Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 4, Lesson 2

Lesson Two

We Use; We Do Not Own

Text: Luke 12:13-21

"I am materialistic!" How many Christians would openly make that declaration? How many Christians would be offended if anyone seriously called them materialistic? From the Christian perspective, materialism is at the least "bad" or at the most "evil." It properly belongs with ungodly perspectives. It is correctly labeled as an ungodly, "this world" perspective.

To the Christian, the word describes an evil condition. But what is materialism? When does a Christian know that he or she is materialistic? or has a materialistic view of life? or is controlled by materialism? Typically, Christians have a problem identifying true materialism. Is materialism an attitude? Is it a set of emotions? Is it merely ownership? Is it a level of wealth? Is it a problem involving only "the rich"? Can "the poor" be materialistic? The only "certain" matter about materialism is this: materialism is a "them" problem, not a "me" or "us" problem.

Christians tend to be more comfortable declaring what materialism is not. "It is not materialistic to own things." "Being poor for poverty's sake is not a virtue." "Enjoying a good standard of living is not materialistic." "Finding joy in a good lifestyle is not materialistic." "Making preparation to retire without financial anxiety is not materialistic."

Christians prefer to ignore materialism. Why? Its existence depends on the mind, heart, attitudes, and devotion of the person. It concerns internal conditions, not external criteria. Two people can have the same income, standard of living, amount of savings, possessions, retirement plan, and benefits. Yet, it is possible for one to be materialistic and the other not.

Materialism is an attitude. Attitude one: "I own and control my possessions! They are mine! I worked hard to obtain them! They were not a gift!" Attitude two: "I love what I have! My possessions are the most valuable, important things in my life! I define me by what I possess!" Attitude three: "I want what you have! My life would be wonderful and easy if we swapped places! All my problems could be and would be solved if I had money and possessions!"

Materialism is a perspective. "Everything real exists in this world and this life. Only real, 'this world' things provide human security. The poor have no security. Wealth provides power, opportunity, and the means to create your own security. Poverty makes you powerless. Poverty makes you a victim. Placing hope for security in God is foolish, wishful thinking."

Materialism is a love. Materialism loves things and uses people. People are valuable only if they can help me achieve my goals and objectives. The person who is unable to help me advance my material objectives is useless to me. I value only those people who benefit me. If I have to choose between a person (even a family member) and an important asset, I will choose the asset. My family must never forget that they are second. Acquiring success in my business or career will always receive my first consideration. People problems are an inconvenient drain that get in my way. Ambition problems are a challenge that stimulate me. In the battle to acquire things, I love to win! Relationship problems are a nuisance to distract me from my real goals and purposes. I love my work! I tolerate the people in my life.

Materialism concerns my value system, my priorities, my motivations, my perspective, my attitudes, and my heart. It is addressed when I deal with "in here" conditions, not "out there" conditions. In the spiritual war against materialism, I am the battlefield.

Read Luke 12:13-21.

  1. What situation and request created the occasion for this parable (verse 13)?

  2. Jesus used two approaches to answer the man. What were the two (verses 14-21)?

  3. What warning did Jesus give his audience (verse 15)? In the situation, who was greedy?

  4. What did Jesus say about measuring your life (verse 15)?

  5. Remember it was an agricultural society. Describe the harvest of the rich man (verse 16)?

  6. What problem did the record harvest create for the rich man (verse 17)?

  7. What was the rich man's solution (verse 18)?

  8. What did the rich man say to himself (verse 19)? What is your understanding of the rich man talking to his "soul"?

  9. God called the man a fool (verse 20). Why?

  10. What was the problem (verse 21)?

  11. Read Deuteronomy 15:1-11. Examine the attitudes that formed the foundation of these instructions to Israel. Remember Jesus' audience was Jewish. They acknowledged this to be God's instruction. In this context, what is your understanding of the rich man's problem?

  12. Thought questions:

    1. Was the field evil for producing a record harvest?

    2. Was it evil for the man to refuse to waste his record harvest?

    3. Was it evil for the man to build buildings large enough to store his harvest?

    4. Was it possible for the man to have a record harvest, to build facilities to care for that harvest, and to store the harvest as a godly person instead of a greedy person?

    5. Explain why the man was materialistic. Distinguish between the action of a godly, responsible Jewish farmer and the action of a self-reliant, materialistic Jewish farmer.

  13. Did the man "own" his record harvest? Explain your answer.

  14. Discuss how a godly Jew would use a record harvest.

Every year the farmer prepared in similar ways. He sowed his fields. He used the best seed available. However, he benefitted from variables he could not control. He had nothing to do with temperature, sunshine, rainfall occurrence/frequency/amount, or the arrival of planting and harvesting seasons. His attitude: "Look what I did!" He deserved the benefit. To him, the harvest meant 100% independence. He could create his security. God was not a factor in his security. He was the source of his blessings.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 2

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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