Eric V. Snow, Christian speech Club, 11-07-04, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Jesus once proclaimed (Matt. 16:24-26): “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. for what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” What we have to consider is whether we’re partially selling our souls for a whole lot less than the world. We have to consider the insidious, stealthy influence of materialism and consumerism may be having on our real values, as revealed by our emotions, our beliefs, and our actions. For material blessings from God may become a spiritual curse if we don’t react to them correctly.
S.P.S. The corrosive, subtle influence of materialism on our daily priorities constitutes one of the Church’s greatest challenges at this time.
During this past Feast, I heard a sermon dealing with the dangers of materialism as represented by the end time system of economic Babylon. For although Babylon is also a religious system, i.e., Roman Catholicism, it’s also an economic system. So for the people there, going home was going back to Babylon, a colorful but sobering metaphor that repeatedly came from the pulpit during the Feast.
Scripture plainly pictures Babylon as an economic system, not just a religious one.
Revelation 18:15-16: “The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purples, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.”
The problem isn’t the material things per se. After all, we know Abraham, Job, and David were all rich, yet still normally faithful, spiritual men. Rather, the problem is whether we’re pursuing economic goals so strongly on a daily basis that cause us to neglect our relationships with God, our families, and/or the brethren. It’s very easy to slowly and gradually get sucked in emotionally and physically into economic Babylon’s values. This makes it so dangerous, much like the live frog being slowly boiled in water.
Here we need to come down to brass tack specifics. Making a general attack on materialism will get nods of acceptance. But making specific statements will get more far more attention, although we each have to judge our own situations in light of the general principles of God’s word.
For example, how we spend our time reveals what we really value in life, since our lives are composed of so much time.
Do we regularly work (say) over 50 hours a week? Do we still manage to get in (say) a half hour of prayer and a half hour of Bible study or spiritual reading in daily? Could we restructure our lives so our wives don’t have to work while we have young children at home?
Have we economically structured our lives that (say) both the husband and wife have to work full-time to pay the mortgage? Did we really “need” a house of 2,500 square feet when 1,500 square feet will do? Do we have to live in a fancy area, like (say) Bloomfield Hills or one of the Grosse Pointes when Ferndale or Redford will do? Do we have to have two new cars when one new, one used, will do? Or how about downsizing from a fancy Ford Expedition to a lowly Chevy Cavalier if it “has” to be new? Or how about (even) two used cars, and so avoid a lot of insurance costs and monthly car payments?
How much of a “need” is there to be entertained? How many hours do we spend watching TV or listening to music without doing other more productive activities at the same time? Do we have to have cable TV? How many movies or videos (which are often spiritually rotten) do we have to watch each month? How many cell phones do we really need to have, if any? (We did manage to survive without them at one time, if we remember back a few years, somehow!) How many set monthly payments could we avoid?
Are we addicted to debt, especially to using high interest rate credit cards to carry the costs of discretionary expenses month after month? Do we have a good handle on our “needs” as opposed to our “wants”? Do we think we have to be in the rat race to save a lot of money for our kids to go to a fancy Ivy League college when (say) a community college followed by a state school may be good enough? Or, let’s speak some heresy here, how about (say) trade school followed by apprenticeship for the non-academically inclined? After all, somebody has to be the plumbers, electricians, building contractors, welders, barbers, carpenters, etc., right?
Do we have to eat out so much? $5-10 a day for lunch and/or dinner even at fast food restaurants can quickly add up. For example, if we work 250 days a year, and spend $5 a day on fast food meals and/or coffee in the morning, that comes to $1250 in after-tax, after-tithe income. We should consider brown-bagging it mostly until we get out of non-mortgage debt.
Do we let ads, commercials, and catalogs increase our “wants” so they become needs? Do we feel a need to take on a second job or to put in overtime or to (say) push the wife to work in order to pay for our “wants”?
In conclusion, we have to consider whether economic Babylon is increasing our material desires and wants such that we end up neglecting our relationships with God, with our families, and with the brethren. How we spend our time indicates what our values really are. For our lives are composed of so many hours each day we can spend various ways. We should prioritize our time, which is what our lives are composed of, to avoid emphasizing getting stuff compared to improving relationships. After all, do we really believe, as shown by our emotions and our actions, Jesus was right when He said (Matt. 6:19-21): “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, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”