1 John 2:15-17, the Apostle John writing: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. "
I wonder what you think is quite possibly one of the greatest challenges to the Christian Disciple standing alone and being faithful to God in the twenty first century? I want to propose to you that this threat is the temptation of materialism, or to be materialistic. This is where following Jesus' command to follow Him, take up the cross for ourselves becomes practical. This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult. Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed. Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.
What is materialism?
Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money. These things, in and of themselves, are not evil. It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area. Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust, instead of God. The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life." That, brother and sisters, is materialism!
A Particular Sin
If there were to be a particular sin that marks our generation, especially in the West, then it would be this sin of materialism and the worship of money, objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter. For each of us in the West, these things are taken for granted. When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move. The whole Christian community is one that reflects the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members. Where one member of the Christian community suffers and hurts, the whole Christian community suffers and hurts! This applies not only to the local church in a local community context, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well. Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our local and global communities. When one member of the universal body of Christ is hurting, the whole body hurts!
As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals, ethics, community and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism? A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week. However, not just good things grow. Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim. It is probably the fastest growing religion in Australia. However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.
The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in thee verses from 1 John 2:15-17. The Apostle John writing: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. "
Also in Matthew 22v37-40: where Jesus is saying: "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."
By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else. By exhibiting these commands, we cast off materialism and any thought of materialism from our lives. By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded. To Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as evil, deluded and irrelevant. Rather they would be seen as a thriving community of people, resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought. After all, Jesus is to be the master of those who would call themselves a Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.
As a Christian Disciple and the church as a whole, you and I are to eschew materialism, cast it off and live a life worthy of our God, living in total obedience to Him and reflected in the love we display for both our local and global communities.
For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1 - As a Christian Disciple, in what ways am I being seduced by materialism and the gathering of possessions, people and power?
Q2 - What things can I do, not do or give up in order to aid the weakest members of my community - local, national and global?
Q3 - How can I better use my "passion, prayer and intelligence" this week for the glory and honour of God?