How to Kill Materialism and Live for Something Grander
What is the first thing you think of when you read the word materialism? I grew up in California, and there the stereotype of a "valley girl" was basically everywhere around me. Even when I was in the 1st and 2nd grade most of my classmates were already being decked out in clothes with moose (meeses plural?), crocodiles, and other zoo related silhouettes on them. When it came to sports we all had Nike from cap to cleet, well until Under Armour came to play. Then we were all dawning the last fit athletic gear.
Fast forward to high school and driver's licenses... Everyone seemed to have a cool car that matched their personality. The "aggies" had awesome lifted trucks, the cheerleaders had a row of mustangs, and SUVs and jeeps crossed over across cliques... Even our trips and vacations took us to wonderful places like Hawaii and Lake Tahoe. I guess I would have said we lived in a materialistic world, and I was definitely a part of it. But really, we were too busy getting new stuff to figure out why we NEEDED new stuff. I cannot speak for any of them, but what I can say is that even though I had expensive cargo shorts, went on great ocean trips, and a Jeep that I thoroughly enjoyed it did not make me feel more accepted, desired, valued, or loved. In fact, it only left me comparing myself to the lives of others even more and with a burning desire to hoard more of the stuff that I needed so desperately.
Then I went to college and I had a professor who challenged whatever I thought about materialism. It was a philosophy class and the topic for discussion was materialism. But what I learned was less about polo shirts and expensive trips to Fiji. I learned from Mr. Fredrickson (not his real name) that materialism is actually a philosophical worldview where one believes that the only thing that matters in life is matter. In other words, life is all about what can be perceived by the five senses. My professor believed this wholeheartedly to be true.
As I half-listened (I wasn't the best student) to his heartfelt plea for us to accept this belief he held I knew that this couldn't be the way the world works. I knew deep within me that there is more to life than the physical stuff around us, there was something deeper, spiritual, and transcendent to all of life... The only problem? I didn't live that way. I realized while I didn't believe in my mind and heart for materialism to be true, I lived each day as if it were. I lived as a PRACTICAL materialist. I lived like the stuff I had and the things I did for myself in this life would fulfill me.
But Jesus did not seem to value sweet vacations, nice stuff, and more "success" the way I did. He said things like, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). Now I don't think that Jesus believed that having money, stuff, or trips is in and of itself evil, but what is apparent through the Scriptures is He did not desire for us to believe that the MATERIAL kingdom (the world around us) was more important than His Kingdom (the world that He is shaping around us and the world to come).
Since I walked out of that lecture hall a few years ago I have not wanted to be a materialist, neither practical or theoretical, mainly because it doesn't give room for all the great things in life that are not made out of matter but transcend it, things like courage, integrity, hope, and love. These things are bold and beautiful and to reduce them to a simple chemical reaction within the brain is such an injustice to their very nature, a nature that exists here but points to a time that has not yet come.
A couple weeks ago I went to The Gospel Coalition Conference and it was incredible because the entire focus was on this kingdom to come... This place were Jesus would reign forever, a world that is currently not here but will one day breakthrough into the material. This is the vision of Jesus Kingdom. It is for this reason that He said He would not fight back against those who would murder Him. It is for this reason that He will one day come back, to initiate a kingdom that will be so awesome that the best things of this world are merely shadows of it.
At first glance it is easy to look at this vision of Heaven painted in the Bible and think it is useless to our daily lives, but there is truly nothing more relevant.
For me, whenever I remember that because I follow Jesus and live for this "Kingdom to come" I do not hold on as tightly to the material things in this world. I don't mind having cool stuff or going on epic adventures, I enjoy them immensely, but more than that I enjoy them properly. I realize that they are only temporary and the future Kingdom is going to be even more epic filled with grander adventures and more wondrous sights.