Notes on Materialism

Craig Martin

What does Matthew 6:19-21 mean? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

I picture two piles of treasure, one of this worlds goods and one of heavenly goods. The pile we accumulate in heaven is as big as what we invest there. It is not proportionate to the amount we give but to the amount we have left over for ourselves. If we give everything we have then all the riches of heaven will be ours. Whatever we accumulate for ourselves on earth will be held against us on the day of judgment. Our treasure will be wherever we have our pile. And our pile is our investment, be it a big bank account, money we have spent on other people, money we have spent serving ourselves, time we have invested in other people, or time we have spent serving our own selfish interest. Our small family businesses and money that we use to support our families is a part of that heavenly investment.

What is Mark 12:41-44 saying? Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

This widow is setting an example of complete unselfishness. We do not know how the rest of her situation if she had any family to take of or if she had any family that would take care of her. But we do know that she gave till it hurt her very needs. God will do more with the gift of a poor person who has given his all than with the gift of a wealthy person who has given only part of his wealth. I believe there was more money in the treasury from the widow lady than from all the wealthy men put together. Remember, God is still a miracle working God and He can use a gift like that to change the world. It is said that the people who keep Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) going are the ones who continually give a small amount on a regular basis. It is not the rich who make large occasional gifts.

What is Luke 12:15-34 saying? Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses… (parable of the rich fool who tore down his barns an built bigger)… God said unto him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing… For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you… Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I see two kingdoms here. The people of one kingdom have their focus on this worlds goods even things that they really need like food and clothes. But it is the wrong focus. When the focus is wrong it skews everything; a person’s needs, a person’s goals, and ultimately a person’s destiny.

The people of the other kingdom are focused on the kingdom of God. When a person becomes serious about seeking after the kingdom of God, all his earthly needs and goals are shifted to a larger world view. God himself has promised to see to it that our needs are met even when we act like that widow lady. So our only real goal should be to promote His kingdom.

The only way to have treasure in heaven is to give our earthly goods, and our time, and our talents to the cause of the kingdom of God and we will be given an inheritance that will not be corrupted. God does not set a figure on how much we need to give, but rather on how much is left over. When our soul is required of us, the things that are left over will no longer be ours to give. In fact if a person has treasure left over, God says that is where your heart will be. We must give all we have while we are still able or else our earthly treasure will be counted against us.