Christians’ Obsessions for Possessions
By: Bodé Adeboyejo
Not too long ago a friend sent me an email link to a website to order a free book about the science of getting rich. The book, from the testimonials on the website, teaches you principles on how to be rich.
Now, since I didn’t read the book, I honestly can’t say anything about the book -- good, bad or indifferent. But I must say that the title of the book caught my attention: The Science of Getting Rich. Prior to my receiving the email, I had intended to write about Christians and their insatiable appetite for material wealth and their passionate pursuit of it. This article was initially titled: Materialism: How Much is Enough?
My friend’s email confirmed my observation and reminded me of our preoccupation with materialism. By our, I mean us, Christians, particularly American Christians. By preoccupation I mean our obsession for possessions. That is, our obsession to always want more: more money, more expensive and bigger houses, more expensive cars, more expensive clothes, etc. Not because we lack these things necessarily, but because we are covetous, greedy and insatiable.
We are more obsessed with being blessed than we are about winning souls for Christ. We are more concerned about what we can get from God, than we are about what we can do to benefit His Kingdom. Like the rich fool in Luke 12:16-20, we are more concerned about building bigger and better barns to store our riches, than we are about the eternal destination of other innocent souls.
Without realizing it, we are being possessed by our obsessions. Whatever obsesses you possesses you. Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
For many of us Christians, we are no longer slaves to sin. But we replaced our obsessions for sin with money. So, rather than be slaves to sin, we have a new master – Money!
Too many Christians are forsaking the things and call of God in pursuit of a moving target called wealth. Many well-meaning Christians have bought into this lie that the more you have the more God favors you. As a result many of them have two to three jobs/businesses just to keep up with the Joneses. And many do it in the name of “I’m trying to provide for my family.” But there’s a difference between provision and greed. In fact, it’s a thin line between need and greed.
Therefore, what I’ve found to be true and even more interesting is that those who are obsessed with becoming rich or richer are those whose needs are already met -- people like you and me. Yes, I mean you! Your needs are already met! If you are a Christian anywhere in the world, especially in America, your needs are met!
Before you ask me, “How can you say that my needs are met when you don’t even know me or my situation?” Let’s talk a little bit about wants and needs. A need is something you cannot live without for sustenance of life to carry out God’s will. A want is just simply your desire; something you’d like to have in addition to your needs.
There’s a difference between a want and a need. Wants are borne out of lust, while needs are borne out of love. For instance, Adam and Eve wanted the forbidden fruit (out of lust), but God (out of love) provided for them everything they needed in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7). Likewise the Israelites in the wilderness longed for the food they ate in Egypt (out of lust), even though God provided for them manna out of love (Numbers 11:4-35).
The mistake we make is that we confuse wants with needs. And as a result we make statements like these: “I need another car,” I need a bigger house,” “I need another pair of shoes,” etc. Well, if you can live without it, it’s not a need! Therefore, a better car, a nicer, bigger house, an expensive clothing, etc. doesn’t qualify as needs.
If you have enough food for sustenance, even if it’s once or twice a day, your needs are met! If you have clothes on your back, even if it is from a consignment shop or the Salvation Army, or what people back home call, “hand-me-downs,” your needs are met.
That’s why Paul wrote in 1Timothy 6:6 and 8 saying, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain… And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Notice that Paul said “having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” He didn’t even include housing. That is to say that food and clothing are the most basic necessities of life.
You can survive without housing. But you can’t survive without food or clothing. Therefore, all a person needs to carry out God’s will is food and clothing! Not even housing! Jesus didn’t have a house, yet carried out God’s purpose in the earth. He told a disciple who wanted to follow Him saying…“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”-- Matthew 8:20. Besides, the Israelites were homeless in the wilderness for 40 years!
Also, notice that he just said “food and clothing” – not an abundance of food and clothing, but just enough food and clothing. Not exotic food or designer clothing, but just regular healthy, soul-keeping food and warm-keeping clothes.
Therefore, when Paul wrote in another epistle, Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” he meant just that -- our need (food and clothing) NOT our wants. But many Christians read and proclaim that verse to read “My God shall supply all my wants, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
That’s why I said that your needs are met, because you have food and clothing! The fact that you are reading this piece now is proof that you have food and clothing. If not, like the Americans would say, “You’d be outta here!”
"Jesus said '…I’ll make you fishers of men,' not fishers of things!"
Now, let me say that most Christians are not entirely to blame for being obsessed about possessions. The reason why most Christians are so fixated on getting rich than they are about seeking and saving the Lost is because most of the sermons they hear from the pulpit and/or on so-called Christian television are about favor, blessings, prosperity or healing.
Rarely do you hear sermons on verbal witnessing or how to seek and save the Lost. Rarely do preachers preach on discipleship and how to be a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. No! Rather, what most preachers preach about is blessing, favor, healing, etc.
I remember an author who wrote a book on verbal witnessing, saying that he surveyed about a thousand preachers/churches to ask them how many of them have preached a sermon on verbal witnessing or seeking and saving the Lost. Less than 3% of the preachers surveyed have actually preached about evangelism or verbal witnessing! Wow!
This causes one to wonder if Christianity is about blessings, favor, miracles or the other foolishness you see at churches or on the airwaves. Or is it about salvation and seeking to save others? Is it about being after the Father’s business or being about our own business? Is it about being followers of Christ or followers of material things?
Even though Jesus said “…I’ll make you fishers of men,” not fishers of things!
Speaking about being followers of Christ, I wonder how many of us would be Christians just to be followers of Christ, and not for what we can get from God? I wonder how many of us would be Christians, just for the salvation of our souls, not for the promise of riches?
Has it ever occurred to you that of all the religions in the world (and I’m using the word religion in a broader sense because Christianity is not a religion but a relationship), it seems as if Christians are the only ones obsessed with money and materialism? While all other religions, which are false, are more about how the followers can be faithful followers of their falsehood.
But as much as the Bible warns against riches or getting rich, many preachers use the Bible to encourage the people to get more money. The Bible warns us not to labor to be rich; i.e., don’t kill yourself working trying to be rich (Proverbs 23:4); not to lay up treasures in earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19); not to worry about what we shall eat or drink, because these things the Gentiles seek (Matthew 6:31-32)!
Even in the Old Testament, which most prosperity preachers use to preach about prosperity or blessings, God provided the people’s needs not their wants. For instance, when the Israelites were in the wilderness God provided them manna daily, and told them to gather only a day’s worth (except on Fridays when they gathered two days worth, enough for Saturday, the Sabbath). But some, out of greed tried to gather more than a day’s worth, but the excess manna spoiled, breeding worms (Exodus 16). And when they complained about the manna (their need) and requested meat (their want), God made sure they were sick from it. (Numbers 11:4-35)
The moral of this story? Your want will make you “sick”; i.e., you’ll always get tired of your want once it’s fulfilled, but you never get tired of a need.
Besides, most prosperity preachers fail to mention that most of the people God used in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, were poor. But their poverty didn’t stop them from carrying out God’s will. And those who were not poor considered themselves poor; i.e., denied themselves to carry out God’s will.
For instance, these preachers like to use the story of Elijah and the Zarephath widow (1 Kings 17:9-16) to encourage people to give big offerings. They are quick to point out that the widow fed Elijah first, not concerned about herself and her son, before she and her son ate. But they never mention the fact that Elijah was so poor that God even used a raven to feed him!
Also notice how these preachers never come across passages that teach about suffering for Christ or persecution for Christ. Passages like Philippians 1:27, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” Passages like 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Or Romans 8:17!
Or Mark 10:29-30, “So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”
Nonetheless, here is what I’ve decided to do to help you recognize a false preacher or a preacher not to take seriously. Any preacher who teaches you more about earthly things: houses, cars, money, healing, even believing God for a mate (things that you can heap up on your own lust) than how to be a true follower of Jesus Christ is NOT a minister of Jesus Christ! The Bible says that you should seek those things which are above where Christ sits on the right hand of God, not things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).
Jesus also said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” – Matthew 6:31-32. So, if a preacher is telling you to seek these things, he/she must be a Gentile not a Christian!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please don’t be deceived by the deceitfulness of riches, or be fooled by these false preachers. Don’t be fooled by the size of their churches, their large congregations, their fame or notoriety, their wealth, or even their good deeds in their communities, thinking that God is with them. They are NOT ministers of Jesus Christ, neither indeed can be. They are NOT preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Rather they are preaching out of the carnality of their own minds.
No genuine minister of Jesus Christ will teach you about what you can get from God or how to accumulate things that will only make you hold on to the world and the things of the world. Rather, a real minister of Jesus Christ will teach you how to loosen your grip on the world, so as to espouse you to Jesus Christ. And you don’t have to believe me. Just pick up your Bible and read, and see if you’ll find any of the prominent apostles of old, like Peter, Paul, James, John, Barnabas, Silas, etc., teaching the people about material things or what they could get from God.
With that said, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, remember not to labor to be rich. This does not mean being slothful. But it means being diligent without making money your focus. Realize that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things one possesses (Luke 12:15). “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” -- 1Timothy 6:9
You do not need to spend your whole Christian life chasing after things, because your heavenly Father knows that you have need of things (Matthew 6:32). Rather concerning riches, your prayer or attitude should be like that of Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9:
things I request of You
Remember, what obsesses you -- possesses you; what possesses you -- obsesses you!
Check out this month's bonus article: Jesus or Barabbas?
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