The word "materialistic" has some harsh synonyms: Selfish, unprincipled, callous.
But does wanting a great bag really make you a bad person. By Amy Larocca
Allure Magazine December 2007.
A young woman who purchased a designer bag as a symbol of her hard work and achievement was severely criticized and dumped by her fiance who said to her, "the woman who would be his wife would not care about things like that"; and felt that if they had children, she would prioritize shoes and bags over food for the kids. He questioned her spirituality and called her materialistic.
Materialism is a word that connotes greed, extravagance, and gluttony. It suggests a person who is shallow, who prizes things material over those emotional. Harsh implications for a single handbag or pair of shoes. However, a lot of women who care about high fashion get labeled this. Some men even call them "high maintenance"--even movies are made about them-Confessions of a Shopaholic.
So, exactly when does "materialism" present a problem...?
when you are maxing out every credit card on "butter" items
when you have closets and drawers full of things that you do not even wear
when you buy something purely because it's on sale or by a particular designer
when you use bill money to purchase clothes, shoes, and jewelry
when you buy inexpensive things for others and luxury ones for yourself
when it does not exceed or match charitable giving (organizations and churches)
when you purchase items solely to impress others
when you shop to avoid addressing other problems, such as insecurity or low self-esteem, emotional hurt and pain, and/or loneliness.
Scriptures that help...
The prosperity of fools shall destroy them. (Proverbs 1:32)
But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. (Luke 12:15)
He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver...(Ecclessiastes 5:10)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
Wealth in itself is not condemned in Scripture. In fact, it is considered a gift and a blessing, especially when not sought (1 Kings 3:13). But there are many scriptural statements about the dangers of wealth and instructions about its proper use. Wealth should not be accumulated for its own sake. It should not be gained by injustice or oppression.
Wealth often leads to covetousness. It belongs to God, not to us; we are simply stewards. We sin if we do not use it to help the poor, the weak, and the oppressed (Ezekiel 22:29). Generosity marks the Christian use of wealth.
Few Christians would claim to be wealthy. But when we have more than needed for essential food, clothing, and shelter, we are wealthy compared with the majority of the world's
population. The temptations of wealth and materialism are not a problem of the wealthy alone. Covetousness among the poor is an indicator of materialism just as greed is for the wealthy.
Secular society has always placed a high value on wealth and material possessions (the unrighteous mammon of Luke 16:9,11). It is easy for this emphasis to color and erode the spiritual priority that should characterize the church. Jesus, our great example from Scripture, lived in humility and obscurity, never accumulating wealth or possessions. Jesus taught His followers not to be anxious about the future, for their heavenly Father would provide for them (Matthew 6:25-34). While it may seem that the New Testament has strong words of exhortation and warning for the wealthy, we should not assume that material poverty has inherent value. The Bible does not teach such. Jesus and the apostles applauded the efforts of Christians in their efforts to alleviate suffering. It is evident that there were some early Christians with a degree of wealth.
How much wealth is enough?
Materialism says, "Just a little more will be enough." But it never is. The example of John Wesley is a challenge for every believer. In his middle years, Wesley calculated how much money he needed annually to live during his early years. He then covenanted to keep his expenditures at nearly the same level, turning his increased income in later years to the work of the Lord. It is easy for those who have fewer possessions to look on those with more as the ones who need the cautions about wealth and materialism. But coveting and grasping for material things one does not have can be sin while the wealthy person who holds his material possessions loosely and is a good steward of that which God has entrusted to him is pleasing to God. It is not the having or not having of material wealth, but the priorities in one's life that constitute true godliness (1 Timothy 6:17-19).