When Materialism Penetrates Christian Homes
If you think seeing is believing, and that a materialistic philosophy can usher in spiritual blessings, then you will find set forth in this article information of real value to you.
MATERIALISM is out to conquer the world with its philosophy. Its conquest will be brief, because a materialistic philosophy is absolutely contrary to the will of God. It is no more a solution to this troubled world than the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast was an explanation of the principles of Christianity. While a materialistic way may appear right to man, it may be all wrong with God. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but Jehovah weigheth the hearts.” “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Materialism is one of such ways.—Prov. 21:2; 14:12, AS.
Materialism is worldliness. It is opposite and opposed to that which is spiritual. It is a theory that teaches that human phenomena, historical, social or psychological, should be viewed or interpreted in terms of physical or material causes rather than of spiritual causes. It is an offspring of a faithless world, sustained on the corrosive diet of scientific idolatry, self-praise, distortion of truths and values. It minimizes the inestimable value of the spirit of God in the lives of men by relegating Jehovah God to the background. Instead it magnifies human achievements and reasonings as of prime importance. Through technological advancement it pretends to be in the interest of mankind, when in reality it is one of mankind’s most deadly foes, because under no circumstances will materialism preserve this desperate civilization through the battle of Armageddon on into the new world of God’s making. Nor will it ensure everlasting happiness, peace and life.
MATERIALISM AGELONG THREAT
For ages materialism has presented a threat to mankind. The preflood world “ate and drank” and cared little for spiritual things. For this oversight and neglect they paid with their lives. In 1473 B.C. Moses warned Israel of this ever-present danger: “Watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah your God so as not to keep his commandments and his judicial decisions and his statutes that I am commanding you today; for fear that you may eat and indeed satisfy yourself and you may build good houses and indeed dwell in them, and your herd and your flock may increase and silver and gold may increase for you and all that is yours may increase; and your heart may indeed be lifted up and may indeed forget Jehovah your God.” “And you do say in your heart, ‘My own power and the full might of my own hand have made this wealth for me.’” Both ancient and modern Israel have forgotten this wise counsel by Moses. When Israel prospered, it boasted in its own power and might, and in substance said: “Our own hands have made this wealth.” They honored themselves and not the God who made the hand, who gives power and might, and who has made all things possible.—Deut. 8:1-20, NW.
In Samuel’s day their materialistic philosophy had so completely possessed them that they wanted to be like nations round about them. Their desire was for a king that they could see. All the years that Jehovah demonstrated himself King to them were not enough to quell the flood of materialistic thinking. God told Samuel to listen to them and give them a king that they could see, “for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.” Israel insisted on materialism at all cost, even if it meant rejecting God. This materialistic philosophy did not save Israel. Rather, it led to her oppression and doom.—1 Sam. 8:5-7, AS.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon boasted of his great kingdom: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” While he was still praising himself his sanity crumbled within him. Nebuchadnezzar trusted in his own princes and military force of iron and flesh. He had no faith in the power of God to save and to destroy. Lest others should think like him, placing their trust in material things, the warning is given: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek Jehovah! Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit: and when Jehovah shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall stumble, and he that is helped shall fall, and they all shall be consumed together.” So is materialism in the hands of the Almighty.—Dan. 4:30; Isa. 31:1, 3, AS.
HOW JESUS VIEWED MATERIALISM
At the beginning of the Christian era the destiny of civilization rested on the narrow margin as to how Jesus would meet this matter of materialism. Jesus met it with these words: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” In other words, a materialistic philosophy was not his way, but the way of his adversary, Satan the Devil, who presented it to him. True, man must live, said Jesus. But to live he needs more than material things. He needs God’s spirit; in fact, “every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth” is essential to his eternal welfare.—Matt. 4:4, NW.
To live, man must worship God. “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” It follows that for one to minimize or neglect spiritual matters displays an utter lack of appreciation of values. He is like the materialistic-minded man that Jesus used in an illustration. This man said: “‘Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him: ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’ So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” The lesson here taught is: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” So guard yourself against materialism.—John 4:24; Luke 12:15-21, NW; Prov. 11:4.
MATERIALISM SWEEPS CHRISTENDOM
Despite the warning in the Scriptures concerning the creeping paralysis of materialism, yet it has all but completely conquered the world. John Sutherland Bonnell of the Fifth Avenue (New York) Presbyterian church said: “There is appalling evidence of corruption and venality throughout America. Materialism has eaten into the heart of our land. We have raised gods of iron, silver, gold and wood. We need a great breath of God blowing through the nation.” Monsignor John J. Hayes characterized “liberal materialism” as creating great voids of frustration, loneliness, and confusion in modern civilization. “It has created slave labor, starvation, and children spying on their parents. It has tried to sell the idea that it can produce a cultured and dignified race without belief in God. Such a philosophy takes away the only source of light and strength known to man.” He classed materialism as “the greatest crime against human peace and happiness in our whole intellectual history.”
The extent to which “Christian” homes have been given over to materialism can be measured by Jesus’ words: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.” “If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith? So never be anxious and say: ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you. So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own evil.”—Matt. 6:19, 30-34, NW.
Has not this procedure been reversed in the majority of “Christian” homes today? When a minister of Jehovah’s witnesses calls on so-called “Christian” homes in the United States, the answers will in most cases be: “We’re too busy making a living.” “We don’t have time for that stuff.” “We have no time for religion.” “We’re not interested in the Bible.” “We have our own religion.” “I don’t have time to read the papers or the funnies any more, let alone the Bible,” as if papers and funnies were more important than a knowledge of God’s Word, the Bible.
It is obvious that these professing Christians are not spiritually-minded. They are not seeking the Kingdom first; that is certain. They have lost all sense of spiritual values. Their immediate concern is the necessities and pleasures of life. They have no time for spiritual things. They have become “material-seeking robots.” Their minds have been warped into thinking that spiritual needs can be satisfied with material things. For example: Christendom seeks peace through material force, when peace is, above all, an attitude of the mind, a fruit of the spirit of God. Joy, happiness and contentment are products of the spirit. But worldlings seek these in material possessions, such as new homes, fancy furniture, late-model automobiles, giant-size refrigerators, 21-inch television sets, etc. Yet they find that these material things do not really satisfy, and they wonder why.
They do not understand that “a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” If we are living by spirit, that is, according to the direction of the Word of God, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control will be ours as a natural outworking of things. Egotism, competition and envy that cause strife and divisions will all take flight as a result of the operation of God’s spirit. Peace and contentment fill the Christian home where the spirit of God is allowed to operate freely.—1 Cor. 2:14, 15, NW.
But when materialism is permitted to penetrate a Christian home, Christianity is soon forced to leave. Where greater stress is placed on things than on persons, affections and families soon divide. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The wife is induced to believe that she must get outside employment to keep up what is generally termed a good home. Housekeeping becomes secondary. Child care is neglected. There is less feeling of need for each other. It is not long before trouble sets in.—Matt. 6:21, NW.
With modern conveniences and “happiness-producing devices” comes a false sense of security. “We have our own home, business, family and friends; and, too, we have our own religion. So you see, we don’t really need the Bible. We’re completely satisfied. We have everything we want. Thank you.” Such smugness smacks of materialism. In such a home religion is just another gadget, nice to have around for business and social reasons, or just in case of an emergency. It is more or less like a spare tire on an automobile. It gives one a sense of security, and it is nice to have around just in case of a flat tire. The same with religion in this house, it is tolerated for convenience’ sake.
EFFORTS TO OVERCOME MATERIALISM
To overcome this creeping paralysis, an effort is made to convert this materialistic world by becoming more materialistic, by religion’s taking greater part in its political and social affairs; and by encouraging greater trust in materialistic navies and armies. As fantastic and unreasonable as it may sound, such a philosophy is, nevertheless, guiding this world. To invite materialism into Christian homes is to welcome disaster. “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” To join hands with this materialistic world is to make war with God.—Jas. 4:4, NW.
Like a monstrous serpent materialism has coiled itself around this world. It has perpetrated this crime through the folly and ineptness of its religious leaders. Materialistic man has enthroned knowledge as his idol and turned his back on God. He forgets to praise the Maker who has provided him with the tools and the intellect to accomplish his work.
As Charles Lindberg so aptly declares in his Flight and Life, the world that trusts in its materialistic god has lost the “true quality of life—the beauty of earth, its seasons and its skies; the brotherhood of men; the joy of wife and children. [It has lost] the infinite strength without which no people can survive through time—the element which war cannot defeat or peace corrupt.” He concludes: “I now understand that spiritual truth is more essential to a nation than the mortar in its cities’ walls. When the actions of a people are unguided by these truths, it is only a matter of time before their walls collapse.”
Time is fast running out before the world’s greatest war strikes. Survivors of this war are likened to a discreet man who built his house upon a rock foundation, based upon obedience to the enduring Word of God. The walls of that Christian house will stand. All others will collapse. May you be a wise builder—building your house on spiritual foundations, remembering, while some trust in chariots, and some in horses, it is Jehovah alone who can save.—Matt. 7:24-27; Ps. 20:7.