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Summary: A look at materialism -- its damaging effect, and the cures.

August 8, 2001

And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within.

You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment. All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it. Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival.

You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong.The Master could arrive at any time.

The Message New Testament


A "fatter than usual corpse" is James’ way of describing the transformation that can happen to you, when your preoccupation in life is on material things.

Two businessmen, vacationing at Miami Beach, were comparing notes. I’m here on insurance money, one said. I collected $50,000 for fire damage.

Me too, the other replied. But I got $100,000 for flood damage. After a long pause, the first man asked, Tell me, how do you start a flood? (1)

At the outset, let us remember the distinction here about money, or things. Money has no spiritual characteristics, no morality - money is amoral; there is nothing intrinsically negative or positive about money.

James is not saying it is a sin to be rich. That’s just a matter of how much money you have. Rather, James wants us to see that the potential for spiritual problems is the relationship one bears to money; his own, or that which his neighbor possesses (and he wants). That is what gives money its power to become a god. Timothy told us (1 Ti 6.10a) it is… …the love of money is the root of all evil:

The love of money - materialism; when your things become your gods.

This morning we will be like a skilled diagnostician. We will first look at the sickness - the Malady of Materialism. Then we will see the cure, the Medicine for Materialism.

Let’s take a look at what you become, when things become your gods.

The Malady of Materialism

A person is transformed into many things when material things or money becomes god in life:

1. You Become an Idolater

Jesus told the story of a rich fool (Luke 12). The man had so much. His harvest was many times larger than his barns. He decided to hoard it all - he would build bigger barns. That night he died - and he kept nothing. He was a fool.

We have that mentality in our culture today.

Get it, spend it on yourself, or hold onto it for dear life. Friend, it doesn’t matter if you’re:

....a spendthrift, always in debt, wondering how you will pay this month’s light bill… and enjoying every luxury…

....or a skinflint, pinching every penny, stuffing 401K’s under 12 different assumed identities.

The problem with spending or hoarding for you is the sickness of selfishness. It is self-idolatry. You tell God with your actions that generosity, willing to give to my neighbor in need, is wrong - getting for me, and holding on is right. It is a form of idolatrous gluttony. Things become gods.

A man was a regular customer at a restaurant. The management always did its best to please him. So, when he complained one day that only one piece of bread was given him with his mean, the waiter promptly brought him four slices.

That’s good said the man, but not good enough. I like bread - plenty of it! So, the next night he was given a half-dozen slices with supper. Good! he said, but aren’t you still being a bit frugal? Even a basketful the next day didn’t stop the complaints. The manager decided to end this for good. The next night he had a colossal loaf of bread baked. It was six feet long, three feed wide. It took the manager and two waiters to carry it to the complainer’s table. When they laid it on the table the huge loaf took up five place settings. They stood, just waiting for the man’s reaction. The man glared at the gigantic loaf of bread and said, So, we’re back to ONE piece again?

#2. You Become an Oppressor

If you’re successful enough to control a lot of money, you can then control people with it. Jesus told another story a rich man/poor man story. In Luke’s gospel again (ch 16) we read of Lazarus and Dives. Lazarus was the poor beggar, sitting at the Dives’ doorstep. He got scraps for his living.

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