Materialism: Is it bad for you?

People often define materialism as owning or wanting a lot of stuff. Materialism carries a much deeper meaning, as the main dictionary definition reveals. Materialism is defined as a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. If you look up synonyms for the word, you’ll find greediness and money-grubbing; both of which carry negative connotations.

King Solomon

King Solomon, son of King David, built the Temple in Jerusalem and reigned over Israel’s golden age. God said he would give King Solomon whatever he asked for, but instead of asking for wealth or health, King Solomon chose wisdom. King Solomon wrote more than 3,000 Proverbs, many of which are in the Bible. He declared, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  As king, he had more material wealth than anyone could ever dream of acquiring. However, he found that material things did not leave him satisfied.

While it may sound wonderful to be a wealthy king, or to win the lottery, putting money above spirituality can undermine our sense of accomplishment or the satisfaction that comes from helping others. According to modern-day studies, people who are overly concerned with acquiring material possessions have higher rates of depression and anxiety. Putting possessions above God and people in the hierarchy of importance is even harmful to relationships. “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:6).  Focus energy on things that will deliver glory; our relationship first and foremost with God, our family and friendships, our willingness to give, forgive, and help others, and our accomplishments. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

We are falsely convinced that we cannot achieve happiness without being at the top of the economic ladder. Many of us work hard trying to get the latest promotion, sometimes to the point of neglecting our spouses and children, and we become jealous of others who surpass us. It turns our hearts bitter. In addition, the consumer culture pushes us to buy, buy, and buy! Smiling faces on television commercials persuade us that we will not be happy unless we own the latest coffee maker or drive the newest car. We think we will be happier with more. We call ourselves failures if we can’t keep up with the Joneses; so we buy designer clothes, join the snooty country club, and take extravagant vacations that leave us in debt. But the consequences of living beyond our means can be damaging. We must reflect, is it worth acquiring debt to buy a brand new BMW or to purchase a large home beyond one’s financial means? When we feel like this, its time to turn to the Bible for advice. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28).

Wealth in itself isn’t bad, as long as we do right. Reaching beyond what we can afford to impress others or hoard isn’t a sound idea, financially or emotionally. So is spending without tithing and saving, and using money poorly. We are stewards of the gifts that God has entrusted to us and we must make wise decisions based on that fact. We must not become greedy when rich nor shall we run from our debt when we are poor. “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” (Psalm 37:21).

Sure it’s nice to have things, but practically everything we own requires maintenance and more money for upkeep. Material things can swallow us up. It can turn societies into ones where chaos and jealousy ensue. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16).  Recognize that wealth is a gift from God to be appreciated and used wisely. Remember your brothers and sisters in need. Do not allow materialism to become more important than your relationship with God, and with others.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

REMEMBER: You can’t take anything with you!

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