Material Things Demand Attention
By Crown Financial Ministries
The affluence of the American way of life has mixed blessings. On the one hand, our prosperity has made life much easier and has freed a great deal of money to spread God’s Word. On the other, things purchased by this affluence require a great deal of our time and attention. In fact, the urgency of our materialistic lifestyle in America becomes a tyranny that demands and consumes most of our energies.
Industrialization provided a higher standard of living with a shorter workweek. In the early 1900s, it took every family member working 60 hours per week, many times seven days a week, just to make ends meet. By the mid-twentieth century, the average workweek was 48 hours, and in most families the husband/father was the primary wage earner. Now, in more than 70 percent of American families two incomes are necessary to support the family’s materialistic lifestyle.
The American dream only four decades ago was a good job, a comfortable home, and a nice car. Today, the American dream demands guaranteed employment, a retirement plan, a home, two or three cars, a vacation home—summer cottage, lake house, travel trailer, or motor home—insurance that covers everything and every possible situation, and a college education for all of the children. The possession of material things and a guaranteed future that allows us to use those things has become the standard by which we judge success. Yet Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
The purpose of things
The initial purpose of material things was to make our lives easier and more comfortable. However, over the years they have begun to take control of us, rather than our controlling them.
God does not prohibit us from enjoying the benefits of our hard work and the things that we are able to purchase. However, we are admonished not to get entangled in those things to the point that we are unable to fulfill our primary purpose—to serve God and to use all that He has provided for His service. Unfortunately, in today’s Christian society most people are so entangled that they do not recognize what God wants them to do and how He wants them to spend their money. The real purpose of our resources is to free us to do more for Christ, not less. When the pursuit of material things becomes our focus in life, there can be no doubt about whom we serve. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).
Repeatedly, God’s Word warns that material things and worldly pleasures are some of the greatest dangers we must face. Yet most of America’s Christian world considers the pursuit of these to be normal and acceptable. Nevertheless, most of these same Christians are not content with their lives. So, in essence, rather than providing more contentment, abundance has produced less contentment.
The danger of things
There are five primary dangers regarding material things of which Christians need to be aware.
- Feeling that a lifestyle of indulgence is normal. When our income can’t supply those desires immediately, we simply mortgage our future income by charging. Eventually that could lead to borrowing more than we can pay back.
- Focusing on worldly success. Many Christians are both spiritually and materially mature, but when we regard people based on their material success rather than on their spiritual maturity, our focus has begun to be shaped by the world’s standards.
- Diminishing God’s direction. Nothing prohibits Christians from obeying God more than the tug of material comforts. Once we have adjusted to a lifestyle that includes material comforts, it is difficult to surrender them in order to serve God if He determines that those comforts need to be adjusted or eliminated.
- Imitating a superiority attitude. Those to whom God has given the responsibility of material things and resources must be very careful to exercise that responsibility with caution.
- Being indifferent toward those in need. A real danger of material affluence is that we begin to think that everyone has it. This blinds us from really seeing the needs of those around us. Giving to the poor, supplying shelter and food to the homeless, and providing for the needy are commands of God’s Word; they are not requests. Yet, because of our affluence, this seems to be one of the primary areas of lack in today’s American Christians.
There must always be a balance in the area of material things. God does not have an identical plan for all individuals or for all families. The common goal for all of us should be to reach the balance between the use of material things and being controlled and used by them. To do this, Christians must establish that they serve Christ first and all other considerations come after that. That means that all we do and have must be open and available for use in God’s service.
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