Materialism has been running rampant since the end of World War II. Today, it has reached epidemic proportions. Definitions of materialism include “a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things.”
Materialism doesn’t begin with the accumulation of “things” at the expense of the spiritual; that is its end. It begins in the heart. As Randy Alcorn points out, “Materialism usually surfaces in one’s lifestyle, but it is first and foremost a matter of the heart.” A person who centers his or her life around the accumulation of things, no matter how heated his or her denials, is a practicing materialist.
Materialism is not new. The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of it in the lives of people — from Balak to Delilah to Gehazi to Ananias and Sapphira — who were willing to do whatever it took to obtain money and material posses-sions. Even the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was an act of blatant materialism.
That’s why our Lord exclaimed, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Materialism erodes our spiritual life and ultimately blinds us to our own spiritual condition. Like the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:17-18), because of material wealth, we can miss see¬ing our own spiritual poverty. What is truly ironic, as Alcorn points out, is that “ . . . the poor and humble man who walks with God is re¬warded with prosperity, gradually turns his attention away from his Lord, then finally becomes the proud rich man who comes un¬der God’s judgment.”
What’s the cure — the antidote — for materialism? Well, the pastor could preach a series of sermons dealing with the dan¬gers of materialism. Key lay leaders could give personal tes¬timonies about materialism. Both means could be effective, de¬pending on the degree to which the pastor and lay leaders have avoided allowing materialism to infect their lives.
A better approach is to allow the “Effective Stewardship” program to sow the seeds of the Scrip¬ture which will bring pow¬erful convic¬tion to those whose lives are centered around money and the things it can buy instead of on their relationship to the Lord. As Tolstoy put it, “When a person is confronted with the truth, he must either change his con¬science or his lifestyle.”