Most Americans are preoccupied with the getting of material possessions and one of the outstanding hallmarks of our times is the frenzied rush to acquire more and better things. It is now common for newlywed couples to begin their lives together with as many goods as their parents had after 25 years of hard work. This shows that people are fare more prosperous than they were only a few years ago. People today, even those who call themselves poor, possess things that would make the rich and great kings of the past envious. Thus, many of today's poor, (in the western world) are rich by the standards of past human history. (Indeed, most of our country's poor are rich by comparison with the poor of the outside world.)
Thus, all of us, whether rich, poor, or in-between, face the question of how material possessions and our regard for them might change our standing with the one, eternal God. Do our strivings for gain bar us from the spiritual blessings of closeness to God and of obedience to His will? Do we trade our eternal salvation for material things in this age when nearly everyone has much and when most strive for even more?
The answer to these questions is yes; it is possible, indeed, probable, for we know that our God is a jealous God and wants no other God placed before Him. If we prefer the enjoyment of things ahead of duty to God, we are placing our desires ahead of God. In a sense, then, our goods become our God and receive our time, effort, and worship. We know that this is wrong for we are certain that God is displeased. This is idol worship, a sin about which the Bible speaks often. Also denounced frequently in the Bible is the sin of covetousness, which is the overwhelming desire for material gain. Jesus said in Luke 12:15-31: "take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought to himself saying, what shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This I will do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Therefore, I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. The life is more than meat and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn: and God feedeth them: How much more are you better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If you then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take you thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, 0 you of little faith?
And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that you have need of these things. But rather seek you the kingdom of God: and all these things shall be added unto you."
With these words Jesus put the problem of desire for material gain in its proper place. Since it is wrong to concern ourselves about need for tomorrow's clothing, shelter and food, it is also wrong to concern ourselves about the getting of plush homes.' clothes, cars, appliances, and the likes. Study briefly the treasures of a museum. Here are the prized possessions of the ancient great. Here are their goods; but where are they who took pride in their ownership? Now let's visit an auction. Here is the house of an old couple who have passed away. We watch as the richly-framed picture of a bearded man in a uniform is sold because someone wanted the frame. The proud collection of records goes for a dollar. The washing machine, new only last year, (and which was her most prized possession) is sold for only a fourth of its value. We see their goods; but, where are they who knew, loved, and appreciated these things?
Now, look at your possessions. Consider the stereo, the color TV, the newly re-done kitchen, your tools, the remodeled basement room on which you have worked so hard. Consider when the stereo has been replaced by something better, and when the color TV is worn out, and when the basement walls are mildewed, that the hands that worked so hard to earn and produce them will have become dust. Will that bit of trivia that you just had to have last week (and which sets unused on the shelf) be an object in some future museum where our descendants will marvel (or laugh) at the ancient artifact? And, as they look where will we be?
We, too, must go the way of the ancients. They were real, lived, loved, laughed, and wept; just as do we. And, as they went, we must also go. The apostle Paul, writing to the young Timothy (in I Tim. 6:6-10) said, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
The checkered values of our society lead us astray; we value trivia but not that which is important. We pay actors and athletes more than we pay our president: but, our children's teachers and the policemen who protect us are asked to serve at low pay. We seek after gadgets which will wear out in a few weeks or which will fill our garages after they have lost their fascination. We give little thought to our soul until some bodily warning of disease reminds us that our earthly life is not eternal.
Jesus, the architect of creation, evaluated our souls as having more worth than all of the earth with all of its treasures, saying in Matt. 16:26, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
With these scriptures in mind, each of us should seek to place a Godly perspective upon the value of our material possessions relative to the value of our eternal soul. Only by living a life close to God can we find contentment in this life and in our life forever after. And now, upon closing, a short test; answer to yourself the following questions:
The grading of this test is between you and your God.
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