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Materialsm, then Jesus

I don’t think I’m done with this yet. I talked a bunch about how consumerism has so infected the church that now we think it’s normal to think like a consumerist and follow Jesus. I think the same, at least for us here in the west, goes for materialism.

One stat till haunts me.

“It is quite astounding that although Protestant and Catholic churches have raised – and spent – close to one trillion dollars on domestic ministry during the past two decades, there has been no measurable increase in one of the expressed purposes of the church: to lead people to Christ and have them commit their lives to Him.”

Barna, George and The Barna Group The State of the Church: 2005, Copyright © 2005 by George Barna and The Barna Group, 1957 Eastman Avenue, Ventura, CA 93003

Yes, I think a large part of this is because of consumerism I also think these problems can be equally related to materialism. Yes, I also think they are very much related but also have very much of a different expression when allowed to grow to where it is now. Consumerism (these are in my own understanding) seems to be a constant need of more and having collections of nothing but more. While materialism (which may very well be the root of consumerism) seems to be more the need of depending on stuff in the first place. It is remarkable how much value we place on things and stuff.

It is very important for us as followers of Jesus to keep an eye on what we value. You can walk into most churches and within five minutes understand their values (no matter what it says on there website). Some churches value parking lots, roofs, building projects, alpha programs and others value community, preaching, singing and others value discussion, freedom and the list goes on. There are many non-material values that are harmful, but I think as soon as we start to value the material things of life, we begin to devalue the opposite; those being relationships, emotions and worship. Why have we spent so much money in church lately with no sign of increase? Because most of that money went to materials to help us in our ministry, most of that money went to material of some sort that eventually fades away and dies.

Materials need to take a place in our life properly, not in front of Jesus. We do not need to get ‘ahead in life’ before we start living for Jesus. We don’t have to have our two cars, in our two car garage and that camera we want with the sick computer to edit the photos before we start living for Jesus. It’s easy to say, we all say this and most have stopped reading by now because its clich√©. But I don’t think we actually do this. Most of us are thinking about ourselves most of the time. If you asked yourself honestly, when have you ever saved up money to buy something for someone else? I can’t even think of one time that I have done that. I can’t think of one time that I had even remotely the same desire to buy something for someone else as I have for myself. I’m selfish. I think we all can probably say that.

This is why, now its ok two be rich and be a Christian. It’s why the prosperity gospel exists. It’s why Christians can live in wealth with lots of spare bedrooms, food going bad because it’s not eaten and an extra car in the driveway all day long and not think twice about it. Materialism comes first, then we follow Jesus. Materialism really is our God know. We depend on the stuff we can provide for ourselves to bring us health (health plans), comfort (luxury living), security (rrsps), happiness (entertainment)….why do we need Jesus anymore? We don’t even need the stuff about Jesus telling us not to worry about tomorrow. Worry about tomorrow? That is a joke to us. Afterall we have got enough stuff to last us till the day we die. We’ve got our lives perfectly set with all our stuff to fill in all the blanks that Jesus was meant to fill. So what does Jesus become? Just one more thing to add to our list of things. So don’t worry Jesus, we won’t worry about tomorrow, we’ve taken care of it already.

7 Comments

  • I really like that you left the footnote of where you found the statistic that you used. It is good to see your tuition money at work. preach on.

  • So i think you’ve got the point in the right direction I just think you’ve gone to far with it. Jesus doesnt say LIVE in poverty and struggle through life, he says , he will take care of all our needs, maybe not our wants but our needs. You say all these things but Im not sure what direction to go….what do i do now? Do i sell everything and live on the streets? Do i continue living my life but just be careful not to let “THINGS” consume me? What do I do…better yet, what does Jesus want me to do…help me out nathan with this…

  • I also resonate a bit with George. Sure the gospel message is about caring for the poor and the downtrodden, but I don’t believe that it requires us to live in poverty. I believe that as a Christian I am called to care for my family to the best of my abilities. And I believe that this means being monetarily secure as much as it does being spiritually secure. I don’t see a problem (and maybe you weren’t implying this) with saving money in excess to prepare for your future or for the future of your children. Of course I believe in tithing and even giving on top of that… it’s shouldn’t be an obligation. But I also think that having a 401K or money in the stock market can be a positive response to God’s call for stewardship of finances in my family situation….

    I also understand that your statistic didn’t exactly have to do with this. I agree that Jesus must come first. Just throwing that out there, what do you think?

  • Hey George, it would be cool if you could e-mail me (from your real address) and maybe we could talk about this in person too. It’s weird talking about ideas apart from any relationship and circumstance.

    But i would say to both Josh and George, to re-read my post. I never said Jesus wants you to live in poverty (maybe you’re taking it to the extreme George?) I was questioning the stuff that we have learned to depend on and wondering what it means to depend on Jesus within this stuff now, because I don’t think we are doing it.

    Josh, not to be offensive on purpose, but reading the gospels seems to have a contrary view about what you just said. Jesus says twice that the gospel will put families against each other. I’m not saying to neglect your responsibility, but i am saying that maybe when we learn to live the real gospel, we learn to trust a bit more and understand a bit more what it looks like to allow God to take care of our families and families start to live the gospel together.

    But George, that’s a good question, what do we do now? I don’t know, I’ve been asking myself the same question and i’m trying my best to follow Jesus. But i think i’m heading in the right direction, and I hope these conversations prove to help us all in that direction. I’ll def be posting more on this in the future and I guess we’ll see where i end up.

  • Notice how we all think two extremes. Either be super rich and rock the prosperity speech or be homeless. Take your pick.

    What if though, its ok to be where ever rich, poor or somewhere in-between? I think we need to get over it, some people are going to have bags of money and others wont. Some people inherited, got a sweet education, invested wisely or what ever. Some people just werent so lucky. But I think the gospel speaks to all categories. The poor guy needs to be just as much aware of his possessions at the guy with the boat. If the poor guy and the rich guy both have a roof over their head are they sharing it? If they both prepare meals are they inviting others to join? Is the rich guy humble enough to except a meal from the poor guy? Is the poor guy humble enough to take a spin on the boat and not get envious?

    I think God challenges everyone, everywhere with everything. People have issues, poverty or not, how are you dealing with it? Poverty or not, people are in need of love and hospitality all around you how are you responding?

    A coffee given or a boat ride taken can mean mountains to those people you offer it to. Rich or poor, you can affect anyone around you.

    Rich or poor, we are all in danger or materialism and consumerism. Thats our thing, its what we do.

    I liked where Josh was coming from and I know what Nathan is cooking up.
    George, I have no idea.

  • Good answer Ron. As with many things the answer or truth lies somewhere in the middle of it all.
    Two extremes yet somewhere in the middle. Hmm.

  • Yeah, good word Ron. I like that perspective on it. I wasn’t trying to be to “extreme” about it, but I’ve heard that side of things as well and felt it should be voiced. But I really agree with you “coffee given or roat ride” sentence. You do what you can with what you’ve got for the Kingdom of God no matter what.

    Thanks.

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