Do you make fun of reality TV but secretly enjoy it? I do. One show that I can't help but watch is Hoarders: Buried Alive. Each episode enters the life of a compulsive hoarder who has accumulated so much stuff in their home that they require an intervention from a close friend or family member. The cameras are rolling and things get ugly.
The hoarder usually fills their house to the brim over the course of decades with things ranging in use from thousands of valuable dolls to hundreds of empty milk gallons. Family members bicker about what is important to keep and what is garbage. In one particular episode, the hoarder could not part with old books that were soiled in rat feces.
Doesn't this person realize what they're doing?!
I would argue they don't. Idolatry leads to blindness, and those people cannot see what they are doing (see Psalm 135:15-18). These people love their stuff over loving the God who created them and their stuff. Their love for stuff ties their heart to things that can be destroyed by rust, moths—or in this case, rats.
There are many reasons why people worship possessions. Maybe they've been hurt by a loved one in the past and like the dependability of things that will never leave them or hurt them. Maybe their emotional security relies on amassing copious amounts of stuff to keep them from fear. Others seek the approval of those around them. And there are those who simply enjoy the sheer amount of material possessions available to us today—more than ever before in human history.
Just ponder how the pseudo-National Holiday celebrating materialism, Black Friday, comes one day after Thanksgiving, the day of giving thanks and being content for what you have. Something is truly wrong! Many in our culture suffer with a continual lust for more, trying to satiate an unquenchable thirst stuff was never meant to quench.
When I watch Hoarders, I can't help but think about how I have a little hoarder inside of me. My love for possessions often crosses the healthy line and blinds me as well. Although I don't have a house full of books soiled with rat feces, my heart often trades the riches of Christ for cheap thrills of the material world. Instead of treasuring Christ, my heart is more excited by a new book, a cool pair of shoes, or having an awesome house.
Enjoying possessions is not all bad, but quickly turns bad if we forget how Christ is infinitely better and more satisfying than pursuing and loving mere possessions.
When we put our affections on possessions instead of Jesus, we fix our eyes on earthly things which paralyzes us spiritually as people who are called to "seek the things that are above" (Colossians 3:1) and delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalms 37:4). I want Philippians 3:8 to by my measuring stick for how I think about my possessions: "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). The passage's context speaks on Paul's religious heritage; the heart behind it is the same—our deepest longings in life should be for Christ and not for something else, in this case, more possessions.
When we put our trust in possessions, we look to something other than Jesus to satisfy our needs and take care of us. “Trust in Him at all times, O people; our out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). Trust in Jesus and put His kingdom and righteousness first in your life, and you will have all you need (Matthew 6:33).
When we try to find security in our possessions, we will ultimately be disappointed at the number of things that can destroy the security that materialism promises: a fire or natural disaster can destroy, disease and death can keep you from enjoying your possessions, theft can remove your possessions from you, rust and even something as tiny as a moth can destroy our possessions forever (Matthew 6:19-21).
In Jesus, we are promised that no one can pluck us from His hand (John 10:28) and that, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Our promised inheritance cannot compare to earthly treasures and is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4). Unlike our possessions, Jesus promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
If you struggle with loving stuff more than Jesus, hear the warning of Jesus: "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36), and again, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus is better than materialism because Jesus is the only one who can satisfy and who is worth living for. When we truly trust in Jesus and live for Him by the Spirit, the command for us “you shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17) turns into a promise: you shall not covet, because you are truly satisfied in Christ, our great Shepherd who provides for us, sustains us, and meets all of our needs according to His riches and grace (Philippians 4:19, Psalm 23).
Our possessions will ultimately serve us as we serve Christ, or we will serve them instead of Christ. Which describes you?
The next time your heart is tempted to worship at the altar of materialism, remember that Jesus is better.
Kevin Halloran (@kp_halloran) is a lover of Christ, drinker of coffee, and reader of books who has no real reason to continue being a Chicago Cubs fan (but is anyway). He serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Follow Kevin on Twitter or visit his blog.