Materialism; November 24, 2017

Psalm 119:36-37 Turn my heart towards your statutes
and not towards selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

It’s interesting to read the Bible and realize I’m getting more out of it than the particular writer intended as he wrote. Verse 36 is indeed talking about materialism. Where the NIV says “selfish,” the Japanese says “unrighteous/incorrect,” but the thought is clearly that of placing material gain ahead of God. However, it’s in verse 37 that I think I’m getting more than the writer intended. Throughout the Old Testament, “worthless things” is used as a euphemism for idols, and that seems almost certain to be how this verse was intended, but recently we’ve been dealing with disposing of a lot of stuff, material goods that perhaps originally cost even a lot of money but are now increasingly just in the way. We had a one-day flea market yesterday in the effort to deal with it, and disappointingly little of it went out the door. This is serving as quite a lesson that any material thing is ultimately worthless, especially compared to eternity with Christ. I certainly understand Jesus’ instructions: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Material things can be nice, but they are certainly temporal and thus temporary, ultimately putting them in the category of “worthless.” On an even broader note, the writer’s use of “turn my eyes away” bring to mind the reality that men in particular are visually oriented. That’s why men have a much harder time with pornography than women do (and also why women spend so much time trying to gook good/alluring to men). Islam tries to deal with this by covering women up, but that doesn’t deal with the fundamental issues of priorities, lust, and self-control. In any case, where we turn our eyes is a big deal, and worthy of concerted prayer. As the writer to the Hebrews said, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) That’s the answer to materialism, lust, and everything else!

This applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I’m learning the futility of materialism, but my eyes still go to the Internet, and computers in general, more than they need to. I indeed need to fix my eyes more and more on Jesus so that I will avoid idolatry in any form. (Colossians 3:5) As a pastor I encourage others to do that, but I must remember that I need to do it as much as anyone else. As Paul said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) Materialism actually extends to the whole physical universe, and compared to eternity with the Creator of it all, it is worthless.

Father, thank You for all You are teaching us. Help us really learn it! Thank You for the idea You gave us last night about a possible avenue of disposal for much of this stuff. Guide me as I check on that today. Help us all seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness and trust You with everything else, (Matthew 6:33) both to give us what we need and help us get rid of what we shouldn’t have, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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