By Heidi Vegh, Crosswalk.com
What is materialism? The dictionary states “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.” Isn’t it interesting that the dictionary even picks up on the truth that loving things over God can be harmful?
We all know the famous Madonna song “Material Girl.” It was even spun into the new Prime Cinderella movie as the evil stepmother was teaching her girls to marry someone with riches so they never have to work a day in their life. As I watch this movie with my daughter, although most of the movie is harmless and the music is dance-worthy, this part always gets to me. What are we teaching our daughters? That our goal in life should be to marry a man of means to lessen the load of our own lives?
Our world is shouting messages that more is better and that we will be happier when we acquire all the things. Our social media feeds are infused with advertisements for everything we must have to be happy. We spoil our children on birthdays and holidays as a way of showing them love. There is a fine line between enjoying the blessings of the Lord and allowing them to become idols in our lives.
“Desire one thing: God’s presence. And you will be less driven by all those phony desires that matter not at all.” Walter Brueggemann
Here are four questions to ask yourself: “Am I a Material Girl?”
1. Do I use shopping to fill a void?
When you are struggling in life, what do you turn to fill the void or give yourself relief? Do you reach for God’s Word and a quiet moment with Him, or do you head to the mall or surf the internet for the latest and greatest fashion trend, pushing buy in hopes that it will bring you reprieve? Although it is scientific that endorphins are released when we do something for ourselves, it is fleeting. The moment of euphoria gradually disappears, leaving us more in need and perhaps emptier than before.
The only thing that can truly give us peace, strength, and the peace that we need is the Lord, and He commands that we love Him more than anything. Not because He is a selfish and vain God but because He knows the emptiness that awaits us when we rely on earthly things to give us lasting pleasure.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
He knows that the things of this world will constantly pull us and that loving Him first will be the greatest way to live. Jesus is the only one worthy of our affections and attention; when we put things before Him, we will fall into the trap of idolatry.
2. Do I have trouble letting go of things that I no longer need?
There is something to be said for simplifying our life. Removing things that no longer bring us joy and clearing out unneeded items. I tend to get overwhelmed with clutter. It feels chaotic and overwhelming. When I take the time to clear a countertop or clean out a drawer, it gives me a feeling of control in the chaos.
The Lord doesn’t want the blessing of life to become burdensome. To quote Kelly Minter in her study Encountering God, she states, “The spiritual discipline of simplicity helps free us to live our days fully devoted to the Lord, so nothing hinders us from investing our time and money into what’s eternal. The simpler we live the freer we live. The more we deliberately pare back, the less encumbered we are to live for the Lord and others in the present moment- the only one we are guaranteed.”
Life is too short to live bombarded with stuff. Consider decluttering and asking yourself honest questions about whether you need certain items. Be harsh and honest. It will free your heart and your counter space.
3. Am I loving things more than I love God?
Loving God is the first commandment.
“You shall have no other God’s before me” Exodus 3:20
Our love can be aimed at many worldly things. Money, fame, fortune, family, career, etc. All of these are fine within themselves; however, when we get our priorities out of whack and begin deifying them in our lives, we start to experience trouble. We feel confused, lost, dissatisfied, and anxious. We strive for more, only to be left empty-handed. So, ask yourself the hard questions. What are you putting before the Lord? Is it things and money? Do you feel anxious to purchase the latest and greatest in hopes that it will fulfill a deep longing in your heart? Remember that only God can satisfy in a world full of emptiness.
4. Am I spending time or energy on earthly or Godly things?
When Moses lived in Egypt, he had great wealth and everything he would ever need. When he chose to follow God and lead his people out of Egypt, he gave up the lap of luxury for a barren wilderness with great need.
In Psalm 90:12, Moses cries out to the Lord, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” This encourages us to take inventory of our time and resources. Are we squandering our blessings or using them to bless others?
How are we spending our time and money? Are we the priority? Are we tithing by giving back the first fruits of our labor? Are we consumed with our precious “me time” enough to forget about those in need around us? Doing things for ourselves is important; however, it needs to be placed in appropriate alignment with our devotion to the Lord.
When we live a life devoted to Jesus, He can teach us how to properly appreciate and utilize the blessings that He gives us.
When we place wealth above Jesus, it hinders us from living the full life available to us through Jesus.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21
We are all human, and we all fall short. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
We all have a human tendency to desire and want things in this world. God knew that we would be tempted to place material things before Him, but He reminds us that a life lived for Him is the only thing that will ever truly satisfy. “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:19
Things of this earth will never love us back, but a life lived for Jesus will give us love for eternity.
Heidi Vegh is a writer, speaker, and ministry leader living in Gig Harbor, WA. She is a remarried mother of four, navigating the blended family life after the loss of her first husband to cancer in 2013. She longs to use her writing as a way to encourage others who have experienced loss and guide them on the road to healing. She contributes to her blog found at thebreathingmama.com, sharing stories and devotionals of faith stemming from her loss and healing, mothering, and her blended and complex family. She graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a degree in Creative Writing and English and is working on her first book. Heidi is the Women’s Ministry Director at Gig Harbor Foursquare and has a deep heart for sharing Jesus with women and encouraging them in their faith walk. When she is not writing she loves to travel, read, craft, and experiment in the kitchen. Visit her Facebook and Instagram (@breathingmamalife) to learn more.