Living in a material world, and especially in capitalistic North America, the pressure to be caught up in materialism is enormous. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has made a living out of redneck jokes beginning, “You know you’re a redneck if….” Allow me to change it to, “I know I’m a materialist if.…”
I know I’m a materialist if…I love things more than Christ and His Word. Like the rich young ruler who did not follow Christ because he valued his many possessions more than Christ (Matthew 19:16-22), I must examine my heart. Do I treasure my stuff more than God and His Word? I know what I love by what I think about, and give my time and money to.
I know I’m a materialist if…my definition of self and success are my possessions. Somewhere there’s a line between what I call “me” and “mine.” As long as things define my identity rather than Christ I’m a materialist. In God’s realm success in life is not defined by stuff.
I know I’m a materialist if…I love my stuff more than people. Some people love their stuff, and use people. God’s way is to use stuff and love people. People will outlast this material world. The stuff will disappear.
I know I’m a materialist if…I think things will make me happy. I’m a materialist when I foolishly think stuff will fill the God-shaped vacuum in my heart. The proof things don’t make people happy is if they did, we wouldn’t feel the need to keep collecting.
I know I’m a materialist if…the stuff I own owns me. Stuff requires attention, maintenance, and repair. Things consume time, energy, and resources. Is that what my life is about? Did Christ die for me so I can accumulate and look after temporal stuff?
There are two antidotes to materialism. The first is found in Colossians 3 where we are told to set our hearts and minds on things above “where Christ is…. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” (vv. 1, 3 NIV). The first antidote to materialism is keeping my focus on Christ.
When I was born into this world the default of my heart was set on things of this world. But then God saved me and united me with Christ in His death and resurrection. Realizing I died to the things of this world and my life is now at home in Christ, I must make a deliberate decision to earnestly centre my life in spiritual, not material, things. This does not mean material things are bad, but I must view them in relation to my position in Christ to keep them in proper perspective.
The second antidote is found in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 where it says, “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.” The second antidote to materialism is generosity.
I brought nothing into the world, and I can take nothing out of it (1 Timothy 6:7). But between the coming into and going out of this world I do need material things such as clothing and shelter to survive. Given man’s sinful propensity to idolatry I know my legitimate need for material things can get distorted in my heart and expressed as materialism—the interest and desire for money or possessions, rather than spiritual and eternal things.
If material things distract me from concentrating on Christ or giving to Christ and His kingdom, then possessions have possessed me. And I need to repent because this world isn’t my home anymore. If you are in Christ, it’s not yours either.