Materialism is a subtle (on second thought, perhaps a not so subtle) idolatry! Trouble is, you can be scrupulously religious and be as materialistic as Scrooge McDuck (you know the cartoon character… the guy that frolics in his piles of money and stuff).
There was a good look’n young leader in Israel that asked Jesus one day what he had to DO to inherit eternal life (you DO know that money can’t buy it, don’t you?). Jesus identified a few well known commandments for him to consider… (Remember, this guy was not only wealthy, he was very religious). His answer? “Got it covered, Jesus! Done all of those things since I was a kid!)
Did I say, this young man was VERY wealthy? At that point Jesus put his finger on his problem… the “subtle idolatry” … Jesus said, “One thing you still lack. Sell ALL that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven… and then come follow me.”
The young leader? The Bible says, “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich!”
Then Jesus followed up with an extremely important spiritual lesson: He said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God!” And then made a qualifying statement when those who heard his statement exclaimed in shock, “Then who can be saved?!” … Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God!” In other words, MONEY AND POSSESSIONS DON’T HAVE TO BE THE PROBLEM, BUT THEY OFTEN ARE! (from Luke 18:18-30)
My opinion? This is often a problem for American Christians… because of the “possessions orientedness” of our culture, it is very easy for American Christians to be materialistic (the “subtle idolatry”). Many American Christians wouldn’t think of bowing to a lifeless idol (that’s pagan!) but their entire lives are consumed by the pursuit and preoccupation with money and possessions.
I don’t know if I can say this kindly or not… IT WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR MANY OF THEM TO SPEND A MONTH IN THE HOME OF A DEVOTED FOLLOWER OF JESUS IN A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. I’ve been there… It’ll change you! They exhibit a deep love for Jesus, overflowing generosity, abounding joy, and have nearly nothing in worldly possessions!
Oh Lord, I want to learn the lesson from the story of “the rich young ruler!” I’m determined, with God’s help to avoid, “THE SUBTLE IDOLATRY!” Hey, I’m trying to remember Jesus’s words… “A PERSON’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS!” (Luke 12:15)