There is a subtle, diabolic and life threatening trap today. Secular society has ever increasingly come to believe in a different god. This one has always been around. He shows up with greater force and intensity in the more affluent areas of the world. And when he gains your heart, like so many other little idols we worship, he really doesn't let go. He may be known by many names, but for the purposes of this article, we will call him the god of materialism.
Many in this fallen world of ours have throughout history exchanged our true loving God in Heaven for this false god of materialism. They have exchanged truth for a lie. They have dispossessed themselves of the leadership of God for the leadership of man and all of his worldly philosophies.
We have all, no doubt, heard at one time or another the commandment of our Lord Jesus, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me," (Matt 19:21). Yet how many of us are able to do this, to share all that we have as did the early Church? How many of us are even able to give to our Church or to the poor without expecting something in return, such as public recognition?
With materialism, we usually think of big money and the things we can purchase with it: joy, supposed happiness, beautiful items for the home, from expensive Nintendo games for the children to computers to that shining new Eldorado, and those all important considerations...status and power. There is nothing wrong with a couple of these items so long as we do not lose touch with our true God in our lives. But in this terribly materialistic world of ours, we are forever and totally exchanging the truth, God, for a lie, the facade known as materialism, that sign of worldly success. This, too, is another problem with materialism. It has a tendency to lead us to many other sinful natures, such as greed, frugality, vainglory, lust, pride and envy, to name a few, which quite often are also signs of worldly success. Gaining and maintaining wealth in order to acquire status within society, to live in luxury, to obtain power for our own advantage and not God's greater glory, become our ultimate purposes in life.
We are exchanging truth for a lie. There are those in the world today who will even point to Holy Scripture claiming that if we work hard, we will become wealthy in funds consistent with the teachings of God. Moreover, we deceive ourselves when we say that we should gain and maintain wealth so that we may perform good Christian works. More often this results in the hoarding of our wealth rather than in the sharing of it. Thus, we end up cloaking our materialism by using excuses for it.
While Holy Scripture indeed points to economics in everyday living, its main theme is that the blessings our Lord has given us should be utilized for His purpose including our spiritual prosperity and not for the objectives of worldly abundance. Our Lord never intended for us to view possessions in the materialistic way we do today. In short, it is not wealth in itself that is sin, but our attachment to it. To love as Jesus loves requires a total detachment.
Beginning in the Old Testament we see repeatedly how the Lord God admonished all people to set aside a portion of their blessings to be used for His glory and His work. However, the Law of ancient Israel, which included tithing, could be fulfilled only through love, not legalism. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke through the Prophets of the Old Testament, articulated directly the complete truth, the full meaning of the Father’s teachings. In the New Testament, our Lord and Savior spoke of possessions as meaningless in themselves, especially when they are amassed, kept, and finally corrupted by moth and dust (Matt 6:19). Constantly He illustrated how they were to be used for the benefit of others especially through the Church, the vehicle of God's grace through which salvation is brought into the world. Christ spoke often on how wealth and materialism can so easily separate us from God our Father. He says in Mark 10:25 that, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
Do not exchange the great truth for a lie, but rather maintain that perspective on wealth that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us. The offering that the Son of God made for us through His Blood and Body is paid back in a small but very important way through the offering that we make to Him through the Church. We need to follow His example and those of so many of his saintly followers. We need to give with our hearts, give with all our love to our fellow man and to our Church for the ministries of agape that His light through us may shine upon all the world and that salvation may continue to be brought to all of those around us.