The Fiscal Cliff, Materialism and Idolatry

FYI- This post is not about politics, so read it all the way through.

fiscal cliffOver the last several weeks we have all heard a great deal about the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.”  It is no secret that our government has a serious spending problem and that decisive steps will need to be taken in order to avert an even more serious financial disaster in the future.  But it occurred to me the other day that the Federal government is really just a reflection of what is happening in the general population. In a government “of the people, for the people, by people” we should not be surprised that the Federal government reflects the same irresponsible spending habits as its citizens.

According to a report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, non-real estate household debt jumped 2.3 percent to $2.7 trillion dollars in the last quarter of 2012.  A spokesmen for the New York Fed stated, “The increase in mortgage originations, auto loans and credit card balances suggests that consumers are slowly gaining confidence in their financial position.”  I would like to suggest these statistics indicate something more disturbing— rather than regaining confidence, we are simply returning to the same patterns got us into this mess.  If we want the Federal Government to take fiscal responsibility, it must begin with getting our own households in order.  But this issue goes deeper than just learning better money management techniques.  I want to suggest that at its core, America’s financial woes are primarily the result of a deep-rooted spiritual problem

In the church we hear about the way materialism has caused much of our current financial problems.  While I agree that materialism is a problem, I think the issue goes deeper.  Materialism is a symptom of a much deeper problem— idolatry.  When we look for ultimate fulfillment in anything besides Christ, it can become an idol.  Therefore, family can be an idol, sex can be an idol, and even church when it is divorced from the gospel can be an idol.  But I would submit that in America our favorite idol is material and monetary wealth.  The Scripture gives us stern warnings about making wealth and money the main object of our life.  In Matthew 6:24, for instance, Jesus says “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”


As followers of Christ we need to ask ourselves a tough question, “Whom are we really serving?” In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The last phrase is the key to keeping material goods and money in their proper place.  If the thing you treasure the most are here on earth, that is where your heart is going to be.  You are going to be dragged down by the weight and cares of this world.  But if what you treasure the most is in heaven, your heart will be lifted above the temporal cares of this world and be captured by things of eternal weight and glory.

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