You and I are material beings in a material world. Every day we fill our senses with that which is physical, earthly, and perceptible.
It’s hard for us immersed in this physical world not to be focused primarily on the material things around us. That’s basically what materialists do. To them there’s no such thing as the supernatural and nothing can exist unless it is comprised of physical components. They even go so far as to say there is no God or afterlife.
If you believe that then it’s understandable why you would attach importance only to this life, and desire to possess a lot of material things. You’d believe the message of consumerism that your security, wellbeing, and happiness depend on obtaining that which is newer, better, or more. That this is what life is all about. Whoever dies with the most toys wins!
Many Christians would deny that they are materialists because they say they believe in spiritual realities. Yet they live as though material things and physical comforts are of utmost value and importance. They talk of heaven but strive for earthly things. Some have even developed a theology, which says God wants you rich and that being rich and having lots of things are signs of God’s blessing!
To summarize Scripture, the issue is not that possessions are wrong. It’s our attitude toward them. It is the LOVE of money and things that Scripture condemns. Anything we trust in besides God is an idol.
So here we are—Christians alive spiritually but trying not to succumb to the materialism and consumerism of the world. How do we do that?
Adoption—Personally embrace biblical values
1. God’s presence
Our true security is God’s presence, not money. “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you" (Hebrews 13:5).
Godliness and contentment make us wealthier than gold and consumption. “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6–10).
3. The Kingdom
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33). Materialism strangles the Word and its fruit in our lives. “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced” (Matthew 13:22). Don’t “worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).
Generosity is the biblical antidote to materialism. God commanded us to be generous not because He wanted our money, but because He didn’t want our money to have us. “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19). In other words, we can’t take it with us when we die, but through generosity we can send it on ahead.
Accumulation—Change your spending
Understand the difference between your needs and wants. Before you go out and buy that next thing, pause. Ask, “is it necessary?”
Reduce your exposure to advertising. Advertising is based on creating discontent so you will buy more. Reduce it by using ad blockers when you’re browsing online. Unsubscribe to emails that are overly promotional. Hit the mute button when commercials play on television.
Stop recreational shopping. Remember there will always be another good deal.
The final word on materialism is Jesus’ question, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)