Materialism and the Kingdom of God

Madonna famously noted that we live in a material world and that she was a material girl.  Jesus acknowledged the validity of this statement, but asserted that the material was not all there was to life.

Materialism is the driving philosophy of our age.  I’m not talking about the focus on possessions that is the hallmark of being an American, I’m talking about the underlying belief that the material is all their is.  The notion that there is no reality outside what we can experience with our 5 senses or measure with a scientific instrument.  This philosophy leads people to consider the possibility that the universe we live in constructed itself by chance and that we are merely the sum of the constituent chemicals that compose our bodies.

A disclaimer before we start this discussion in earnest:  the material is real, important, created by a loving God, and good.  Scripture speaks clearly to this issue.  In Genesis we are given a picture of God creating the material.  In every instance He is shown as 1) not part of creation, but external to it, 2) superior to creation, and 3) pleased with the results.  God loves the material world and is pleased it exists.  The material is not inherently evil or in opposition to God.

With that in mind we read Matthew 6:25-34.  Note that Jesus starts with a therefore, which means we must determine what it’s there for.  It points us back to His statements about treasure and specifically back to the statement that we are unable to serve two masters, that we cannot serve both God and the conclusions of materialism.  Either we will conclude there is more to life than what we can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell and serve God or we will serve the things we encounter with our senses.

Jesus does not say we are to hate our lives, or to consider them of no importance, but rather that we are not to worry about them.  Is this a distinction without a difference or can you see that you can consider something to be important without worrying about it?  How about this possibility, that our lives are so important that we should not trust them to our own care, but to the care of the Creator of Life.  If we believe that we are a random aggregation of molecules is this an option?

God loves His creation and cares for it actively.  The picture Jesus paints for us of God providing for birds and clothing plants is not one of an absentee owner or a God that is not intimately involved in the details of his creation. If that’s true, if we were made by a loving God who cares for His creation and is actively involved in its affairs how should we live our lives?

First we should compare our abilities to provide for ourselves with God’s.  Jesus asks us if by worrying, and by implication if by doing anything at all, we can increase our life span or our height.  If we are unable to do that how is it that we are able to consider ourselves self made men and women, independent and providing for ourselves?  Every breath we take is at the will of God, we are not keeping ourselves alive at a microscopic level, why do we obsess about keeping ourselves alive at the macroscopic?

Second, we should live in relationship to God acknowledging who is who.  That He is God and we are not.  That while He loves His creation, He considers us, the us that has the possibility of having a relationship with God (that includes the material us) to be of utmost importance.

Third, we should realize that as we seek that relationship with God (seek His Kingdom) He will provide us with what we need to further that relationship.  He knows what you require for life (and relationship with Him) and will provide them.