Sunday, 4 December 2016

What the Bible teaches on the dangers of materialism

Life belongs to a heart at peace with God. This special peace does not come from having an abundance of money Luke 12:15-21. As research has shown, wealth beyond that of the 1950s which was 'enough' for most people, shows no further positive effect on someone's actual happiness. In terms of happiness, the material world from the 1960s onwards were a waste of time.  Huge wealth probably makes you unhappier. Many very rich people soon realise this and start giving it all away.

Wealth should be used to ensure that no one in the community is starving. Acts 4:32-35 . Jesus chose a life of poverty. Jesus had no bank account, inheritance and no worldly wealth - but He was mega-rich and makes other rich too. 2 Corinthians 8:9 . The strength and talent to work and make money is a gift from God but it must be used for demonstrating responsibility and service. Work should be valued and accepted as a gracious provision of God and should be honoured. Ecclesiastes 5:19 Deuteronomy 8:18 Matthew 25:14-30

Wealth and poverty both come from God who is maker of them, and us, all. He is behind every gift which saves the poor Psalm 112:1-5 Luke 1:53  but "the blessing of the Old Testament is wealth: the blessing of the New Testament is suffering" (Francis Bacon) Genesis 13:2. The best state for one’s spiritual health is wisely and responsibly managing ‘enough’ to create a little left over to give to God and to the poor Proverbs 30:8-9. True wealth is wealth in good works and giving, using excess money widely and generously - including sharing what one has, helping the needy and sharing the Gospel 1 Timothy 6:18 Acts 2:44-45 James 2:5 Luke 6:20-21.   If we earn below the tax threshold, there is no command to give what we do not have to live on.  The Parable of the Widow's Mite is about the relative value of gifts of rich and poor. It was not teaching that we should live in a fantasy land called Money Tree, though God, whom we should not test, will supply our basic needs, even 'miraculously', if we trust in Him.

The command is to give to the poor from the proceeds of one’s gift of work, if one can work, or inheritance which also comes from God Leviticus 19:9-10 . Warm generosity with money for His Kingdom and for the needy is favoured by God 2 Corinthians 9:7. We must give to the needy out of our excess and abundance - as others must when they have more than they need. So money must be arranged fairly so that no one starves (NB the Gospel is not teaching Communism as the Bible also says that those who will not work shall not eat or be supported by the community) 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.  Sluggards must take the penalty of their sloth: poverty.

We have to pay taxes due to the state - and to pay also what is due to God Matthew 22:17 Matthew 22:21 . Being trained or self-trained in wise money management, building it up pound by pound, avoiding temptations, gradually leads to a positive financial outcomes Proverbs 13:11.The right attitude to money is thankfulness and contentment with what one has been given by God in life - with food, shelter and clothing.
The Dangers of the Love of Money
The love of money is the true danger - not money itself which when used wisely is a blessing. The wealthy easily get attached to lifestyle and posaeessions, which acts as a barrier to full service to God Matthew 19:21 . Wealth can easily lead to the sin of pride. We should not work solely to become millionaires or actively seek further gain money as our first aim in life, partly because it is a waste of life, since riches are unstable. Riches are ephemeral and fragile : the Lord gives them and the Lord can take them away.James 1:10-11 .Love of money tends to lead to the sin of greed which is particularly unsuitable for Gospel preachers and pastors, who should be modelling non-materialistic Christ Proverbs 23:4-5. 1 Peter 5:2 . The love of money does something negative to the heart almost as if it creates another harder self, unlike the true self, out of the detachment of the heart (now set on 'treasures on earth') from the soul. Wealth can make our heart carnal, self-centred and cold, over-insulated from the suffering brothers and sisters  Luke 12:33-34. Inheriting sudden huge wealth or winning the Lottery can also lead to negative outcomes via ruinous overspending, greed, over-familiarity with luxury.

The rich are more tempted to take their eyes off God, from doing good and to turn to self, owing to their wider life choices. Choice is a major distraction from humble service to God and neighbour. Matthew 6:24 . This temptation is not restricted to the wealthy, of course. Many are entertaining themselves to (spiritual) death on a low income.

Wealth from exploiting others will witness against the rich on Judgement Day. They easily develop ‘fat hearts’ which reduce the possibility of salvation (“Narrow is the path that leads to eternal life and few find it”) James 5:1-6 Luke 18:25 . The rich easily get attached or addicted to material possessions (houses, lifestyles, clothes and to sex, drink and drugs). Research has shown on levels of giving to people in the street, they lose their generosity, so it has to be commanded of them. The rich must give more to be seen as generous by God. They must give more sacrificially to be favoured by God.Luke 12:33 Mark 12:41-44

So the unprepared rich are much more easily tempted by the corrupting power of the love of money which 'dislocates' the soul of a person. They often lose inner contentment which is a gift from God Hebrews 13:5  become more jealous of others, who may be poorer but are having genuine pleasure. Money brings anxieties about losing it and it isolates the wealthy from people, who are the greatest source of happiness apart from God, money does not make people happier, and may ruin them.  One thinks of young people who take physical risks due to having money through skiing, watersports, driving fast cars.

But having enough, but not too much money, reduces stress through reducing insecurity. Recognising this, God saves the faithful poor who are trusting in Him from starvation or begging on the streets. Psalm 140:12.

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