In the society in which we live today, we hear a great deal of talk about Materialism. Some people praise it, some people, especially preachers, condemn it, and around the holiday season of the year we hear many complain that the real meaning of the holiday season has been lost due to the commercialism and materialism. But, we need to ask ourselves the question, "Just what is materialism?" Obviously, there are some things of a material nature that we must have in order to live. We actually need food, clothing, shelter, and all these things belong to that class of things known as material. As a matter of fact, God has taught us in his Word that we are to pray for these things, and that he will provide them for us through his divine providence. So, if we are going to refer to materialism as being something bad, then we must define the word before we can condemn the concept, or accept it, for that matter.
Materialism is defined as follows: "A theory that physical matter is the only fundamental reality and that all being, processes, and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter." The philosophical materialism simply leaves God completely out of the picture, and so one would have no real reason for celebrating anything connected with God, nor would one have a reason to worship if all that is in the universe is material.
Still another definition of "Materialism" is what one might call economic materialism, or communism. It states that "economic or social change is caused by that which is material." In other words, there would be no changes in the economy or the social strata of any nation of people were it not for the changes in wealth and power.
But the definition with which we are concerned is very simply this, "A preoccupation with or stress upon material things rather than upon intellectual or spiritual values." As one can see as he looks at these various definitions, there is a common thread that runs through all of them, and that is that God and things spiritual are neglected for those things that are material and in the here and now. We are not so much concerned with the intellectual values that once meant so much to us, and beyond that we are not any longer deeply concerned with the spiritual values that once meant so very much to us. We see the use of the intelligence as only a tool whereby we are able to gain more of the material, and of course, any observer of the times must admit that even the great goal in religion is the making of money, or the gaining of that which is material such as houses, cars and many other luxuries which the material world takes for granted.
Materialism of the nature of which we have just spoken stands in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches about the children of God learning to be content with what we have. Materialism teaches us that there can be no contentment, but that we must strive to get more and more of the things of this life. But the faith of Jesus Christ teaches us to put the emphasis upon the spiritual, and not upon the material. There is a parable called "the parable of the rich farmer," which shows the folly of placing too much emphasis upon the material, because when one is at the very height of planning his new barns, etc. the voice of God may call saying, "You fool, this night your soul has been required of you."
Jesus, in Matthew 6:33, taught us not to place emphasis upon the material things of this life, but to "seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you." It will show greater wisdom in the long run for Christians to use good judgment, and learn to be content with the things that we have rather than constantly enmeshing ourselves in the rat race of life that ultimately causes us to deny God rather than glorifying him. Let us get very serious about the advice of the Apostle Paul who told us, "Contentment with godliness is great gain, having food and raiment let us therewith be content." What do we care most about, the color of our houses, or the salvation of our own souls, and that of our children?