A flashy Starbucks red cup, those newest pair of boots dwelling on my Pinterest board, her wrist full of jewelry costing more than the whole outfit on my body, brand after brand of designer logos filling the hallways of college buildings, and that shiny watch on his wrist that can be spotted shining in the light from across the classroom. We look in our closets and hate everything we see. We look around the hallways and wish we could look more like those around us. We need to shop because it will help us.
When did materialism become something that we are all obsessed with, something so interwoven into our culture that we can’t escape it even if we want to, and something that we seek to establish our identity and acceptance from the people around us?
Materialism is defined as the tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort more important than spiritual values. It is a philosophy that states nothing else matters besides what we have, what we own, what we put on our bodies, and what we spend our money on. In the 21st century, it is a state of living, and a way that most millennials tend to behave in order to impress others, to prove their wealth, to show a standing of financial value, and to be considered as more important due to what they have instead of what they think or what they feel and believe.
Materialism is very prevalent in our modern-day society. This is because the societal norms that we live in have a steady trend of teaching people to be consumers at a young age. Babies who will never feel a harsh winter are being fitted for North Face fleece jackets. Toddlers who will never experience a rainy walk across campus are sporting their best Hunter rain boots. Children who cannot even read the brand across the tag on their jeans are wearing Miss Me studded bell bottoms, costing their parents three digits or more per pair. Teenagers are interested in a fashion sense well above their age; with the budget only suitable for a celebrity; because they see their friends wearing it at school. Young women think they need to accessorize with the newest Michael Kors bag for that one Instagram post, in order to show their old high school friends how well off they are. Materialism is spanning from our youngest generations, to our millennials, and even up through our oldest generations, and there is not a race, age, gender, status, or bias that is proven to break the materialist philosophy.
King Solomon proves this to us through the Word of God. Through the book of Ecclesiastes, king Solomon is the richest king that the world had ever known at the time. He had everything, and more of it than anyone else could ever had fathomed or imagined. People envied him, worked to get close to him in hopes of receiving his gifts, and wanted to be in his presence. Solomon had everything, but he felt empty. His hands were full, but his heart and soul were very empty. Solomon claimed that he found all of his worldly possessions worthless, pointless, fruitless, and even futile. He told the Lord that it did not produce the satisfaction and happiness that his soul was longing for, and that only being a God-fearing man who kept His commandments could fill the void in his life.
In the book of Matthews, God reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. If we do, we will end up loving one and hating the other. We will be drawn to one of them, and begin to despise the other one. He ends this verse by telling us that we cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24). As we chase money and material good, we look for a satisfaction from a void in our lives that we think will be fulfilled as we get what we want. This mentality instead begins to lead us down a path of wanting more, more, more. In reality, God in our heart is the true fulfillment to this craving, and the One that will satisfy our souls. As Christians, we are called to love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our might. When we make excessive room for worldly possessions and become materialistic, we begin to dismiss our need for Christ and sacrifice the room we make for Him to consume us as we allow “things” to consume our needs and desires instead.
The cross points us to Christ, not creation. And while many of us may use this sacrifice as a fuel to pursue the world, Jesus in fact died on a cross to forgive us of the sins we’ve committed in the world. The gift of grace wasn’t presented so that we may become infatuated by the pursuit of riches, titles, and glory. The cross of Christ gives us a new hope, a new vision, and a new purpose. By Jesus, we are called to be “not of this world.” As a Christian, our lives should reflect an image of grace and selflessness, not greed and self-entitlement.
People buy things that don’t need in order to quench a thirst within them that is not satisfied in other areas of their life. When materialism begins to seep in the cracks, the comfort of material possessions begin to feed the soul in place of the spiritual values and desires that we seek from above. When people begin to feed the ego, they begin to strain their souls.
The love of money works to trick the mind into seeking out more money. The cycle of money-hungry mindsets causes the person to continue to run in the hamster wheel style circle of loss. Spend money, make money. Lose money, gain money. The constant ups and downs of financial loss and gain cause stress, anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive thoughts. When this happens, people spend more time on investing money on the outside to appear a certain way to others, and forget to invest in themselves and their souls in order to become a better person
People spend their whole lives working to attain materialistic things using their accumulation of materialism to validate their existence, but when you die, you can’t take any of it with you. When you are laying on your death bed, are you going to ask to take that expensive jet plane on one last trip across the ocean? Are you going to plead with the doctors to get out on your yacht one more time? Or are you going to be surrounded with the love of your family and await for your ascension into heaven Don’t let this system turn you into a vanity slave, but instead, realize you’re worth much more than that. You can drive an expensive vehicle, but at the end of the day, it is still just a car. You can buy a flashy watch, but in the end, all it does is tell time.
We are all from God, and He loves us so much more than we could ever imagine. So much, that He gave His one and only son to die a gruesome, painful death on the cross in order for us to live a life for salvation. Instead of feeding your ego with the monetary possessions of the world, work to feed your soul with the true and gentle love of Our Savior in heaven. When your treasure is with God, you will have no reason to worry about economic recessions, falling stocks, and government shutdowns.
Christ did not die to fuel our materialism and desire or money, He died on the cross to fuel our love for Him and to continue His mission on earth. And that is exactly what we as Christians are called to do, each and every single day. Crave a love for God more than a love for money, things, and possessions, and watch the grace that abounds your life more than worldly gifts ever could.
You live for the Kingdom until you die. Plus, it’s the only thing you can take with you when you go.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Matthew 6:19-21