You say; I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. REV 3:17
We live in a society where we are bombarded every moment of the day with subtle often unnoticed inducements to buy stuff. Our every whim and desire can be purchased with a few key strokes of our computers without us even venturing from our armchairs. Our lives are spent earning enough money to buy everything we feel we need.
Our idols are our possessions and our pride in them; also, our need for endless connections on social media.
The question we must ask ourselves is where is our first love? Do we spend more time in front of a screen than we do in prayer, worship and bible study?
Recently we have been studying the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.
Each letter highlights the good points and the often-hidden problem areas which characterises each church, I think the largely unrecognised problem in the Western church is our reliance on wealth and not on the faithfulness of God.
What we forget is that any idol is of no use in eternity, Jeremiah wonderfully lampoons idols when he describes them as worthless as scarecrows in a cucumber field.
Jesus underlines this problem on the sermon on the mount when he tells us that we can either serve God or money. Matthew 6 19-24
The sad reality is that we no longer just own our possessions but they actually own us. For example, two lovers sitting across a candle-lit table and staring into their mobile phones instead of each other’s eyes.
Remember the story of the rich young man who wants to follow Jesus, only to go away sorrowful unable to fulfil Jesus’ request to sell all that he had and give to the poor. Jesus commentary on the story is another wonderful hyperbole. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven. Luke 18:18-30
So how do we avoid the traps of materialism which are very powerful always waiting to ensnare us? For us it seems nigh impossible but as Jesus says with God everything is possible.
It can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to help us to focus on the love of Jesus. All our desires have to be on Him, as the old hymn says,
” Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
As many of us have found a trip to a third world country helps us to realise that money does not buy the wonderful blessings of a loving community and helps us to have compassion for the poor, and the evils of hoarding wealth for ourselves when so much could be done with our money to bring real benefits to the poor. Love of money will be replaced by compassion for the poor, as Scrooge discovered in the well-known Dickens tale.
So as Jesus says, let us store up treasures in heaven.