Jul 4, 2017

Materialism – Stealing Our Hearts



Whack! The ax slams against the log with such force that it sends vibrations up into the man’s arm. He raises it for a second blow. Whack! The log collapses into two smaller pieces, sending splinters everywhere.  The ax is lowered onto the ground. Grunting, the man raises the wood onto his shoulders and brings it to his shop.

He shivers as he slips his coat off. Turning to the cold embers of the fireplace, he blows gently on coals. Ash puffs up into the air. The fire is dead. As wind blows through the air, the roof creaks. The man takes one block of wood, piling smaller bits of leaves and wood chips around it, and soon a fire is bursting into life. Warmth spills over and tumbles out of the fireplace and around the room like a child at play. Shivers vanish as the craftsman turns to a workbench.

The second piece of wood is carefully laid out. He stretches out his rule. Every action is precise and deliberate. Marks are made on the wood before it is cut. Slowly and carefully, cut by cut, the wood transforms into an image. Pieces fall away, revealing the gallant figure of a man.

It’s done! The figure is taken and stood on a place of honor. While the fire burns one piece of wood, warms the man’s house, and cooks his food, the second piece of wood is honored. And with his eyes lowered, the man bows before the figure and worships it.

The same log. The same wood. But one is an object of use, something necessary for life. The other is idolatry, stealing the place of God.




In Isaiah 44:9-20, God presents a story.   Although I’ve presented a different picture of the story (I encourage you to read the original for context), the same concept is true.

A man takes a tree.  With part of it he creates something useful for life.   It bakes his bread and prepares a roast.  But with the other the man makes an idol for himself.  He worships it, although it also is merely ash if put into the fire.

I’m not going to talk about idols necessarily, although that is a very important issue to discuss.   What I want to present is this: God created wood for a purpose.  But we can take that good thing and turn it against Him.   It can take the glory due His wonderful Name.

Let’s turn that around slightly.  God has given us other blessings. Look around you – what do you see?  From where I sit writing, I see my bed, my sisters' violet and mint-colored room, a bean-bag, a Bible, a laptop, and many other gifts.  They are all useful.  But do they take possession of a part of our heart that is supposed to belong to others?

Several months ago, I read an impacting book that opened my eyes in this area.  Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn addresses many topics such as prosperity, money, debt, and more.  But one stood out to me – materialism.

Before you turn around and dismiss this word, let me give you an idea of what materialism really is.  In a simple definition, materialism is taking something material (even something useful) and giving it too much emphasis and importance.   Randy Alcorn writes, 

“Materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart.  God created us to love people and use things, but materialists love things and use people.” – Money, Possessions and Eternity

Materialism related to God (something taking God’s place) is called idolatry.  But during the month of July I want to focus on relationships in the family.  What does materialism look like in a household context?

I’ll give you an example. *ouch…examples*

I was researching for my novel when my 3-year-old sister walked into the room.  She exclaimed with a huge smile, “I thought you would be here by yourself!” With that, she proceeded to chatter away doing what 3-year-olds do.  (aka, playing with dolls)  I was left with a decision: either love my little sister by paying attention to her and smiling in return or turning back to my computer and continuing what I was doing.

Dun, dun, dun…

I kinda did both.  I listened to her and responded for a while…but then turned back to my computer to work on my research.

Do I love my little sister more than my book? Absolutely!  But, at that moment, was I loving her more than my book?  Did her little mind see me as a "loving" or a "busy" sister?

Living with siblings (especially those of us with large families), we have so many temptations to embrace materialism.

  • Not allowing a sibling to borrow something (just in case…)
  • Being upset when a sibling messes up your bed, a craft, etc.
  • Getting frustrated when a sibling makes a mess or ruins something you own
  • Being selfish and not letting them touch “your” things

So what’s most important? Your sibling…or your stuff?

I want to share another example, this time of someone who responded the right way.

One of my siblings has a green thumb and loves plants.  He had collected some rare ones, and, one in particular, was on his mind. Why?  After at least a year of waiting, it was about to bloom!  He was so excited.  At any moment, the long period of waiting would be over.

Alas, the next day an equally excited baby sister walked in.  She had just learned how to use scissors.  A beautiful flower lay on the porch, cut away from its stem.  My brother’s expectations were crushed along with the wilting blossom.

Now he had a decision.  He could lash out in anger (wasn’t it his right?) or he could forgive the unsuspecting troublemaker.  And, because God had been working in his heart and giving him a spirit of humility, he chose the right answer.

It’s your turn.

This month we are going to zoom in and focus on relationships within the home.  What do yours look like?  Do you love people and use things?  Or do you love things and use people?

Let’s make sure that the things we own are put into their proper place.  Unlike the man in the book of Isaiah, we need to keep our eyes focused on what really matters – loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength and loving our neighbors (siblings?) as ourselves.


Materialism is an issue of the heart.  Where is your heart?



19 comments:

  1. Woah, right to the heart. Convicting.
    I live in a house with five other people, my parents and three sisters. It can make life... hard to have time to myself. But sometimes it's really easy to just read my book or write instead of spending time with my sister when she wants to go take a walk or something.
    It's also important when certain situations arise (like your example with the flower being cut) whether you lash out or remain calm and forgive. Something to think about.
    Thanks for sharing! Great post

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    1. Sarah, I have three sisters as well, so I know where you're coming from. =) It's easy to run away from the world and do our own things (reading, being online, writing, etc) instead of focusing on what's the most important. But, after we die, what really matters for eternity? People! Then why do we spend so many hours of our day focusing on other things?

      We need to make practical steps towards loving siblings more. Any ideas? =) We're going to talk more about this in an upcoming post, but I would like to hear your thoughts, Sarah. =)

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    2. I think one thing we could do is to try to be more patient and loving.... which is really hard to do (I have to admit that today I haven't been too patient). Listening to them, doing things with them. Which is hard to do sometimes :)
      And yes, in the long run *cough* eternity *cough* then people is what matters. That's what affects the world. Not things. The world is made up of individuals.
      Thanks for the reminder :)

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    3. Sarah, those are good reminders: having patience, love, listening to, and spending time with siblings. It's impossible to really be a good friend and sister without those qualities. (which reminds me - those are also important qualities to have with God. Have patience in His timing, love Him, listen to Him, and spend time with Him.)

      I read a quote that said (roughly) that in 100 years it will not matter what car you had, how much money was in your bank account, what you looked like, or what you accomplished. What matters is that you made a difference in the life of a child (or anyone, for that matter). When Jesus was on earth He was the perfect picture of love towards others. Let's be that Love. ♥

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  2. Wow, awesome post. At first, when you shared the story of the man with the idol, I immediately thought, "That's weird and dramatic!" But those 4 examples and tying it all in with materials verses people was very convicting! It's easy to ignore other people because you're busy or something, but we don't see that as materialism, but when it comes to a man taking what God made and worshiping it instead we think that is so dramatic wrong.
    Thanks for the examples. :D
    This is a very convicting and challenging post!!

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    1. Lol, I'm sorry for writing a weird and dramatic story. xD But I agree with what you said...

      For me, it's easy to rush through your day living for yourself. But then night comes. Because I write in my journal each night, it makes me evaluate my life...did my day really matter or did I live it for myself? Minutes don't seem so important, but they add up into days and days add up into a lifetime. Someone said, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." If we want to truly change and replace materialism with Love, we need to be radical. Every moment. Every decision.

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  3. Sometimes my younger sisters will ask me to play with them. My response 95% of the time? "Not right now." Then they sigh and walk away kind of sadly. I realize now that this needs to change.

    I played tag in the backyard with them not too long ago, and I regret to say it, but it was the first time in a while that I'd done it. A long while. It felt good, and they were so excited the whole time that I was actually playing with them.

    My sisters love me, and yet so often I push them aside to do what I want to do.

    It's so easy to think along these lines: "But my story isn't going to write itself. It's more important because I need to make it good if it's going to get published one day." And it could be a great story, but what is more important than reaching out in love to family, friends, strangers... just other people??

    I hope you don't mind the longish comment :) I loved this post, Hosanna, and am looking forward to more Project Love challenges!

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    1. Yes!! Your examples are exactly what I'm referring to. How sad that we don't have time for our siblings... but we do have time for friends and hobbies and ourselves. If siblings weren't important, why did God stick them in our house to live with us?!

      And I've realized what you said in my own life... when we actually DO spend time with siblings, it can be so refreshing. It brings them joy, and it makes me smile. (and lots of giggling goes around as well!) But we forget that, because life sweeps us off our feet and drags us around in busyness... in things that don't really matter.

      Your stories are important, Lila. God gave you a passion for writing. There's a reason for that. But we can't let our gifts get in the way of what really matters. Even though God clearly wants me to write, He also wants me to be a loving sister, daughter, and friend. Those come first.

      Not at all! In fact, long comments are my favorite. =) Lila, I appreciate that you took the time to share. Project Love hasn't been easy, but we need to press on! Keep living in Love! God Himself is love...and aren't we trying to grow in His image? =)

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  4. This really hits home! I don't live with my family right now, but I still face choices about when I will go out of my way to spend time with them, or how I will respond to their invitations.

    I really like your examples, not to mention your scene based on the verses in Isaiah. Thanks for using your words to honour God, or rather for letting Him use you. :) Reading your posts is a constant encouragement.

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    1. Although you don't see your siblings often, Jordy, it doesn't downsize their importance in your life. =) In fact, I think siblings outside the house sometimes need to take more effort to show their love and let brothers and sisters know that they aren't "forgotten." Even though some of the upcoming posts might not apply as much to you in this time of your life, I still value your input...you've lived with siblings longer than I have. ;)

      Thank you for your encouraging comments as well. I'm very interested in perhaps learning more about your relationships with siblings in the upcoming weeks. Although I've *met* them, hearing how you've grown in the area of big sisterhood would be encouraging, I'm sure. =)

      Have a lovely Friday, dear friend.

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    2. I think, Hosanna, that by God's grace you know how to turn just about any situation into an opportunity to encourage and build others up. In any case, I look forward to joining in the conversation from my perspective, and of coarse, hearing yours. :)

      And I take to heart what you said about it taking more effort - when you're not living at home - to ensure your siblings don't feel forgotten. That's something you have more experience in than I (and from the perspective of the sibling left at home). Thank you for your thoughts!

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    3. You're too sweet. Thank you for your kind words, Jordy.

      I don't know if I can claim to have much experience in the area of having a sibling leave the home. True, my brothers have been gone for a month or so at a time, but it was never long-term. (Praise God! I love being together.) But as I think of you and your sister, I can't help but consider how hard it would be to "lose" your best friend as she moves out of the home. You have a deep relationship as I hope to have with my own sisters. What a blessing to treasure.

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    4. Oh really? I was under the impression that at least one of your brothers had been gone for months, if not permanently. My bad. Enjoy their company in this season of life.

      Well, I suppose it comes in waves. Some days feel harder than others, just as some weeks feel harder than others. Sometimes we do things together anyway. We went out for drinks together last week (she had a chocolate shake and I had coconut water). But those things are more the exception than the rule. One thing for sure is that it takes lots of effort to make sure I still invest in our friendship.

      Of your sisters, who do you think you're closest to?

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    5. Ah, I think that was back in the last fall semester when one of my brothers was in college. He visited during the weekends but was gone the rest of the week. But I am enjoying this season of life with a complete family. =)

      I understand! Being a sister is hard work. ;) Because you know every single flaw in each other, it's difficult to recognize and appreciate strengths. But I love what you're doing - being together anyway. Even when it's hard. Just be sisters and love each other. ♥ I am looking forward to talking about this more and discussing how we can have strong, Godly relationships with siblings. It's encouraging to hear your side. =)

      Lol...which sister am I closest to? I feel like that's something better shared in a private discussion. =)

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    6. It's a good thing to enjoy the season you're in and appreciate the beautiful things about it. I'm glad you're there. :)

      I think any relationship is difficult because it involves eternal souls, intricate and complex. But being a sister may be one of the harder relationships for the reasons that you mentioned. It's a joy, don't get me wrong... but at the same time it can be draining. One thing's for sure, I need God's strength. I'm sure all sisters do.

      Private discussion is perfect. I was a bit hesitant to ask, so I'm glad you felt comfortable to move it over there. :)

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    7. Oh yes, that's one reason why it's frightening to think of the role of parents. They have to raise a human being! If they "mess up", a soul could be lost for eternity. Sobering, isn't it? But our role is so important to. We can alter eternity in every relationship - sibling, friend, stranger. Eternal souls are at stake...a high standard.

      But let's start "small", one person at a time. Thank you for this discussion of sister-hood. We absolutely need God's strength. In everything. But He is so good.

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    8. It is a high standard indeed and - as you said - sobering. Very sobering. It's been my pleasure to discuss with you. :)

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  5. Convicting! Siblings (and people in general) should be more important than stuff, as you said. :)

    https://tizziestidbits.wordpress.com

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    1. So true, Tizzie! We need to develop a heart that love as Christ does...loving others in humility, kindness, patience, and so much more. This is utterly impossible in or own strength. Praise God that He is always strong! I pray that you too seek to become like Him and have His love in your life. ♥

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