acknowledge the potential for brokenness in the set of our mind, we become free and empowered to a healthy suspicion of the way we think and the affect that thinking has on our hearts. At this point, we must be particularly cautious.

Self-examination – preferred by most and encouraged by many – is an insufficient response. Our minds are too tricky for that. God is aware of our weakness. He has another idea:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Mammon is a power force for evil. We are more easily deceived that we would like to admit. Our best hope is humble resignation and surrender to the One Whose word “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:11-12).

Corporate Cancer

Materialism’s infection is not limited to individuals.  Christian organizations are in danger of wandering from the faith.  The prosperity movement comes most quickly to our minds as an example, and much has been said about this crude embrace of worldly satisfactions.

However, there is a subtle and more sinister cancer attacking the organized church. In an effort to attract the lost and secure existing members, church leaders offer materialistic edifices with worldly comforts and entertainments – while promoting a god that will fix all of their problems.

It seems necessary at this juncture to point out that the Scriptures promise quite the opposite – trial, tribulation, affliction and suffering. The latter is actually a requirement for our adoption as sons and daughters (Romans 8:16-17). This is a whole other topic that you can explore here.

The salient point is that church leaders are helping their congregates wander after materialistic solutions to life’s challenges, and promoting idolatry in the process. Pastors are to be shepherds. Good shepherds guard their flock from wandering away, and they go after those that have.

This is not a passive responsibility. In fact, an aggressiveness is required. Risk and sacrifice are reasonable expectations. Kingdoms must be laid down.

God will empower those who surrender to His reign and submit to His ways for the advancement of His kingdom. I recently read a devotion from Open Doors (via BibleGateway.com) that offers an approach to battling materialism. Their copyright prevents me from listing the steps here. However, I am sure they would not mind me providing you with a link for it.

In conclusion, I am encouraged to add a personal note: This matter of materialism concerns me greatly – for myself and those in my spheres of influence. It is a hard topic to discuss – perhaps because we struggle with our perspective. The conversation feels like conviction, obligation, and threat of loss.

I believe with all my heart that God’s intention is loving conviction, opportunity, and freedom. His ways are trustworthy. Take a moment and talk to Him about the potential for materialism cancer in your life. He loves talking to His children.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

P.S. You might also be interested in determining: Are you a rich person?

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