It’s my guess (and it is just a guess) that if you asked any evangelical Christian in the UK the question “is the goal of your life the accumulation of wealth?” then I’m confident the answer you would get is ‘no’. When asked straight like that the answer is obvious and clear, same as if you asked whether pornography was wrong or some other blindingly straight forward question. Christians will almost instinctively feel that wealth should not be our goal.
We know that following Jesus is the goal of our lives (seek first the kingdom of God and all that) and even though God may bless some of us with massive incomes, it’s not for massive personal gain but for massive blessing of others. Anyway, the answer is obvious.
The follow up question, ‘how is that evidenced in your life’ is a little trickier. I’m pretty clear that wealth is not the goal of my life but somehow along the way I’ve done pretty well at acquiring things for myself. I’m not wealthy by any measure (although I am a very long way from being poor) but if the goal is not accumulation then how come I have so much stuff?
But NOT having stuff is not the goal either it’s just less distracting from what is the goal. When I buy books, sooner or later, if I keep them I’m going to need some bookshelves. When I buy a DVD player, I’m going to buy some DVDs to watch. One purchase almost always leads to another – new outfit, new shoes. Then somehow, by a series of very small justifications I end up with a house full of stuff, and invariably the bigger the house the more stuff there is. So even though my desire is to radically follow Jesus, I find the laptop, the TV, the books, the toys, the house, the hobbies can all (if I let them) get in the way.
The more I have, if there are no restrictions, then the more weighed down I become, the less responsive I am. God asks us ‘why spend money on what is not bread and your labour on what does not satisfy?’ But our response is that we are satisfied, satisfied with lesser goods and lesser things, satisfied by the temporary not the eternal, satisfied by the mundane not the significant, by trinkets and toys, by possessions not people.
So, action is needed. The things must remain servants – every now and then I need to demonstrate that they don’t have a grip on my life by technology Sabbaths (anyone else get jitters when they don’t check the web to see what’s going on? – the BBC used to pride itself on updating its news site every minute of every day), I need to exercise my freedom by sharing and giving rather than simply just taking and keeping. I need to set boundaries (thus far and no further) to the size of my wardrobe, to extent of my house or the frequency with which I change my car or kitchen. Action to keep distractions in check is necessary if I am to keep first things first and seek his kingdom.
But I must also turn my attention to delighting in Him and that isn’t achieved by having little or lots…