IT IS OUR OBSERVATION and conviction that materialism is the besetting sin of the church today. This is no small matter. We are talking about another "god." Jesus strongly asserted, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). Paul twice tells us that covetousness is idolatry, idol worship (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). The first of the Ten Commandments plainly states, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). In Deuteronomy 4:23 and 24 this is further emphasized, "Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." Revelation 21:8 reads, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers [fornicators], and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Wealth within itself is not sinful. Abraham was a wealthy man and there were some men of means in the early church. But the possession of wealth is fraught with danger. It really takes a spiritual person to handle it. Jesus saw the besetting sin of the rich younger ruler and put him to the test (Matthew 19:16-24). He failed. He went away sorrowful. Jesus said that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He even said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Although some supposed that gain was godliness, Paul said, "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all [kinds] of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows"(1 Timothy 6:5-10). The wealthy church of the Laodiceans felt snug and self-assured, but the danger of materialism was paralyzing the church. The Lord said, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:14-20). The writer in the book of Proverbs, realizing the danger of wealth (and poverty), said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Proverbs 30:8,9). This reminds us of Paul, when he said, "Having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8).
We are a spiritual being clothed in a material body. As human beings that have been given over to sin, this body becomes a battleground. Unless we keep the proper focus, and realize the spiritual is what really matters for eternity, we are in trouble. The Lord said, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a manís life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," and then he told about the rich farmer (Luke 12:15-21). Elders are to be examples to the flock, the rest of the church (1 Peter 5:3). In this respect, Paul lists their qualifications, among them being, "Not given to wine, no striker [violent person], not greedy of filthy lucre [money]; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous [lover of money]" (1 Timothy 3:3). Likewise, Christian women visibly are to show that they are not given over to materialism. Paul wrote, "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9,10). Then telling Timothy how to address the well-to-do generally, and then specifically, Paul said, "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 thing to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute [give], willing to communicate [share]; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
We call your attention to one more admonition and warning, which would be wise to ever keep before us. Materialism is the bottom line to much of what John says here. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1 John 2:15-17). Amen!
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