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Shiny Things

What does someone who is materialistic look and act like?  I think we all have an image in our minds of what we think a materialistic person would be like....someone who must have the latest technology or fashion….someone who focuses attention on themselves or the possessions that they have….or someone who buys cars and clothes because of the image that the brand or label portrays.

The truth is that materialism has nothing to do with wealth . . . it comes down to priorities.  Materialism has been defined as the theory that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life (Heritage Dictionary).   In other words, there is nothing better I can do with my time than pursue or enjoy stuff.  It is my priority.

In Mark 10, Jesus encounters a young man.  He comes up to Jesus to ask, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus goes on to list the commandments to which the young man responds, “all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow me.”  The young man was disheartened by this suggestion from Jesus.  He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” Say what you want about the eye of the needle, the purpose of the passage is clear:  It is not easy for a rich person to go to heaven.  This young man was obedient to the law and doing many righteous things, but his heart was focused on worldly things.  His possessions were part of his identity and giving them up was problematic.  They were a priority for him.

The bible is full of wisdom, and we should always try to make personal application, when we read from it.  Let’s look at a few verses.

1 Timothy 6:17  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.

Most of us might think this verse applies to someone else.  We read the verse and it never crosses our mind, that we could be the “rich in this present age.” But according to the Global Wealth Report, people in the United States are the wealthiest people in the world.  Every one of us should err on the side of caution and think that this verse could apply us. We should all think about where our hope is anchored.  This is made evident by the priorities in our lives.  We must be diligent to keep our focus on God and not things. It is too easy in America to become consumed by capitalism.  Everyone around us is always looking for the next best thing, and how quickly they can get it.  Materialism is a dangerous foe, that we must be aware of . . . especially in this country.

Philippians 3:18-19  18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

This passage describes what happens when someone puts too much emphasis on earthly things.  Your mind is so set on the things in life that it becomes your focus.  It takes the place of God in your life and becomes an idol.  The Greek word for belly means “a hallow cavity’.  It can never be satisfied or filled.  You are constantly asking “What can I eat now . . . where is the next big thing?” You will never find contentment in life, as long as you are constantly searching for stuff.  The sad realization is that people in this situation glory in the things that they should be ashamed of.  They are proud of the earthly things they have accumulated.  They don’t realize that the result of pursuing these things is destruction.  With your heart set on earthly things and how to obtain them, you end up neglecting the one thing that matters, God.  Paul is telling this with tears, because if you are lacking a relationship with God, you have no hope.

Matthew 6:19-21  19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus is very pragmatic in this verse.  He quickly gets to the point of why pursuing treasures on earth is a bad idea. They are not permanent.  Everything on this earth is in a state of decay.  Everything on this earth can be taken away from us.  If we put the focus of our heart there, then we will always lose.  God is the only secure place to put our hope. 

Where the Red Fern Grows talks about a way to trap a raccoon by drilling a hole in a log and dropping in a shiny object.  A raccoon will see the shiny object at the bottom and want it.  They will reach into the hole and grab the object, but then they can’t pull their hand out.  The raccoon is too stubborn to let go of the shiny thing.  Once it decides it wants something, it will not stop until it gets it, even in the face of danger.  Don’t be like the raccoon.  Learn to let go.  Let go of the shiny things of materialism out of love for others.  The materialistic person doesn’t give up possessions for anyone or for any reason.  Christians give up possessions because of the love taught by God.  We love God, so we sacrifice for Him.  We love our brothers and should sacrifice for their benefit. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

-  Bryan Tacker