Satan’s Winning Strategy: Materialism

We live in a materialistic world.  This western world we live in views the physical as all that there is, so they live that way. So if a person believes there is no God, no after life, nothing beyond this physical existence, it stands to reason that they will be materialistic.  I mean, if there is nothing else…what else really is there to live for? The materialist will measure his success in life by what he has, how big his house is, what kind of hardwood floors he has, what kind of vehicle he has, his designer clothes, fancy vacations, comforts and hedonistic pleasures. Materialism inevitably leads to greed…that 27” TV is never enough…we upgrade to a 32” then a 42” then a 50″ and so on, that model of cell phone is not good enough, we need the latest, greatest operating system with highest resolution camera and fastest download speeds, that car is not fast enough, the truck is not big enough, the van does not have enough toys on it, and on it goes, the endless pursuit of material things.

Jesus tells us in Luke 12 that the materialist is a fool. A fool! In this parable we see a man who lives completely in a materialistic worldview. He fills up all his barns with everything he has.  When he eventually accumulates so much that it won’t fit anymore, he just builds a bigger barn. And when he dies he finds out that he has spent so much time focusing on the physical that he totally ignored the spiritual.  But this parable is about a man, who is of the world, and we are Christians, we are in the world but not of it…right?  We do not ignore the spiritual do we?  We don’t pursue the material to our own detriment…right?

Materialism is a lie that is perpetrated by Satan.  With materialism he promises us that happiness can be found in things, not just things, but the newest, biggest, best and most costly things. He tempts us to lust after these things, and it is so very seductive. I have fallen prey to it, and have learned the hard lesson.  At least I learnt it before I built up my barns and perished! For instance a few years ago I bought a TV on credit! A tv that I can now buy for 300 bucks…I guess I need the 60” model now! I used to order in pizza when we really could not afford it, “We can put it on the credit card…” Those are two minor examples of something that is drastically out of control in our society.  Essentially I was going into debt for materialistic pleasures – things that we did not need, nor could we afford.  I am sure most of you have done it as well.

Whatever it is, we have fallen prey to the God of American culture….materialism.  We sacrifice our families, our time, our future, our marriages on the alter of the latest and greatest “thing.” We covet what others have.  We tell ourselves If only I can get that thing, then everything will be ok.  If we can get our credit cards paid off everything will be better.  If we can just get a better house, or a newer car, or go on that vacation…I will feel better.  Through materialism Satan holds out his hand bids you to grasp on tot it; he promises you pleasure through credit cards, lines of credit and fulfillment in the things of the physical world. Even Christians are drawn to it, and even I have fallen into the trap.  While Christians may not be materialists in the strictest sense – that is we do not view material things as the ultimate good or the highest aim of life like the world does. We still fall into the trap.

In order to keep up with our endless pursuit of pleasure through things we carelessly fall into endless debt, we want instant gratification.. “give it to me now and I will pay for it later” seems to be our motto. We are hedonists, living for the weekend, for our toys, and we live as if life can be measured in the stuff we’ve accumulated. No wonder our finances are a complete mess.

Now I am not judging you, just me.  In my previous life I made a mess of things, and now I have to clean it up.  Oh there is forgiveness for my poor stewardship of the past, but there are still consequences.  So while I cannot speak to the rich people out there from experience (but you should read Luke 12) I want to address the young people out there; you do not need to keep up with the Jonses.  One credit card set aside for emergencies is prudent but buying that designer dress with it, or going to the pub with it, or financing a TV, or a dining room table, or a tent trailer you don’t really need is simply foolishness.    We think being in debt is ok, because everyone is in debt… Right?  Let me tell what debt will do, from experience.  Debt will put strain on your marriage.  Debt will encourage you to skip your tithe to pay a bill.   You will fight with your spouse when it comes to financial things, and this stress will pour over into other things.  Debt will make you anxious about tomorrow, when we are told not to worry about tomorrow.  Debt will encourage you to incur more debt in a futile attempt to pay off the debt you already have, or work long hours to the neglect of your family… and it all cascades from there. Debt in my life, which was a due to a number of foolish financial choices I made, caused me to be a bad husband to my wife, and a bad father.

If you are in a predicament with your finances, I can give you advice.  I know all about it. It involves getting help, not a handout. It does not involve grovelling to your nearest wealthy relative for hand out.  It involves opening yourself up to others, and painful humiliation.  It will hurt, and will be very hard.  Pride is a sin, we sin when we say, “I got myself into this, and I will get myself out of it.”  And then you work 80, 90, 100 hours a week and neglect your spouse, and your kids.  I admit that there is the sound of nobleness to that statement, but when you are in so far over your head, you will need help, and you will need to swallow your pride.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help, getting help creating a budget and sticking to it.  It might involve giving up materialistic pursuits (ok it WILL) but in the end, when you can put the worry of tomorrow away, and put away the disputes with your spouse, and be there for your family instead of being at work, when you can simply, completely trust in the promises of God… that is so very sweet.  Life is simple now.  It has been a few years since I was foolish with my money, actually I can tell that last stupid purchase I made…A box of hockey cards for about 120 bucks…cardboard photographs of male athletes.  I shake my head now.  What a fool!  That was about 6 years ago. So tell Satan to shove off when he tempts you with materialism, and turn back to Christ, hold his hand instead.

I sinned in my piling up debt, and I sinned in my futile attempt to get out of it…Trust me…You do not need things to be happy. Materialistic pursuits will not bring you joy or peace, or contentment. Contentment can be found with very few things, because contentment is found in Christ, not in Christmas. Jesus tells us, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is truth, But what do I know, I am not a pastor or a theologian, I am just One Christian Dad.

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

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  1. Yvonne says:

    I like your post Ryan. We talked of similar things at bible study this week.

    I struggle though with the difference between … materialism, coveting and just simply wanting/enjoying something. Having, wanting or wishing for “things” is not wrong … or is it? How does that fit in with saving up for something?


    • cecile says:

      The money we receive is God’s money given to us to be used wisely. If we make THAT our starting point, it will certainly affect our choices in all aspects of life and cause us to think deeper…are we spending for the here and now or for eternity?

    • In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us…”Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Coveting is idolatry. Coveting is an unholy desire for something, not necessarily only material. the Bible speaks of coveting your neighbour’s wife, which would be lust, coveting your neighbour’s house, which would be jealousy, envy and materialistic. Wanting things is not in its self evil, i want the best for my kids, a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, but when it becomes all consuming…when i want my neighbour’s house for my kids then it wrong. Saving up for things is not wrong either, depending on what it is of course. If we are saving everything, building our barn only for ourselves so to speak, then we have reassess what our priorities are.

  2. cecile says:

    “Live simply so others can simply live.”

  3. Darren says:

    In the strictest sense, Materialism is “preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

    Anything that we set above the things that really matter (ie. God, family) then becomes materialistic. Using the line of things of money alone, buying things on credit cards or that are outside of your allotted budget, or at the expense of Church/monthly living expenses, becomes sin. This isn’t to say credits cards (in particular) are wrong, but is to highlight the importance of the budget itself and to have a plan with your money. Spending frivolously without regard to impact of said spending is materialistic. Having a goal with your savings (if you have any!) reduces the ‘materialism’ affect.

    But this also is relevant to our time. How many of us have stayed home instead of Bible Study, watched a movie rather than spend time with our loved ones, or at the expense of sleep which hinders our jobs and our moods the next day.

  4. A very good lesson if only the younger generation would heed this advice….We too have in years gone by fallen prey to the ‘credit card’ concept….Diane

  5. doulanic says:

    Again, another great post! I agree with Cecile – live simply so others can live. At the end of the day, once again, it comes down to recognizing that everything belongs to God. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. (as long as it doesn’t involve debt, frivolity at the expense of what matters) But we need to put God first …we need to make sure our responsibilities are taken care of. We can certainly save up for something that makes sense. Even vacations. One thing I’ve learned is that it is important to take care of your self – restoration of body and soul. God has blessed us all tremendously. Let’s use it to God’s glory. Soli Deo Gloria!

  6. doulanic says:

    Oh and Randy Alcorn’s book “Money, Possessions and Eternity” is an excellent read! Highly recommended for a Biblical view point.

  7. Kurt Sims says:

    I wish more people would accept this teaching of Jesus, but unfortunately most try to rationalize their material desires even after reading this. See some of the comments for examples. As long as there are people in need, we are to help them instead of spending money and time on worldly goods and things. It’s sad how many Christians (almost all) ignore Jesus when it comes to worldly goods.

    • Hi Kurt, thank you for your comment. Sometimes we forget what being a Christian is all about. It is about loving God and our neighbour because He first loved us and sent his son to die in our place while we were yet sinners. In fact we are called to suffer, not to a life of comfort, for the sake of Jesus. We are called to use our talents for God’s Glory and our neighbours benefit…not our own financial gain. And if we are successful in finances then we are to use that as well to God’s glory and our neighbours benefit, not the building of our barns. Sadly the values of this world are seeping into the church and this is nothing new…

      Most Christians would not defend pornography or murder or sexual immorality, but they will defend the idols of materialism, individualism, gluttony and relativism and so on…and that pleases Satan just fine.

      Now with that said we all grow in our sanctification by the Holy Spirit at different rates, and some of us, myself for instance, take some time to realize how far we are missing the mark with certain sin. So while it is prudent to admonish out of love when we recognize sin in someone, it is good that we also encourage and uplift our brothers and sisters in Christ in the things they succeed in. When they overcome struggles and sins by the power of the spirit, as they advance in their discipleship… and so on.