Let’s talk about materialism. Do the things we own, actually own us? Most of America is trapped in this this fruitless attempt to attain the unattainable: happiness via material goods. The size of homes has nearly doubled since the 1950’s, yet we, as a whole, are still dissatisfied. Following fleeting trends and remaining constantly on the hunt for the next “best thing”, suggests that owning more does not equal happiness. If it did, we wouldn’t continue searching for the latest and greatest. Christians, consider the consequences of discontentment and material acquisition from a biblical standpoint. Our joy comes from the Lord, and is not dependent on what or how much we own. As a matter of fact, we are merely managers of our wealth during the time we spend on earth. I find this reference from Ecclesiastes interesting:
“12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. 13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, 14 or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. 15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.” Ecclesiastes 5:12-15
Seemingly innocent, the gross accumulation of earthly treasures comes with a slew of disadvantages. In verse 12 above, Solomon writes that the excessiveness of the wealthy causes anxiety, triggering restlessness. I have experienced that feeling many times for various reasons, and can relate in this case. I sleep so much better in a clean room. I think it’s safe to say, we all do. Before our major master bedroom purge (read more here), I hated being in our “catch all” room. I would crawl into bed late at night, and get out as soon as I could in the mornings. There was no rest or relaxation going on in there when it was light enough to see the piles of clutter surrounding me.
Looking at another perspective, what if the anxiety was caused over fear of losing what had already been acquired? Do you love your stuff so much that the thought of losing it through natural disaster, theft, loss of income, or some other means causes anxiety (v. 14)? As a child, I was into collecting things. Rocks, books, stickers, beanie babies (remember those?!?), you name it. My life revolved around my stuff, and I would be devastated to lose it. This trend continued into my teenage years, only now I had replaced toys with makeup, craft supplies, candles, and things of the like. One day, I went to use a shimmer lotion that I was saving for a “special occasion”, and it had expired. I spent years hoarding something that I was only able to use once or twice. What a waste! It was then that I started to realize there was no point in saving things for “one day” when they could be enjoyed right then. Furthermore, it wasn’t until my late twenties when I took that epiphany to heart and embraced minimalism. Material goods are fleeting and nothing lasts forever. There is no point in worrying or having anxiety over the “what if’s”. Spoiler alert, we can’t take anything with us when we pass from this life (v. 15). How little or much we own doesn’t define us, who we are does. What we choose to do with our time and resources is the difference between leaving a real legacy, or a house full of stuff.
Reading further ahead in Ecclesiastes reveals a stark contrast to verses 12-15:
“18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20
Having wealth or nice things is not the problem. In fact, God wants all those who follow Him to enjoy the comforts of life this side of Heaven. We can enjoy things, and we should! The problem arises when the fear of not having enough, or losing your collection of treasures is at the forefront of your mind. Happiness is not something that can be bought. Our focus should solely be on gratitude, rejoicing that we have been redeemed and given abundant grace, through the sacrifice of Jesus. Rather than putting your hope and trust in things, look to God. He is, after all, our Creator and reason for living. Worthy to be worshipped and praised. We need to guard ourselves against allowing material possessions to become idols in our lives. Doing so will cause unnecessary burden, and in the end, they are meaningless. Resolve to live out the rest of your days less focused on accumulating, and more focused on carrying out your true calling.