For some people there’s nothing like the thrill, the possibility of getting caught while shoplifting or stealing merchandise. It may start when they are young children, a candy bar here, a small item there.
With the advancement of security cameras, shoplifting is much harder to do without getting caught. But even rich people shoplift sometimes. It’s not about needing something for survival. We’re not talking about stealing bread for the family. We are talking about the addictive desire to steal for the thrill.
Some people just want more stuff. They buy things just to buy them. There’s something about the buying process they enjoy. Or maybe they just enjoy having more stuff. Other people steal for the thrill.
Some people just can’t help it. This is an addiction in our society that almost nobody talks about. But it is just as pervasive and dangerous as the other addictions we have already discussed in our series.
As we continue to talk about holiness and addictions, the Bible teaches Jesus wants us to be free from everything that masters us. If you are dealing with any of these addictions, but especially the addiction that materialism brings to our culture, you can be free!
Want, Want, Want
We all buy the things that we need to survive in life. And every once in a while we buy things that we want. But there’s a huge difference between buying things within our budget and just buying things to have them.
From a very young age we need to learn the difference between need and want. It’s also good to establish for your children what a budget is and how to use it. This is one of the greatest safeguards between being in debt and being solvent.
These are great principles to teach, but they don’t solve the addiction that we have four more stuff. We don’t talk about materialism in our society. Some people just want more stuff, and that’s okay with everyone else.
The problem comes when they steal and shoplift to get what they want. Everyone has desires and things they want. When I have something I want, I wait two weeks to see if I still want it. If I do, I checked my budget and my bank balances to see if it is even possible.
If the money is not there, I don’t buy the item. But this ability to stop there is not something that everyone shares. Some people will go to a credit card to get what they want. Sometimes this is fine, as long as they maintain paying that credit card back.
People have lost the understanding that the money on a credit card is not their money. Everything on that credit card is borrowed money that must be paid back. We think we have a pass if we have a balance on a credit card. But that’s not the way life works.
It is harder to pay a credit card back because of the interest. We not only pay back whatever we purchase, but we also add a small, or in our day a large, interest to it. Whatever we put on that card is doubly hard to pay off. It’s a dangerous slippery slope.
We must remember that wants and needs are two very different things. If we need something, the money we have must go to that first. I do my best to pay my bills off before I make any purchases. Our wants must not drive our bank balances. We get ourselves into trouble we may not get out of.
There’s something much deeper to this addiction of materialism we must understand. The Bible teaches us not to be materialistic as Christians. The deepest issue, as with all sins and addictions, is a heart issue.
People who shoplift or steal items from stores may not trust in God’s provision for their day-to-day needs. Even more, they may not trust him for their future. If it’s not that issue, perhaps they like the thrill that comes with stealing. They want to see if they can avoid getting caught, like on the Oceans movies.
Another issue people deeply steeped in materialism have is they don’t maintain an eternal mindset. Their perspective focuses on the temporal. They are more concerned about the now instead of the future.
Our culture teaches us that immediate gratification is the very best thing to assuage our desire for pleasure. It’s difficult for people who regularly receive what they want now to imagine what it’s like to enjoy it later. This worldview makes it very hard to understand why we have to wait for Jesus to return later.
Over and over the Bible stresses eternal perspective rather than a temporal one. Paul states the current philosophy of his day, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). But the Bible shows us that Jesus is returning soon, an undefined amount of time.
Jesus teaches us to be patient and wait for the Lord to avenge us when we are wronged (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). Much of the Christian life is directed toward a later time. We live between God’s promises and their fulfillment.
This isn’t to say there is no immediate gratification in the Bible. Jesus often heels with immediate results. Our salvation is both immediate and progressive, meaning that we grow in our salvation until Jesus finalizes it.
All of this shows the Bible expects Christians to have an eternal perspective. There is no need for materialism here because we can’t take any of it with us to heaven. The desire for more stuff is contrary to the kingdom character, which places our trust in God’s provision for what we need when we need it.
God has everything in control and is the Master of human history. We look to him for all of our provision and resources. He has a plan he is working in the long term.
The Secret Weapons
How do we deal with the materialism around us? It’s a great temptation, especially for those who have trouble with wanting more stuff. We want to align with biblical teaching and values. So how do we get there?
Paul tells us that he has learned to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11). Whether he was blessed or found himself in want, Paul learned this godly skill. We must realize that contentment is not a spiritual gift or something God eventually just grants us.
Paul uses the word “learned” because it is something God can teach every Christian. Part of it is denying our fleshly desires. But another part of it is the strength of Christ for us. This is what Paul means when he says he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13).
No matter what situation we find ourselves in, God will give us the strength to deal with that situation. When we are in God’s blessing, we need to remember to praise him and place the blessing squarely in his provision. When we are in want, we can cry out to God and ask him for his mighty provision.
This is why Paul says we rely on God’s provision in every situation. He says, “My God will supply all of your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The only way we can be content in every situation is to rely on the riches of Jesus and the provision of God.
This is our secret weapon as Christians. We maintain an eternal perspective, praying for our needs and knowing that God will supply each and every one of them. I have found many times he supplies the needs I have before I even know I have them.
So we can rely on God in every circumstance. There is nothing we need to fear or worry about. God’s got our back. He takes care of those who are faithful to him. But learning these lessons throughout our lives, the extreme circumstances between want and no lack, challenge us as we grow in our understanding and application of contentment.
Another secret weapon Christians can employ his hospitality and generosity. Being generous toward others shows that God has an endless storehouse, that he owns everything in the world (Psalm 50:10). When we realize that everything belongs to God, we become his stewards on earth.
If you have trouble with materialism, one of the best things you can do is become very generous. The Holy Spirit will help you to share what you have, and in so doing, to learn both contentment and generosity.
Materialism is an unholy practice for Christians. The Bible teaches us how to be content in Christ and God’s provision. We strive for an eternal, long-term view and worldview. Our values are not attached to the things of this world but to the things of God.
Materialism becomes a matter of holiness. We must not be addicted to anything in this world, not even stuff. We must live within our means and demonstrate faith in God’s provision. God will give us strength and teach us how to endure in every situation we face. Leave a comment and describe how God is giving you strength and teaching you contentment in a world full of stuff.