Jesus Emphasizes the Dangers of Materialism

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BR Note: this message is over 1.5 hours long. We spent the entire Sunday morning time on it with a short 5 minute break in the middle. I know its long but it is very important message I hope you’ll read or listen to.

Materialism is defined as “the preoccupation with material things rather than intellectual or spiritual things.”

  • preoccupation: the state or condition of being absorbed or engrossed with something.

If a Christian is preoccupied with material things, it is definitely a sin. That is not to say we cannot have material things, but the obsession with acquiring and caring for “stuff” is a dangerous thing for the Christian, for two reasons.

  1. First, any preoccupation, obsession or fascination with anything other than God is sinful and is displeasing to God. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  2. Second, when we concern ourselves with the material world, we are easily drawn in by the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:19), thinking that we will be happy or fulfilled or content if only we had more of whatever it is we are chasing.

We must seek to be content with what we have, and materialism is the exact opposite of that contentment. It causes us to strive for more and more and more, all the while telling us that this will be the answer to all our needs and dreams.

  • If I just had more money, I would be happy
  • If I just had a nicer/bigger car and house, life would be good
  • If I just had the resources to work less and have more leisure, I would be happy
  • If I just had a better job or could win the lottery, life would be fulfilling
  • If I just had more money, I would not be anxious or fearful

The Bible tells us that a person’s “life is not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15) and that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Jesus Thinks Materialism is a Danger

  • Jesus taught about 500 verses on prayer and faith
  • About 1000 verses on the Kingdom, Heaven and Hell
  • Taught 2000 verses on materialism, riches and the dangers of wealth keeping us from God
  • Give this proportion, how important is our attitude and understanding about material things? How much does it affect us?

Apparently a LOT according to Jesus.

The Bible never says its wrong to HAVE much… its wrong to WANT too much or to let what we do have become what is most important to us (idolatry)

Spiritual Wastefulness

We (you and me) have hit the humanity lottery and yet we are dangerously similar to the Laodicean church in that Jesus wants to vomit us out of His mouth because of the affects of materialism and affluence:

  • We live in the prosperous time of all human history
  • In the most prosperous country in all human history where even the poor are rich comparatively
  • The mini storage business is booming… build it bigger, fill it up; fill it up, get storage to hold the overflow
  • We live in the age of Grace, Jesus paid for our sins
  • We are the very Bride of Christ, a special privilege for us alone
  • You have endless Christian resources and teaching at your fingertips
  • We don’t want for any necessity, we have endless opportunity

JACKPOT: you are the winner of the Humanity Super Lottery!

  • How mindful or thankful are you for that? Have you considered it?
  • And, how alert are you to the dangers of our prosperity and abundance? Have you considered that?

So Much Yet So Little

Luke 12:48 Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

We have been given MUCH. And then some.

  • How much opportunity, service, sacrifice, and ministry do we neglect?
  • How much of our time, energy and effort is about getting, securing, keeping and growing our MATERIAL wealth instead of our SPIRITUAL wealth?

When it comes to money today, we seek worldly advice from financial experts but  sneer at expert Biblical financial advice:

  • American success and retirement = work your whole life to save enough money to do nothing for the last couple of decades but live in comfort and ease, and make sure you die in the best nursing home with the best doctors all while worrying about who is going to take away or waste what you have worked so hard to accumulate.
    • Sign me up!!!
  • Christians have abandoned Jesus as their financial advisor
    • There’s goes the preacher again, talking about money
    • Churches are greedy, preachers always wanting more
    • And sadly, given the “health and wealth” hucksters, those are legitimate gripes
  • Sclerosis of the liver has turned in sclerosis of the GIVER
    • Alcohol hardens and kills the heart and liver
    • Prosperity and materials kills and hardens the hear of the Giver

Internal Poison

Like exposure to radiation kills you from the inside out, material does the same

  • It’s not one of those “awful” sins like abortion or homosexuality or adultery
  • Very few Christians would abandon their faith for any of those outwardly sinful lifestyles
  • But how many of us are being slowly poisoned from the inside out by radioactive materialism?

Faith destroying materialism is far more pervasive than any other sin verifying that Jesus emphasis on it was accurate and appropriate

  • The Puritans said that out of 100 people, 99 could handle poverty, but only ONE could be Godly while wealth
  • “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”

Revelation 13 To the Church in Laodicea

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. [Nearby by valley had soothing hot springs but by the time it was brought by aquifer to Laodicea it was like warm;  nearby mountains had refreshing cold spring water but by the time it got to Laodicea it was lukewarm; neither HOT NOR COLD… useless and unappealing] Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. [projectile vomit] 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, [there’s the danger… what do we need God for when we have everything and have places our trust, security and future in our possessions?] not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, [the Laodiceans were very rich, a world financial center like New York today] so that you may be rich, and white garments [they were famous for their fine wool, and fine colors that were put on show to declare the wealth status of the wearer] so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes [they had world famous eye clinics and eye doctors to heal the many eye diseases of the day], so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. [take heart, God LOVES US that’s why He warns us about dangers; don’t get discourage or dismiss as another “greedy preacher” message… ] 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Ecclesiastes 5 [written by Solomon, worth 300+ BILLION]

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, [the more we LOVE money the more we want and the less it satisfies] nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, [the more you have the more people trying to take it from you: thieves, scammers, government, lawyers, etc] and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? [we accumulate things only to stare at them, worry about them, and spend our emotional energy on them and then what? They are lost, left to others or confiscated by taxes… but we got to spend decades paying for storage, insurance, maintenance and management] 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. [the more you have, the more you worry about it]

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, [Western culture says “accumulate” then live in ease, and then leave it to your children to fight over and become spoiled by; CT Studd told his children “I wish I could give you something but I gave it away a long time ago”

14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. [or we work, save then lose it in a business or stock market gone bad and are crushed by the loss] And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, [you brought nothing into the world, you obtained nothing that God didn’t give to you, and you’ll take nothing out with you… so why is our whole life consumed with GETTING MORE?] and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. [Important! God doesn’t saving HAVING is wrong… its never HAVING ENOUGH and letting the HAVING be the most important thing (priority) in our life] 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Biblical Lessons About Materialism

  1. The more we accumulate the more we want; perpetual discontentment
    1. Bigger, better, newer, faster, finer
    1. Its never enough… there’s always something better and if only we just had “that” we could be satisfied…
  2. The more we have, the less satisfied we are
    1. At times I look around my yard and house and think “if only I had…”
    1. My son said to me one time, “you know Dad, you really have a little slice of heaven” and I have never forgotten that.
    1. It reminds me that what I ALREADY HAVE is more than enough, more than I deserve, and it is ENOUGH!
  3. The more we have, the more others will try to take it from you
  4. The more we have, the less we can really put to good use
  5. The more we have, the more we worry about it (safeguarding, maintaining, insuring, monitoring)
  6. The more tightly we hold on to our stuff, the more it will injure us trying to hold on to it
  7. The more we accumulate and keep, the more we can lose, the greater the suffering over the loss
  8. The more we have, the more we leave behind (whatever is not sent on to Heaven)

William Borden (heir to the dairy empire):

  • He gave away and walked away from a vast fortune to go to seminary and prepare for missions
  • “No reserves, no retreat, no regrets” written in his Bible when they found him dead
    • It all God’s
    • No holding back anything
    • No regrets with this mindset

Backing Into Heaven

We hold onto to our possessions while being dragged in to Heaven backwards, not wanting to let them go, afraid to miss out on something or lose what we have.

  • We should send everything ahead to Heaven
  • We should be preparing for our “Heavenly Cruise” marching up the gangway to finish our pilgrimage into eternity knowing that everything is there waiting for us and we’ve left nothing behind to hang on to
  • Instead of running towards Heaven with nothing slowing us down, we are being sucked into Heaven while God has to pry our cold dying fingers from our “stuff” and this life

Dangers To Be Aware Of About Wealth/Materialism

  • Materialism exchanges what is eternal for what is temporal
    • Exchange the temporal for eternity; change the ownership
    • Guaranteed returns and can never be lost
    • “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”
  • Wealth can robs us of faith and peace if we hold on to it tightly
    • Matthew 6:28-30 And why are you anxious [robs us of peace] about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [robs us of faith]
  • Materialism makes death a loss of anything we have not sent ahead
    • Whatever has not been invested with God (time, money, energy, possessions) will automatically be lost at the moment of death
    • How many Christians accumulate then retire from both WORK and MINISTRY to live a life of comfort and ease at just the time when they could focus on ministry work, have the most money they’ve ever had, and the least about of bills and debt they’ve ever had?
      • The perfect time to really get busy for God and often its traded for a life of ease and comfort and leisure because they are “retired”
      • That kind of retirement is foreign to Scripture
      • You don’t retire from ministry until the day you are promoted to full time worship and rest (Heaven)
  • Wealth (cares of this world) can choke God’s Word out of your life
    • Matthew 13:22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
    • How many Christians lack fellowship, sanctification, holiness, depth, time and generosity in the Christian life because their focus is on the things of this world?
  • Wealth is a cruel taskmaster
    • Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
    • When you serve money, you are enslaved to it and like a tyrant it is never appeased
  • DANGER! Wealth makes it hard to get to Heaven!
    • Matthew 19:16-24 – the Rich Young Ruler who had kept all the Ten Commandments (in his own estimation) but could not give up his possessions (what he could not keep and would ultimately lose) to gain Christ (what he could never lose once gained)

      Matt 19:22-26 22When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
    • Again, the Bible makes clear that HAVING is not the sin… it’s the WANTING and the KEEPING that keeps us from God
    • No “status” makes us Godly by default; there are poor sinners, and poor Saints. There are rich sinners, and rich Saints… although God warns us that being a rich Saint is hard and only possible with Him
  • The more we have the more we want and the more it takes over our life, the more we place our time and security in what we have
    • Luke 12:16-21  And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
    • Notice he left GOD OUT OF THE CONVERSATION… its not wrong to have WEALTH (every good and perfect gift comes down from God James 1:17)… it’s wrong to leave God out of the equation of possessions


A Biblical Dialogue on Materialism

Hebrews 13:5 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.”  1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Luke 12:33-34 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.  1 Timothy 6:9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.  

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Mark 4:19 But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Haggai 2:8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. Deuteronomy 6:5  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 1 Corinthians 4:7 What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Timothy 6:6-8 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

What Should Christians Seek Instead of Riches

1 Timothy 6:11  But as for you, O man of God, flee these things [discontent, worldliness, materialism, sin]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Instead of seeking riches, each of us is to constantly strive to cultivate the virtues described in verse 11:

  • righteousness—speaks of our attitude toward fellow human beings. We should be ready to help when the need arises; ready to perform righteous acts.
  • godliness—speaks of our attitude toward God. It should be our chief ambition to try and please Him in every detail of life.
  • faith—speaks of our attitude toward duty. We are to keep our word; carry out our responsibilities; and fulfill our obligations.
  • love—speaks of our attitude toward all persons. We are to go the second mile; to turn the other cheek; to avoid retaliation.
  • patience—speaks of our attitude toward circumstances. The reference is not so much about being longsuffering toward other people, as it is about avoiding bitterness toward God when the trials of life come crowding in. The Lord is seeking to conform us to the image of His Son, and we must learn to bow in submission and patience before His providence.
  • meekness—speaks of our attitude toward self. We must lay aside self-will, self-pity, and any signs of self-importance.

Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness—follow after these things. The person who continues to cultivate these virtues will not so quickly be trapped by the love of money.