Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Danger of Materialism

As career missionary, my wife and I made a commitment to our Lord Jesus to work in the field fulltime. It doesn’t mean sharing the gospel all the time to all people we meet. This kind of aggressiveness in witnessing though sounds great is actually counter productive, rather than attracting people, it actually turn off people away from the gospel. Of course, there are unavoidable times of inactivity and for missionaries this is the most difficult stage. We learn to wait on God. Working full-time means we will not to look for jobs to support ourselves because “secular” job takes the time we need to work for the kingdom.

We defend on our supporters for our financial provisions. God had been faithful in providing our needs. He uses people. However, there are times when supports are not coming and we have to write a touching email to let them know the situation we are going through. There are times when we really have nothing even to pay for our bills. But God never fails and he always sees us through difficult times.

I mention this because one of our friends believes that materialism is one of the main reasons that people are not willing to give to the mission works or to the missionaries. She says “that I am just very sorry that we have not been consistent in our support. Financially, it has been difficult to move people to give these days. It may be the materialistic atmosphere in our world today.” And I agree with her because of the lure of this world to gain more, even Christians are not totally free from the temptation. Filipino Christians spend thousand of pesos for their cell phone (which I think is a piece of an overkill gadget we can live without) but give so little to mission. It’s sad. This quote below expresses this truth.
Riches (material possessions) tend to create conceit of power, independence and security. It also tends to make insensitive to the need of others in less fortunate circumstance. In addition to the injustice and suffering caused by the production and uneven distribution of wealth in the world at large, wealth also binds people to this world and makes them forget about the coming world.

It is worth noting that the New Testament, including Jesus’ own teaching, contains far more warnings against the danger of riches and the service of Mammon than against any other god or religion. While modern Western Christians sometimes are very worried about syncretism in other cultures and religions, they largely ignore Jesus’ words about the danger of wealth and affluence.

To be credible the church has to confront the lifestyle of affluent western society. Only a simple lifestyle will do. Radical as it may seem, I believe that a real spiritual renewal of the church in rich societies and an effective missionary outreach to modern people only will be possible when the Spirit of God has convicted God’s people of the sin of materialism. Jesus’ words, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well are spoken to people who worried about material things.

Tormod Engelsviken, “Modernity and Eschatology,” in Faith and Modernity, pp. 178-79.

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