Even Pastors Can Be Sidetracked by Materialism
- Tuesday, August 02, 2005
God doesn’t say that we aren’t to have material goods, but He makes it clear that we are stewards of what He gives us. Pastors often preach against materialism and about stewardship, but even pastors can get caught in the riptide that can carry them out to the sea of worldly concerns.
Christians have been entrusted with time, talents, treasure, temples (our bodies), the testimony of our salvation, and much, much more. God has promised eternal blessings to those who wisely, faithfully, and profitably invest what He entrusts to them.
Unfortunately, there is an enemy of our faithful stewardship. It is the enemy within—the flesh, our old fallen nature.
Paul refers to the desire for material goods as “the will to be rich” (I Timothy 6:9). Money itself is not the problem. Money is neutral. Instead, the love of money and the trust in uncertain riches are the problems.
These problems are not unique to our materialistic generation. In Genesis chapter 3, we read that Eve eyed the forbidden fruit, which was pleasant to the eyes, good for food, and desirable to make one wise. That desire for material things deceives us into thinking that the material world is all that there is.
The desire for material goods isn’t always the desire for great wealth. It may be the yearning simply to gain control over our lives and to minimize uncertainty. While God doesn’t promise that we will have all our needs stored up in advance, He does offer us a life free from uncertainty, if we will trust Him. Still, the temptation is to wrest control back from Him. That’s what Eve wanted to do.
Our old nature seeks material things in order to obtain provision, power, and purpose. We think that these will give us control. You don’t have to be a Main Street businessman to be tempted toward materialism. When your ministry malfunctions, it is easy to look initially for material solutions.
There are three reasons we pursue material goods. First, we seek material things to provide our needs, our wants, and our ease. Second, we seek material things for power over circumstances, power in social circles, power in conducting business, and power in organizations. Third, we seek material things in order to find purpose in life.
We tend to focus our energies on fulfilling our material needs. You ask: “Isn’t that natural? After all, we need food, clothing, and shelter.” Yes, these needs are natural, and that’s just the point. Jesus calls us not to a natural, but to a supernatural life. He promises to meet the material needs of the Kingdom-seeking believer.
From the day that Paul met the Lord on the road to Damascus, he pursued the purposes of the Kingdom, and his needs were met. He said that he learned how to be content. He told Timothy to be content with food and clothing (I Timothy 6:8).
Yet, we almost never are satisfied with merely our needs. We also have wants—desires for things we don’t really need. In my law practice, I’ve counseled many young couples with problems that started with coveting things they couldn’t afford. I Timothy 6:6 says that godliness with contentment is great gain. God wants His stewards not only to live by faith but to live in contentment.
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