• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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MaterialismSomeone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 ESV)

According to Francis Schaeffer: “Christianity is not just a mental assent that certain doctrines are true — not even that the right doctrines are true. This is only the beginning. This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps of food and saying, ‘I believe the food exists; I believe it is real,’ and yet never eating it. It is not enough merely to say, ‘I am a Christian,’ and then in practice to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far off and strange. Many Christians I know seem to act as though they come in contact with the supernatural just twice — once when they are justified and become a Christian and once when they die.”

As Christians, we are called to live in this world but not to be of this world.  We live to serve the purpose of God.  We are a peculiar people within the larger community of mankind.  Our priorities, then, should be distinguishable from those of the world.

I fear that American Christians have lost their uniqueness within the larger culture.  Christians have forgotten the chief end of man (“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”  – The Westminster Shorter Catechism).  American Christianity is infatuated with physical well-being, worldly success, and material possessions.

On the other hand, Christ teaches, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)  Ancient contemporary Roman and Greek historians wrote about the early Christians as being committed to virtue and indifferent to material matters.  Christians were perceived as preoccupied with living out their faith rather than embracing materialism.

Much of Christian television in our country reflects the philosophy of materialism and not our need for holiness and Christ.  Materialism first diminishes then leads to the denial of God’s existence.  Wayne Grudem writes, “Christians today who focus almost the entire effort of their lives on earning more money and acquiring more possessions become ‘practical’ materialists in their activity, since their lives would not be much different if they did not believe in God at all.” (Systematic Theology, p. 268)

All Christians experience a battle between the spirit and the flesh. In Galatians 5:17 Paul writes, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” He also warns the Galatians that people whose lives are filled with selfish ambition and envy will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our Savior said, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” He makes it possible to die to self-will and to find our greatest pleasure and greatest treasure in doing His will. This does not necessarily exclude a career, marriage, child-rearing, enjoyable hobbies, or saving money. It is when we make idols of the material that they become a dangerous evil to us. Materialism is not so much about the money and things we have; it is about our degree of trust in and dependence upon physical things to the exclusion of devotion to God as our primary supplier.

Samuel at Gilgal

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