NEW HARVEST’S POSITION ON MATERIALISM
In addressing this issue it’s important that we start with a clear definition. Materialism, for the purposes of this paper, refers to the desire for wealth and possessions. We all need food, shelter, transport and clothing, but materialism causes us to be preoccupied – even obsessed – with acquiring these things. It’s an addiction which drives our economy, is vigorously promoted through advertising and affects both rich and poor. Materialism causes us to spend money we don’t have, envy those who have what we desire, and upgrade that which already meets our needs.
Jesus regularly challenged materialism (it was one of His own temptations [Matthew 4:1-4], He instructed us not to focus on it [Matthew 6:19-21, 25-33], to get rid of its shackles [Matthew 19:16-24], to handle wisely that which has been entrusted to us [Matthew 25:14-30], and stated categorically that we cannot serve both God and money [Matthew 6:24]). Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10) causing Christians to wander from the truth.
It is evident that the reason for this strong challenge comes from an understanding that materialism sets itself up to control the life of the individual. Those entrapped by materialism have a master other than Jesus. Their thinking and actions are controlled by a need for self-preservation, the protection of their goods or the need to acquire more, and so they are not free to entrust themselves to Jesus, to do what He asks or go where He sends. Christianity and materialism are clearly incompatible.
It’s impossible not to be affected by materialism. We are all exposed to it on a daily basis and the temptation is enormous, particularly as this is one of the idols of the society in which we live. Many people, including Christians, have been ensnared and are suffering the consequences, which range from debt driven anxiety to extreme selfishness to moral failure.
As Christians we are called to bring healing to the individual and to society by demonstrating another way of living. Through our submission to Jesus, our trust in His love for us and our acceptance of His provision, we strive to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). This is only possible if we break the stranglehold of materialism over our own lives and begin to live under Jesus’ authority. This will require a radical shift in our thinking and may take time before we are able to “demonstrate” anything. It will require a twofold process of extrication and application, extrication from the hold materialism has over us and application of a new, Jesus-controlled approach.
People struggling with materialism can basically be divided into two groups: the poor and the rich. Materialism affects each in a different way and would require different help.
The poor need to be helped to avoid credit, to find self worth outside of material possessions, to learn to tithe.
The rich need to be helped to move beyond their material security, to see themselves as stewards of God’s wealth, to be guilt-free regarding their wealth, to learn to move beyond tithing to generosity.