I think a whole forest must have been cut down to make the amount of catalogs we have received over the years. Our family always jokes about the uselessness of all the advertising that pervades our mail. Then, we turn on the TV to watch nothing but commercials. If we decide just to look at our phones, nearly every social media outlet is full of advertisements or pictures of people with their latest purchases. Advertising is unavoidable.
We have all heard “money can’t buy happiness,” and I am sure no one wants to admit to anyone else or themselves they actually believe that. However, are our actions and thoughts truly in line with what we claim to believe? Are we blind to just how much we value our possessions?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines materialism as “a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things.” When we are preoccupied with the things of this world, we draw focus away from spiritual things — from God.
A Flawed Focus
Levi Lusko spoke at our church one day, and I will never forget one line he said: “You should glance at this life and gaze at God.” The easier choice is to look at the materials, events and people right in front of you, but our focus is flawed from the beginning. We are so busy gazing intently at this life that God may receive a quick glance — a five-minute devotion, a quick prayer, half a thought — then it’s off to the races of the day.
We must gaze “not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:18). We must have a greater desire for the eternal God rather than our ephemeral life. Gazing upon Him and glancing at life.
Being Of This World
There’s a country song by Kristian Bush called “Trailer Hitch,” and he sings “I don’t know why everybody wanna die rich. …You can’t take it with you when you go. Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.” I was surprised to be hearing a song on the radio that had such a meaningful truth in it. Kristian Bush’s lyrics reflect on what 1 Timothy 6:7-8 says: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
The world has a drastically different view of wealth, and it will try to convince you of it. From 1 John 2:16, we learn that “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Advertisements try to sell us products based on emotion: “buy now or you will miss out,” “you will look great,” “you will have more confidence” or “you will make others jealous,” and all of these promises are instilling in us desires for things to complete us and our lives in a way only God can.
One day, my Bible teacher told us about a Tom Brady interview with 60-Minutes where the football star displayed his dissatisfaction despite his fame and fortune. The interviewer describes him as a man with an overwhelming amount of “fame, money and career accomplishments,” but Brady asks a surprising question: “why do I have three super bowl rings, and still think there is something greater out there for me? I think it has got to be more than this.”
Tom Brady has gone on to win two more super bowls, is married to a Brazilian supermodel and has a net worth, combined with his wife, of 560 million dollars. Despite all of it, he is wondering if there is more.
No matter how much money, fame or success we have, we can’t buy ourselves a perfect life, perfect body or ultimate fulfillment. We all have a God-sized hole in our hearts that no product can fill.
If we build our life upon the materialistic, “American dream” lifestyle the world tries to sell us, we will end up as lost and dissatisfied as we began. We are even told, in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income.” We will never be satisfied by our paycheck or success; God is our ultimate and only fulfillment.
Treasures In Heaven
Therefore, we must glance at this life and gaze at God. Materialism is just an attempt to fill a God-sized hole with the false promises of advertising and the world. Let us stop laying our “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19, 21).