A friend sent me this great news article about a new store in New York – “The Husband Store!”
A store that sells husbands has just opened in New York City, catering for women wishing to choose the perfect husband. As you enter the store you are greeted like royalty and escorted to the lift – and handed an instruction sheet, which explains how the store operates.
You may visit the store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and as the lift ascends each level so do the qualities and attributes of the men increase. There is of course a catch – you can choose a bloke from any floor but once you have passed on a floor you cannot revisit – you can only go back down to exit the store!
So, this woman goes in one day to the Husband Store to find a husband.
Into the lift she goes and to the 1st floor. The doors open and she reads the sign over the doors; 1st Floor – These men have jobs and love the Lord. (This is America after all.)
Sounds great but she wonders to herself what the next floor might contain. So up she goes. The lift opens and the second floor sign reads; 2nd Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, and love kids.
Tempted as she is – and really who could want for more, she presses the button for the third floor. The doors open and she reads… 3rd Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are extremely good looking and guaranteed to remain faithful.
“WOW”. This is just too good to be true – yet she feels compelled – what might she be missing out on… so she pushes the button, the lift ascends one more floor. The doors open again, this time on the fourth floor and she reads… 4th Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are incredibly good looking, guaranteed to remain faithful and help with the housework.
Fact of the matter is she can hardly wait to close the door – again tempted as she is to rush out and grab one off the rack. She can hardly stand the suspense, pushes the button, and fidgets as the lift so slowly ascends once more. The doors open on the fifth floor and she reads… 5th Floor – These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are unbelievably gorgeous, are guaranteed to remain faithful, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.
There is however one floor left – she almost pounces on the button, hardly able to contain herself wondering what on earth the 6th floor might hold that could be better than all she has seen so far. The door opens and she steps out, eagerly scanning the sign, a large electronic display which reads… 6th Floor – You are visitor 4,363,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely to prove that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Watch your step as you exit the building, and have a nice day!
Wanting it All
I don’t know if the story has any element of truth – but I do know materialism comes from one place – being impossible to please.
Western society is affluent – in Sydney plenty of people on unemployment benefits have mobile phones and Foxtel. We consume at a rate that beggar’s belief. Australia is clearly in the top ten wealthiest nations on earth yet in surveys more than 60% of us say we cannot afford the things we need to buy. We are in the top 5 countries for disposable income. Houses are getting bigger; families are getting smaller. The term coined in the last decade or so seems so appropriate – affluenza – the disease of greed and affluence. Materialism is a disease – it’s an enemy that plays on our lack of contentment. Instead of giving glory to God for his provision we turn to materialism… “I can make my life comfortable, happy, fulfilled, complete, by filling up with things”. “If I can just get ‘xyz’… then I will be happy, fulfilled and content!
It’s such a threat Jesus says…
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Now – if you have your Bible handy cross out Money and put back in the word that should be there – Mammon – you cannot serve both God and mammon. It means money, possessions, the values of the world… filling up.
Matthew 6:19-21 “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.”
Mammon is simply treasured possessions… as Jesus says… they are treasured so highly that they become the boss.
- It could be a general attitude to money and possessions – I need more and more and more to make myself feel powerful, feel in control, feel worthwhile and successful.
- It could be a specific thing – the way we treat our home, our car, the money we lavish on entertainment where enjoyment becomes the god… or some other possession.
- It could be our investments, making them the master in terms of our decision making – or superannuation – where we pour our resources into future life.
- It could be family – we lavish every good thing on our family to protect and care for them, to be in control of their future and their happiness.
Materialism or affluence – is not simply money – it’s really about ownership and the gathering in. Possessions, things, money, riches – in themselves they mean nothing – they are neither good nor bad. But when they become master – when the possessions possess us – then we have a problem. Jesus calls us to recognize that we cannot serve God and mammon – we cannot place ourselves at God’s disposal as his slaves and servants, and be dedicated not just in word or thought but in action to the requirements and activities of the kingdom – and at the same time be dedicated to the gathering of wealth and possessions and to the demands and activities of that lifestyle. We cannot at the same time be storing up wealth on earth and storing up wealth in heaven – the two simply don’t go together.
A Man’s Inheritance
Luke 12:13-15 “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
What does Jesus say to the bloke who asks the simple and fair question – my brother is ripping me off out of my inheritance – can you tell him to share what is rightfully mine. Seems fair enough doesn’t it? The Rabbis, of which Jesus was one, regularly settled these sorts of disputes – so there is no surprise that the man comes to Jesus. And let’s be honest – we hate it when life seems unfair – we’re automatically on the side of the questioner. We want Jesus to side with him, to say “of course it’s unfair, you are totally in the right and of course I will talk with him.” We can see ourselves in the same boat and wishing we could have Jesus side with us in our disputes.
Yet Jesus says “Watch Out!”
Watch out for what?
The desire to get his fair share of what is rightfully his is a form of greed – fair or otherwise life is not about possessions. Instead of answering Jesus tells a parable.
Luke 12:16-21 “…“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
God says… “You fool”. He has a bumper year; his barns can’t hold what he harvests so he builds. Perfectly logical! Then he says “I’m going to enjoy the fruits of my hard work.” Why not – he probably has worked very hard, made good decisions – God has obviously blessed his labors and it’s time to enjoy. His neighbors are all jealous of his success – “…wish it was me…” Surely Jesus’ words come as a shock. One of the foundations stones of Australian society is work hard so you can enjoy. Work for the weekend used to be one of our catch phrases. Almost every Australian worker is storing up the abundance of their crops in bigger and bigger barns for future enjoyment and relaxation – it’s called superannuation. Jesus says… “You fool.”
How is he a fool?
A Fool and His Possessions
Luke 12:19 “And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
He thinks life is about accumulating possessions – the one with the most toys, wins! That’s what kids think – they look in catalogues or watch the ads on TV and declare adamantly that they need to get the latest doll, game, sports equipment, MacDonald’s burger deal, holiday to New Caledonia… Target is having a toy sale – we should go! Big W has a DVD sale – we need some new ones dad!
It’s not just kids that think this way though – we should have learned that life is not about how much stuff you have – yet how often do we judge the worth or value of someone, how often do we assess their lifestyle based on what they earn, what they have, the house they live in, the car they drive, how much they earn, the clothes they wear. Our society agrees with the rich fool – life is about possessions.
A Fool and Life
Not only does the fool think life is about possessions – he also thinks life is about now. He’s planning what he can spend in the short period of life we call retirement. You work till 65, you might live another 20-30 years. They used to say superannuation was a way of helping your kids. Now the ads say superannuation is about revenge on your kids.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Saving for the future is sensible – trusting in it is not. We had Christian friends who had it all in retirement – their life savings were substantial to say the least – he worked massive hours and was paid handsomely. He was a hoarder of wealth – in any form he could manage it. He died 18 months after retirement. His widow lives in their massive waterfront unit in a beachside suburb and has lots of money. Their children are not Christians – but they are successful – they learned the lessons they were taught.
Like the rich fool what we need to be prepared for is not the 20-30 years of retirement but the eternity that follows. That doesn’t just mean becoming a Christian – it means living as one. It means giving up the world’s value of possessions and money and not trusting in them. It means seeing our wealth, small or great, as an opportunity to be generous.
The Dummies Guide to Materialism
Luke 12:15 Jesus said… “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:19 Jesus said “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
The Dummies Guide to Materialism says…
- Being content with what God has given you will break materialism’s hold. No matter what you do you can never have enough to be content! The richest people in the world continually go for more of everything.
Luke 12:22-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
- Only a fool thinks that life is about having it all. Are you tempted by that? When is enough… enough?
- God does not want us to be wealthy in material possessions. Wealth and possessions is not a sign of faith – and the lack of possessions and wealth is not an indicator of a lack of faith. The one who gathers possessions and wealth actually proves to be a fool.
- There are churches that teach that God wants us to be wealthy – avoid them like the plague because they are teaching a different gospel from what Jesus spoke.
Galatians 1:8-9 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
- Whatever we have, we have received from God. The fool says “look at what I’ve done” – rather than giving thanks to God.
- When you’re walking through the massive shopping mall remember Jesus’ words… “Watch Out – life does not consist of the abundance of possessions”. When you read the junk mail realize that they should come with a health warning – this junk mail could seriously damage your life.
- What opportunities do you have to be generous to God? Church, missionaries, the poor and destitute, the spread of the gospel, feeding the third world, helping your neighbor…
Luke 12:21 “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
This still doesn’t mean we will be wealthy – but God will provide our basic needs and maybe even some of our desires – he is a generous God who wants us to be content – not in the things we do or don’t have but content with his power, control and sovereignty. To defeat the allure of materialism we have to trust in God’s sovereignty. Life is not about the abundance of our possessions – life is about being rich towards God.
Luke 12:32-34 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”