How Do You View Material Possessions?
Helpful facts that young people want to know
CAN you imagine a house literally full of thousands of fine gifts of all kinds and varieties? Would you like to live there and receive many of those gifts from your father as head of that home?
Actually, you already live in such a home—this planet Earth—and Jehovah God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, has filled it with an amazing variety of good things. (Jas. 1:17) As the psalmist wrote: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions.”—Ps. 104:24.
Any father who really loves his children finds delight in giving them things and seeing their happiness over the gift. And this is true of God as our heavenly Father. (Compare Matthew 7:9-11.) He purposed that humans should enjoy to the full all the fine things the earth contains—foods, materials for clothing, gems, wood and metals with which to make an immense variety of articles, animals for man’s interest and use in getting work done.
But, strangely enough, our getting full enjoyment from these material provisions—in fact, our getting full enjoyment from life itself—depends very much on our not making them the big thing in our lives. How can that be? It is because there are other things that are so much more valuable than material possessions.
You can probably remember how, when you were quite small, you became very upset and maybe even ‘threw a tantrum’ when some other child wanted to play with a toy of yours. Looking back, that attitude probably seems foolish to you now. Your sense of values has improved. But it is easy to slip back into that childish way if we are not on guard. We need to keep reminding ourselves of what really matters in life.
You doubtless know some young people that give a lot of importance to material possessions. To some, for example, having a transistor radio or tape recorder, or a stereo outfit, certain special items of clothing, a camera, a motor scooter or, in wealthier lands, even their own car, is what they seem to prize the most. Some put far more interest in those things than they do in their schooling, their families or anything else. They may also tend to evaluate others, yourself included, by what these have in the way of such material possessions. Does this make sense?
Stop and think about it. Does your having or not having such material possessions really make any difference in what you are as a person? Are you a better person if you have them, or a worse person if you do not? Actually, the most valuable possessions, the ones that really determine your worth as a person and the ones that can bring you the most satisfaction and happiness, are of a different kind. Can you think of what some of these more valuable possessions would be?
POSSESSIONS BRINGING GREATER, MORE LASTING, HAPPINESS
What about knowledge? Compare the value, say, of knowing another language with owning a stereo outfit or a transistor radio. True, with those items you can enjoy hearing other people talk and sing—in your language. But with knowledge of a second language you yourself might be in position to talk with as many as one hundred million more people on earth than you can with just the language you presently know. If you ever had opportunity to travel to other lands, such knowledge could add immensely to your enjoyment of the trip—far more than having along a transistor radio.
Similarly with getting knowledge of how to do things. To learn how to be a good cook or a capable seamstress or an able carpenter or to be good at making mechanical repairs—these could be of far greater future value to you in doing something worth while in your life, for yourself and for others, than having certain material possessions.
The most valuable knowledge, of course, is that of God’s Word. With it you can bring comfort and hope to persons who are heartbroken and in despair, yes, in a way that music from a stereo set never could. You can, in fact, even save lives with knowledge of God’s truth. What material possessions can you think of that would do that? No wonder the wise man urges young persons to make the purchase he recommends when saying: “Buy truth itself and do not sell it—wisdom and discipline and understanding. The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Prov. 23:23-25.
Think, too, how much more valuable a good name or reputation is than having material possessions. (Prov. 22:1) If you are known for being unselfish, honest, diligent, reliable and respectful, that can make you a welcome sight far more than any special kind of clothes could ever do. Such a reputation can cause you to be sought after as a valuable friend or as a workmate or employee. It can bring invitations from persons to visit them or to do things with them, to share their good things with them. Would this not solve any problem of loneliness far better than even a television set?
Really, so much of our happiness in life depends on having the assurance that we are appreciated, that we matter to others, that we contribute something to their lives that they would miss if we were not living. Being rich in fine qualities will cause you to be appreciated far more by the best of people than would your being rich in material possessions. As the book of wise sayings puts it: “The one loving purity of heart—for the charm of his lips the king will be his companion.” “Anyone of little means who is walking in his integrity is better than the one crooked in his lips, and the one that is stupid. The desirable thing in earthling man is his loving-kindness; and one of little means is better than a lying man.”—Prov. 22:11; 19:1, 22.
The young man Timothy had the privilege of being selected to accompany the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. This was not because of Timothy’s material possessions but because of his fine qualities, reported on by Christians in two cities of Asia Minor. (Acts 16:1-4) The experience that Timothy gained as a result was beyond price and qualified him later to take on special assignments himself as a man in whom the apostle could place great trust. That Timothy did not make material possessions the big thing in his life is seen from Paul’s statement made when sending Timothy to the congregation in Philippi in Macedonia: “I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. For all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know the proof he [Timothy] gave of himself.”—Phil. 2:19-23.
Are not genuine friends far more valuable than material possessions? True, when one has certain material possessions they may seem to give a lot of “prestige” in youthful groups, and others may flock around to enjoy these, like flies flock around food. But when the food is gone, the flies go. And many so-called “friends” are the same. That was the way the prodigal son found it to be when his money ran out. (Luke 15:11-16) You might have a stereo set or even an automobile and this might attract other young people to you. But what if you lose that attractive possession or what if someone else gets a better, more modern set or a fancier automobile, how many of those “friends” will stay with you?
But true friends will appreciate you for what you are and not for what you have. “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Prov. 17:17; 18:24) More than this, Jehovah himself will be your friend if you make his service the big thing in your life, and “when Jehovah takes pleasure in the ways of a man he causes even his enemies themselves to be at peace with him.”—Prov. 16:7.
Realize, too, that such things as knowledge, a fine personality and genuine friends are things that can neither be stolen nor do they wear out and lose their value with time and use. But people can steal or destroy your material possessions. God’s Son wisely counseled therefore: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:20, 21) If you have and maintain a good name with God, your future happiness is secure, certain, and you will in time, in his new order, be able to enjoy to the full all the treasure of good things this earth contains.
You have splendid examples in the Bible of persons who did not put material possessions first in their lives. Moses was one. Born a Hebrew but, by unusual circumstances, brought up in the house of Pharaoh by Pharaoh’s daughter, he developed a right sense of values as a young man. When grown up, he “refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Heb. 11:23-26) True, he gave up a lot in a material way. But he gained tremendous privileges in leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, transmitting God’s law to them and writing several books of the Bible. And even greater blessings await him in a resurrection in God’s approaching new order. Who has not heard of Moses? All can benefit from his inspired writings in the Bible. But who today knows the rich Pharaoh of that time or his daughter? And what did they accomplish that really had lasting benefits and results?
The finest example, of course, is that of God’s Son. As 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich he became poor for your sakes, that you might become rich through his poverty.” The apostle Paul and other disciples followed Jesus’ fine example. Paul could speak of himself and his companions as “poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:10; compare Philippians 3:7, 8.) You have only to read the account of the Acts of the Apostles to appreciate what a rich and interesting life they had. As Jesus said, there truly is “more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) You will find that to be so if you prove it for yourself.
SHOW STRENGTH AND WISDOM
So, then, why let the present commercial systems with their high-powered advertising pressure you into building your life around material possessions? Why enrich them and in the end impoverish yourself as far as the really worthwhile things in life are concerned? Why not show real strength to resist the pull of materialism and show determination to get the most out of life by seeking things of greater value than material possessions?
This is especially vital now. Bible prophecies show that the present system, with all its commercialism, is nearing its end. Making too much of material things would be a trap for us, diverting our attention from the urgency of our times. We could find ourselves bogged down in this system and be swept away with it when God cleans it out and brings in his new order. As Jesus warned: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15; consider the illustration he gave in Lu 12 verses 16-21.
Not that we should be without any possessions at all. But we do not want them to run our life. And we should be able to distinguish between possessions that will really contribute to genuine happiness and those that actually could hinder our gaining that goal.
Whatever possessions you have, then, make it your aim to use them for the good of others and especially to “honor Jehovah with your valuable things.” (Prov. 3:9) For “valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury, but righteousness itself will deliver from death.”—Prov. 11:4.