More and more, I hear Christians being accused of being materialistic. It’s probably true. I remember reading about Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in dialogue with a religious leader of his day. The churchman said, “We can no longer say as Peter did in Acts 3:6, ‘Silver or gold I do not have.’ ” Aquinas replied (insinuating that a rich, powerful church is also likely to be a weak one), “Nor can we say, ‘But what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ ”
It’s a pretty tricky deal. Somehow we have to exist within the country and culture we find ourselves in, which in our case happens to be quite an affluent one … yet not be taken with and or controlled by material possessions and money.
I spoke with a missionary, who’d recently returned from a teaching foray in the Republic of Cameroon in West Central Africa. In a conversation with a group of African pastors, he happened to mention that he had a savings account in Canada. They were not very impressed with him at that point. They asked him how he could possibly set money aside when there are so many people who are in need. Yet, as Canadians, we understand that if we don’t set something aside for the proverbial “rainy day” or retirement, we will become dependent upon others, or the system.
Just to make it more interesting, there is the “prosperity gospel” crowd who believe that it’s God’s will for true, faithful Christians to be prosperous. I happen not to be of this persuasion, though I do believe that the application of biblical principles relative to finance and stewardship might very well result in our financial status improving. (Incidentally, I define prosperity as having all that we need to sustain us in order that we may serve the Lord better).
Materialism is obviously a serious matter. Jesus warned His followers, saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
The apostle Paul wrote later in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that the covetous will not be inheritors of the Kingdom of God!
Paul presents a clear, concise comparison in 1 Timothy 6:5,6. He states that those “… who have been robbed of the truth … think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” In the sixth verse, he presents the proper alternative, explaining that, “… godliness with contentment is great gain.” His focus is clearly on contentment, not collateral.
“I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” — Martin Luther
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection