The myths behind materialism
Have you ever heard the phrase, “whoever said money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop”? Every day, we are bombarded with messages that suggest that we need to have certain things in order to be happy and valuable. Materialism is a powerful religion that has many faithful followers.
Consider the number of advertising messages we receive in a day. From shop fronts, social media posts, newspapers, television, posters, beverage holders, lifts and even public washrooms, it can be hundreds! Compare that to the number of biblical messages we receive. If we are not careful, advertisers’ messages can become more compelling than God’s Word, because we hear or see them so often.
Luke 12:15 ESV And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Companies go to great lengths to convince us we need their products. They spend millions of dollars on consumer research to identify our “purchase drivers” and “emotional triggers”. To ensure a “continuous revenue stream” and “maximise value per customer”, they will try to foster “brand loyalty” and “repeat purchases”. Advertisers test the type of imagery, colours and advertising copy that appeal to us the most. They also know where, how often and when to show us their messages. The idea is to get us hooked.
If we look closely at the world’s most common advertising campaigns, we will find that they are mostly subtle replicas of Satan’s lies. Satan, god of this world, is a master manipulator who uses subliminal messages to deceive and trap many people into following ungodly patterns. Instead of finding greater satisfaction, materialism will teach us that we need more and more in order to feel fulfilled. It is a life of striving and little satisfaction.
2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Common advertising messages
|Be worshipped||“Stand out, be admired.“||Luke 4:8 ESV And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”|
|Be just like the world||“Fit in. Look like the rest who are cool.“||1 John 2:15, 17 ESV 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. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.|
|Use things to cover pain||“This will bring relief and happiness. You can forget your troubles.“||Matthew 11:28-29 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.|
Choosing the longer term view
Someone who focuses on materialistic things is like an investor with a very short-term view.
All of us have the same (eternal) investment timeline. Short-term investors will focus only on their lives on earth, but long-term investors look at both their earthly lives as well as their eternities. They will choose to invest their effort, time and money on things that guarantee endless returns for eternity, rather than only on things that bring short-term gains.
Matthew 6:19-20 ESV “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.
1 Timothy 6:17 ESV 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.
Sound investment principles
What are some good investment perspectives for our personal “portfolios” of both earthly and heavenly treasures?
1. Portfolio review
Let’s examine where we invest our effort, time and money. Do these bring increasing or diminishing eternal returns? What has lasting value? What do we need to “sell off”? What alternative types of investments can we consider?
Can we use our talents to serve others with God’s love? Can we invest time in helping the poor and elderly? Can we be more intentional with our tithing to bring God’s message of love to more people?
When we start to change our perspectives from a worldly, materialistic one to a more God-centred one, we will encounter “market shake-ups” from time to time. It’s important to keep our focus on our heavenly rewards and not panic.
How can we make sure we don’t get shaken by unexpected events? Are we in an authentic godly community? Do we have godly mentors to walk with us through tough times? Are we reading God’s word to know His promises well?
Materialism turns our focus on things, rather than people. The Bible is very clear that we cannot stand by when we know of people who are in need. How can we diversify our portfolios, and shift from investing in things to investing in people’s lives? Besides money, what loving acts of service can we give? What words of comfort and prayers can we bring to people?
1 Timothy 5:8 ESV But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
James 2:15-16 ESV If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
A matter of our hearts
Materialism is a worldly religion that fights for our loyalty. When we grow closer to God and understand His gracious loving character, we cannot help but love Him more than the things of this world. It is this love of God that would change our hearts and show us the futility of a materialistic life.
Luke 12:34 ESV For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:24 ESV “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.
Psalm 51:10 ESV Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
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