“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life— is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
During church camp last December, the speaker Mr. Mogan Mannar shared from his study of 1 John. One of the things that God had brought to my attention was my attitude towards material things.
How does the world view materialism? Materialism is defined as the belief that having money and possessions is the most important thing in life. As Christians, what should be the most important thing in our lives?
When I just started working, success in my career, both in itself and in the rewards that it brought, meant a lot to me. I had a tendency to compare my achievements and progress with my peers.
After a while, I noticed that some colleagues and friends were moving ahead faster than I, and I started getting anxious. Then one day, while reflecting on my “poor station” in life, I asked myself if I could give up my present way of life and behave like and live the life of my more successful colleagues. I came to a realization that God has provided us with different circumstances, spiritual experiences, friendships, family situation and work situation. Success and material things are but one component of a multi-faceted life and I would not trade the life I live for someone else’s.
The following are a collection of verses from the bible and principles which speak to me about our pursuit of material things.
Keep an Eternal perspective
Matt 6:19-20 reminds us that treasures of earth are temporal and will be eaten away by moth, rust away or even be stolen. In contrast treasures in heaven last for eternity. 1 John 2:17 also tells us that the world along with its desires is passing away but “whoever does the will of God abides forever.” The material things that we crave for can only last as long as the next fashion season, until it rusts away or stops working in our drawers, or when the COE expires. Our desires for material goods can be intense but fickle and fade away with time but what is done for the Lord abides forever.
In this age of consumerism, we have no lack of reminders from the media that we need to continually upgrade our electronic devices, appliances and that the clothes and accessories we have are getting to be out of fashion and we need to get in line with the latest trend.
1 Tim 6:6 tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain”. We should focus our energy on things which please God and be content with the food and clothing we have (1 Tim 6:8) because “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.“ (1 Tim 6:7). The possessions we have are blessings which God has given to us and we should not hold them too tightly. Like Paul, we need to learn to be content in whatever situation, whether it be in “plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil 4:11-12).
Give to the needy
Another way that we can prevent our possessions from possessing us is to constantly look out for the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4), especially those who are in need (1 John 3:16-18). God has a reason for blessing us with the “world’s goods” and it has to do with our brothers and sisters who are in need.
I had an interesting discussion about money with a colleague who was more senior than me and successful in her career. She mentioned that at the end of the day, money is not the only thing in life because she recollected that in her life, she had experienced extreme moments of sadness which no amount of money could take away and moments of happiness where money could not have added anything more to it.
Although I know what the Bible says about materialism and have good counsel from godly people around me, the struggle with materialism is real simply because I am living in the world. We all need the grace of God to help us stay the course.
By Tay Yong Thai, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 11&12 February 2017)