2176) The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things (a)

From “Ten Ways Materialism Brings Us to Ruin” by pastor and author Randy Alcorn, (adapted from his book Money, Possessions, and Eternity), posted December 13, 2019 on his blog at:   www.epm.org


‘materialism’ [muh-teer-ee-uh-liz-uhm] noun. 1. preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.


     God created us to love people and use things, but materialists love things and use people.  Materialism drives not just the “bad apples” of society; it drives “the best and the brightest,” those from the finest homes and schools, those who become government and business leaders, physicians, and attorneys.     Materialism begins with our beliefs.  Not merely what we say we believe—not our doctrinal statement—but the philosophy of life by which we actually live.  So even though true Christians would deny belief in the philosophical underpinnings of materialism (they couldn’t be Christians if they didn’t), they may nonetheless be preoccupied with material things.  Materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart.     What does materialism actually do to us?  Here are ten answers to that question.

1. Materialism prevents or destroys our spiritual life.

     Jesus rebuked the Laodicean Christians because although they were materially wealthy, they were desperately poor in the things of God (Revelation 3:17-18).  Materialism blinds us to our own spiritual poverty.  It is a fruitless attempt to find meaning outside of God. When we try to find ultimate fulfillment in a thing or a person other than Christ or a place other than Heaven, we become idolaters.  According to Scripture, materialism is not only evil; it is tragic and pathetic (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

     Every attempt to find life in anyone or anything but God is vain.  Materialism is a dead-end street. It is not only wrong—it is utterly self-destructive.

2. Materialism blinds us to the curses of wealth.

     John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Adlai Stevenson, which was recorded in the January 28, 1960 edition of the Washington Post.  Steinbeck says, “If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much, and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy, sick.”

     Scripture suggests that the possession of riches is almost always a spiritual liability (Mark 10:23-25).  If Jesus was serious when He said how hard it is for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom, and if being part of the kingdom of Heaven is the highest blessing a person can receive, then how can we imagine that having riches is always a blessing from God?  Material prosperity can begin as God’s blessing, but when we treat it as a substitute for God, it becomes a curse.

3. Materialism brings us unhappiness and anxiety.

     The risk of financial resources is well illustrated by the suicides and emotional breakdowns that commonly occur during significant drops in the stock market.  It’s also demonstrated in the epidemic levels of high blood pressure and hypertension among today’s “successful” professionals.

     Materialism is the mother of anxiety.  No wonder Christ’s discourse on earthly and heavenly treasures is immediately followed by His admonitions not to worry about material things (Matthew 6:25-34).

     Paul says that the rich should not “put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but . . . in God, who richly provides” (1 Timothy 6:17).  To set our heart on earthly riches not only deprives God of glory, others of help, and ourselves of reward, it also destines us to perpetual insecurity.  In contrast, the one whose hope is in God will be devastated only if God fails—and He never does.

4. Materialism ends in ultimate futility.

     The book of Ecclesiastes is the most powerful exposé of materialism ever written.  Solomon recounts his attempts to find meaning in pleasure, laughter, alcohol, folly, building projects, and the pursuit of personal interests, as well as in amassing slaves, gold and silver, singers, and a huge harem to fulfill his sexual desires (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).  He lived by this philosophy: “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2:10).

     After his years as the world’s richest man, Solomon says, “When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).  Most people chase their mirages with money, but they run out of money before they run out of mirages.  So they still believe the lie that “if only I had more money, then I’d be happy.”  But Solomon had it all.  He had more money than he could possibly spend.  He ran out of mirages before he ran out of money.

     Consider this statement, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  The repeated word never is emphatic—there are no exceptions.

5. Materialism obscures many of the best things in life, which are free—including the gift of salvation.

     Some of life’s greatest blessings are just as available to the poor as to the rich, and often they are far more appreciated by the poor, whose lives are less cluttered and distracted by material wealth.  The greatest blessing that God offers is available to all: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1).  The same invitation is repeated in the final chapter of the Bible: “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).

     The only thing worth buying cannot be bought with money.  God’s Son bought us our salvation, and He freely gives Himself to all who seek Him.  Money cannot buy salvation, and it cannot buy rescue from judgment.  “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath” (Proverbs 11:4).   (continued…)