Living in a Material World
(as printed in the Lichfield Mercury)
by Rev Jeff Fry, Lichfield Christian Church
So the song by Madonna goes:
“’Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mr Right cause we are
Living in a material world.
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day, ‘cause they are
Living in a material world
Experience has made me rich
And now they’re after me, ‘cause everybody’s
Living in a material world”
Everybody is pursuing money because they think it will bring them what they want. That is what Madonna is saying and that is the message our world sends us over and over again. No wonder we actually believe it. We struggle to get our greed into perspective. And that is why we find Jesus speaking so much about money and riches. He understands our struggle, our battle and the temptations involved. Here is what he says:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
It’s important to say in the beginning that it is not a sin to have money, possessions and belongings. But don’t let them control you. The key to understanding this verse is the little word “serve”. Jesus also told the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:14ff). He was controlled by greed and a want for more and more riches. He had to have more. He thought of nothing else but getting more and more. He did not give to others or to God. He kept it all for himself building bigger and bigger barns in which he could store his money-making crop.
Left unchecked a material worldview like this leads to cynicism and jealousy and ultimately to despair and disillusionment. In fact, in Jesus’ parable the fool spent his life amassing wealth and then his life was demanded of him before he was even able to enjoy it. And Jesus asks the penetrating question:
“Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).
Even when we do amass wealth and attempt to enjoy it, it doesn’t ultimately satisfy us because we are spiritual beings with a God-shaped void in our lives. The Bible says over and over that when we serve wealth we choke the spiritual life right out of ourselves because “your heart will be where your treasure is”. And therefore we have no heart for God’s great gifts, no capacity to experience God’s love for us - His peace, His patience, His kindness, His gentleness or His self-control in our lives. All of which He wants to give us. Instead the love of money causes us to become enemies of God. Augustine was right when he said, “Whatever I love is my god”.