Our Western culture is inundated with materialism. Every ad beckons us with promises that if only we bought that product, had enough stuff, and enough money, we would be beautiful, happy, and fulfilled in this life.
How Can I Tell if I Am Struggling with Materialism?
Here are a few questions I might ask myself to do a heart check:
- Do I base my value on my possessions?
- If I suddenly lost everything I owned in a fire and had to live in a small apartment with sparse and inexpensive furnishings for a while, would my security be gone?
- Do I base other people’s value on their possessions?
- Do I believe that people who don’t have certain things aren’t “good enough” to be my friends?
- Would I be extremely embarrassed, maybe even devastated, if I could only buy my clothes from Wal-Mart, the flee market, or from thrift shops?
- If I were to get married and my husband wanted to downsize our lifestyle and sell our home so we could buy a smaller, much less expensive home and change our lifestyle so that we wouldn’t have any mortgage debt, what would my thoughts be?
- Could I be just as content to eat a thrifty meal at home or as a picnic in a local park for a date night as I would be to spend $100 on a night on the town?
- Could I be confident in myself as a woman of Christ if I had to face the world without makeup and without going to a salon for a year?
- If my budget was really tight because of a job loss or a major economic downturn, how would I react? Can I think of things I could give up and ways I could still be content in such a situation?
- Do I feel I have to have a certain level of luxury and convenience? If so, why?
- Would I be able to be content without jewelry except for a plain wedding band (if I were to get married) if necessary?
- Am I willing to stick to a realistic budget and not spend more than I earn? Does that thought give me anxiety?
- Can I imagine losing, giving away, or selling all of my possessions and being able to be content without them? What would be the hardest things for me to give up?
- Could I be just as content driving an old reliable car with no car payments as I could be driving a new car?
- Do I believe my money belongs the Lord or to myself?
- Is there anything in my possessions or money that I want to hold back from God?
- Do I find my security in things and feel anxious or afraid if I had to give up or lose certain things?
- What are my beliefs about debt? How much debt do I have and why?
- Do I seek God’s will and His glory in how I spend money?
God’s concept of finances and everything we have in our lives is about stewardship. He ultimately owns everything and I am simply a steward, or manager, of what He owns. He is to be LORD of every area of my life. I am to use what He gives me for His purposes, His kingdom, and His glory.
His ways lead to such freedom, peace, and joy!
What Does the Bible Say about Debt?
- The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives… Ps. 37:21
- The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Prov. 22:7
- Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Rom. 13:7-8
What Does the Bible Say about Greed?
- A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. Prov. 28:25
- You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3
- For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous/greedy (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Eph. 5:5
What Does the Bible Say about Materialism?
- He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. Eccl. 5:10
- “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.” Matt. 6:19-21
- “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money. Matt. 6:24
- And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
- Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:33-34
- But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Tim. 6:9-10
- As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 1 Tim. 6:17-19
- Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5
- 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 in possessions—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
Ways Minimalism or Frugality Could Become Idols
It may sound weird that minimalism and wanting to get rid of stuff could be sinful. Here are some ways I could take minimalism too far…
- Obsess so much about giving stuff away and selling things that it is all I care about – no matter if it upsets others or not.
- Find my security and identity in having as few possessions as possible.
- Judge others for “owning too much” in my view and for materialism.
- Get angry with my family/roommates if they want to keep things that are not sinful to keep.
- Be prideful and self-righteous about how few possessions I own and how “good” and “generous” I am.
- Try to impose my personal convictions on everyone else even if they are not ready to take such a big step.
- Become the “stuff Nazi” and condemn other people for having possessions as if things, in and of themselves, are evil.
- Be bitter and resentful at others if I can’t give away or sell most of our things.
- Focus only on this one thing and ignore all of the other things scripture commands for me to do as a believer – like loving the Lord wholeheartedly and loving others deeply.
- Become resentful or upset about receiving gifts from other people who are expressing their love to me.
- Make getting rid of things more important than loving Christ and loving and respecting my loved ones and those closest to me.
- Disrespectfully and un-lovingly get rid of things that are important to other people without their permission.
- Be discontent if I have to have more things than I want to have in my home because my family or roommates don’t share my convictions.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:3
What has the Lord shown you about these issues? How have you learned to be content in plenty or in need?