06 Aug 2017 – The Danger of Materialism

(From Matt. 6:19-24) by Rev Gabriel Gan

From the day they are born, modern young people are taught that money is the secret to happiness, that only those who possess the latest fads, trendy clothes, designer labels can truly enjoy life. All this flies in the face of what truly rich people have known since time began. Money does not bring happiness. King Solomon wrote, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver” (Eccl. 5:10); “the abundance of the rich will not suffer (permit) him to sleep” (v.12). Many have seconded Solomon’s God-inspired words. Benjamin Franklin said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it.” Andrew Carnegie observed that “Millionaires seldom smile.”

The second half of Matthew 6 builds on what has come before. Followers of Jesus not only shun hypocrisy in religious duty, but, more positively, they comprehend that all of life is to be lived and all its attitudes are to be formed according to the perspectives of the kingdom of God.

In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus did not condemn wealth but rather the love of wealth. He did not rule out earthly possessions, positions, or pleasures but instead the improper emphasis on them. Nowhere did Jesus magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate getting of wealth. God made all things, including food, clothing, and precious metals. God has declared that all things He has made are good (Gen. 1:31). God knows that we need certain things in order to live (Matt. 6:32). In fact, He has given us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Hence, it is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.

From time immemorial, mankind has always focused on the possessions and positions that this life has to offer. But such earthly treasures, being temporary and uncertain, are unworthy of the believer’s primary attention. By “treasures of earth” Jesus refers to any valuable which is perishable or which can be lost in one way or another. Now, earthly treasures need not be limited to material possessions. Anything that men value, including position, status, work, and family, can become a treasure. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the good things that this world has to offer, provided one does not have to leave the will of God to enjoy them. What Christ taught is a proper perspective toward earthly things.

The reason Jesus gives for prohibiting the storing of such treasure is that it will be destroyed. You cannot take it with you. Job understood this perfectly: “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked will I return thither” (Job 1:21). That is the truth! We can take none of our earthly treasures with us. No money, no fame, and no position will go with us. How should we live? Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:17–19 are helpful for all of us:

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

  1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, “If we have a right view of ourselves in this world as pilgrims, as children of God going to our Father, everything falls into its true perspective.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p.28). We, like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, will learn to look beyond the present and grasp the eternal.

Instead of “treasuring up treasures on earth,” Christ’s followers are to daily “treasure up” for themselves “treasure in heaven” that will endure. No moth can ever corrupt them; nor can any thieves break through and steal them away (v.20).

What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to use all that we have for the glory of God. It means to “hang loose” when it comes to the material things of life. It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world. It means to “set your affections on thing above …” (Col. 3:1).

This is not a call for a life of negation and asceticism. Believers are to enjoy life fully and authentically.  But the Christian does not hold tightly to what he has in this world.

Beloved, the sin of covetousness is as dangerous as the sin of hypocrisy! Thus, Jesus warned against living for the things of this life. He pointed out the sad consequences of covetousness. Materialism will enslave the heart (Matt. 6:19–21), the mind (Matt. 6:22–23), and the will (Matt. 6:24).

As believers, we must evaluate what is truly important to us. What are we living for? This life or the life to come? Where is your heart? Where is mine? And which master do we serve—God or Money?