Summary: It starts when we’re young. We go through the ‘mine, mine, mine’ stage. Trying to convey the concept of sharing to a toddler isn’t exactly easy. But possessiveness is something that doesn’t necessarily disappear with age. The ‘mine’ syndrome is something
INTRODUCTION: It starts when we’re young. Toddlers going through the ‘mine, mine, mine’ stage. Shaun doesn’t exactly go around saying that but if he sees it, likes it and wants it, in his mind there is an automatic transfer of ownership. Trying to convey the concept of sharing to a four-year-old isn’t exactly easy. If Shaun sees you on the computer and you try to tell him, ‘it’s mommy or daddy’s turn’ you won’t hear, “okay, let me know when you’re done; I can wait.” Possessiveness is something that doesn’t necessarily disappear with age. The ‘mine’ syndrome is something we might still be struggling with. Last week John preached about what we need to be devoted to. Today I’m going to preach on what we shouldn’t be devoted to. Let’s learn about materialism.
1) The dangers of materialism. The Encarta dictionary defines materialism as, ‘devotion to material wealth and possessions at the expense of spiritual or intellectual values’. This sounds pretty dangerous to me. But what are the dangers of materialism?
· It’s deceiving. One way materialism deceives me is that it makes me think that my wealth determines my worth. Billionaire Ted Turner once said, “It’s all relative. I sit down and say, ‘I’ve got $10 billion, but Bill Gates has $100 billion; I feel like a complete failure in life.” We are tempted to have a ‘keep up with the Jones’ mentality. We can fall into the trap of, ‘I’m a failure unless I have as much, if not more, than you. That way of thinking is not only wrong; it’s dangerous. That mindset will ruin me because no matter how well I think I’m doing materially, I will see someone who has more and I’ll be brought back to my feelings of inadequacy. In this we fail to recognize that our worth comes not in dollar signs but in God’s eyes. Another way materialism is deceiving is because it makes me think that the more I have the happier I’ll be. All he ever wanted was more. He wanted more money so he turned inherited wealth into a billion dollars worth of assets. He wanted more fame so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a film producer and star. He wanted more thrills so he designed, built and piloted the fastest airplane in the world. He wanted more power so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him contentment. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. He died emaciated, weighing only 95 pounds. His fingernails resembled grotesque, long corkscrews. His teeth were rotting, and countless needle marks covered his body from his drug addiction. I’m talking about Howard Hughes. Ecc. 5:10 says that, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Materialism is deceptively dangerous.
· It centers on self. The problem is that materialism is centered on self. When I’m in the grips of materialism I see my wants and desires. I put me 1st. An old, rich man with a cranky, miserable attitude (see, money can’t buy happiness) visited a rabbi who lived a simple life. The rabbi had an idea on how to get through to him about his negative attitude. He took him over to a window and asked him what he saw. “I see men and women and a few children.” Then the rabbi took him to a mirror and asked him what he saw. The man frowned, rolled his eyes and blurted, “Well, obviously I see myself.” “Interesting”, the rabbi replied. “In the window there is glass. In the mirror there is glass. But the glass of the mirror is covered with a little bit of silver. And no sooner is the silver added then you cease to see others, only yourself.” James 3:16, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Because I’m centered on self I set the stage for sins like envy, greed, lust and covetousness; thus emphasizing the danger of materialism. Since materialism is centered on self, it prevents me from being a benefit to God, others and ironically even myself.
· Our possessions possess us. We can get to the point where we spend way more time pursuing goods than we do pursuing God. We get to where we idolize our stuff. We get to where we don’t own our possessions; our possessions own us. They bind us, having to invest lots of time and energy into keeping them up. And we feel in order to get our money’s worth out of it we need to devote much of our free time using it. Millard Dean Fuller, charitable organization executive and attorney, along with his wife, Linda, lived the "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous." At age 29, Millard had become a millionaire; and, because of his obsession with making money and accumulating possessions, he almost lost his wife forever! Linda left her husband over his obsession; however, he loved her more than anything else, so he went after her and they reconciled by determining to put Almighty God first and foremost in their life and to live in a simple way. They sold their possessions, gave the proceeds to charities, and started all over again - this time with God at the Head of their home! Millard became the founder and President of "Habitat for Humanity" of Americus, Georgia, taking only a modest salary for his leadership of that magnificent ministry! Writing in "Building Materials for Life," he said, "The more possessions one accumulates the more thinking is devoted to them. If a person has multiple cars, boats, acres of land, houses, all kinds of investments and other possessions, it takes a lot of time to make sure everything is secure and well taken care of. No time is left for God." Millard Fuller understood the stranglehold his possessions had on his life. He recognized how the focus on his possessions took him away from his wife and God. When our possessions possess us, we become robbed of a joy filled life centered on God. Allan Emery said, “My parents consistently taught us that all we had must be held in an open hand, that when we closed our fingers tightly over anything placed in our trust, we lost the joy and the blessing. Things acquired as an end in themselves become idols and possess us.” Another way our possessions possess us is with the amount of debt we’re in because of them. We rack up credit card debt and make minimum payments and are thus bound by the chokehold of debt. Then we justify why we need to work so much overtime or take on another job, which in turn can cause us to miss church or bible study. And this bondage will cut into the time we could better use to establish and build relationships. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by our inability to keep up that we end up collapsing into bankruptcy. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The borrower is servant to the lender." Being possessed by our possessions is a danger of materialism.