For hundreds of years, America has been dominated by strong ideals. Among them have been a strong work ethic, a desire to achieve, and the right to enjoy the fruit our labor. That fruit is a gift from God. “…you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you are to remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, in order to confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NASB)
It is genuinely delightful to enjoy the honestly-earned results of personal labor. However, a preoccupation with the accumulation of material things, while sacrificing other important life considerations, is called materialism.
God draws a particularly serious line at excessive materialism. “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” [1 Timothy 6:10 KJV] The ideals that have encouraged boundless materialism must be integrated with numerous other ideals and restrained by God’s infinitely wise Biblical limits.
Sadly, throughout most of the last century the American people have become largely anesthetized by an excessive devotion to materialism. Many seek materialistic goals as life’s highest priority to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
Do YOU place a higher priority on career than family? If so, you are devoted excessive materialism. If you instinctively deny the highest priority of career, ask yourself whether you commit more time each week to career or family. We spend our time on or with what we love. If YOU are spending more time on career that is your first love and you are tacitly devoted to excessive materialism, while not actually admitting it.
God’s view of excessive materialism is very harsh; such a view violates all ten of His great commandments.
- I am the LORD Your God…YOU shall have no other gods before Me.
Excessive materialism becomes an insatiable god that can never be satisfied no matter how much effort is exerted or how much time is committed. The god of materialism rapidly becomes addictive, seriously harming every other area of life. Short-term exhilaration becomes long-term sorrow. Ask any celebrity who has been in “rehab.”
2. YOU shall not make for Yourself a carved image…YOU shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The statue of a bull outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) resembles the molded calf worshipped by the ancient Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai, following their famous exodus from Egypt. Note that the image on the right is a modern replica of the Biblical statue. The exact appearance of the statue is unknown. Exodus 32:8 says, “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molded calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, which has brought you up from the land of Egypt.'”
The NYSE bull statue is a clear image of the idol of materialism. People tacitly bow to the idol whenever they make a commitment to or actually pursue excessive materialism. Up-to-the-moment stock market reports are frequently broadcast throughout the media to remind people of their commitment to the idol—whether or not an individual has any personal investment in the market.
Most companies provide their employees with a 401k Plan and/or shares of stock in their own company. Both are linked to stock market performance and reports, further ensnaring others who may not otherwise have a personal interest in the stock market.
The bull idol is continuously fed (worshipped) by immersion in the American culture. The reminders, encouragements, and lures are everywhere. Consider the pervasive and compelling advertising, tangible and intangible rewards from a supervisor at work, and raves from friends and family when shown a new car or a new house or even a new outfit of clothes. Only a strong faith in God and a conscious, deliberate effort can enable an escape from the materialistic snare.
3. YOU shall not take the name of the LORD Your God in vain (Profanity).
The pressures of materialism are very great. Excessive materialism elicits excess anxieties. When frustrations exceed a personal limit, few can resist the temptation to at least occasionally spew an expletive linked to God’s name. The expletive of often attached to humor to cover the underlying guilt. “I got away with a little sin.” Little? Really?
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days YOU shall labor and do all Your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD Your God. In it YOU shall do no work.
Jews observe a seventh day Sabbath; Christians observe a first day Sabbath. The differences are for another discussion. Regardless of the day chosen, the Sabbath is a day, commanded by God, characterized by rest and godly pursuits including worship. It recognizes and gives thanks for all that God has done for us and provides a regenerating physical rest for the body.
Throughout most of 400 years of American history—from the earliest settlements until recent decades all but the most essential work ceased on Sundays. The cessation created a nearly universal opportunity to enjoy the Sabbath and provided a visible reminder of the purpose of the Sabbath. The pressures of excessive materialism resulted in the repeal of most Sunday “Blue Laws” contributing to profaning the Sabbath, a generalized weakening of faith, and an accelerating drift of the American culture away from God. Today, most businesses operate on Sunday just as in every other day of the week.
5. Honor Your father and Your mother, that Your days may be long upon the land which the LORD Your God is giving YOU.
God designed the family as the essential unit of society. A strong family and a culture of strong families is the ONLY way to assure that godly virtues, values, and principles can be transmitted from generation to generation and on to posterity. The stability of America depends on strong families.
The God-designed family must be physically/geographically close enough to share love, responsibilities, and mutual accountability—all of which are vital to character growth and maturity. However, the relentless pressures of excessive materialism have driven many people to seek employment far away from their families, weakening or breaking important family relationships, reducing love to cheap attractions, and side-stepping an important source of personal accountability. Even retired seniors are encouraged to relocate to a warmer or drier climate, depriving their families of lifetimes of accumulated wisdom.
“Honor your father and your mother” extends to honoring all family members, loving them, and meeting their needs first, then meeting the needs of others after caring for the family. God promises a long life to those who do so. However, the family scattered by excessive materialism risks “extra” anxieties, which contribute to at least 25 health-related maladies that may effectively reduce the long life span, otherwise promised by God.
6. YOU shall not murder.
Excessive materialism has caused or contributed to the murder (abortion) of millions of unborn babies who were perceived to interfere with an apparently promising career. Excessive materialism has also been the motive for adult murder for the same reason.
7. YOU shall not commit adultery.
When excessive materialism becomes a god, it is spiritual adultery.
Excessive materialism also causes excessively long work weeks (50-70 hours per week), resulting in employees spending far more time with employees of the opposite sex than with their spouses, especially after hours and in traveling situations. The frequency of physical adultery skyrockets with the time available and frequency of opportunities for privacy (perceived secrecy).
8. YOU shall not steal.
Excessive materialism creates an incentive to cut corners morally, ethically, and legally. Any material gain beyond the agreed upon expense to others, resulting from cutting corners, steals from them.
For example, any business contract should be a win-win, meaning that there should be equal benefits to both parties. If one party is able to take unreasonable advantage of another party because of superior or inside information, creating a win-lose contract, the “winning” party is robbing from the other party.
9. YOU shall not bear false witness against Your neighbor.
Bearing false witness includes communicating or spreading false information (lying) about another person formally in a courtroom or less formally in business or other life settings.
Excessive materialism creates a motive to slander others for personal gain such as a raise in pay, a promotion, a desirable assignment, or a one-sided contract. The lie or pattern of lies seriously damages the life, reputation, and earning power of others. In contrast, we are obligated to stand up for the truth about others even if there is a personal cost to us.
God vehemently condemns false witness. “These…things the LORD hates, Yes…are an abomination to Him… a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
10. YOU shall not covet Your neighbor’s goods
Coveting the goods of others is the root of excessive materialism. A trite old phrase, “keeping up with the Jones” (friends, neighbors, co-workers) captures the incentive for an unreasonable accumulation of material goods, beyond common sense affordability. The goods also fuel pride which is harshly condemned by God. “The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.” [Psalm 10:2]