Materialism and Being a Good Witness
Jesus’ teaching on stewardship and giving wasn’t to evangelize the rich and make them richer. It wasn’t a promise that one can become bigger and better by what they possessed. No! Jesus taught that when we give to others, whether we have little or much, we give in the interest of others and not ourselves. We essentially are maintaining a witness each and every time we reach out, with no strings attached, motivated only by God’s love.
If you witnessed to someone considered to be rich how would you do it? Would you need to buy an expensive car first, or live in an upscale neighborhood? After all, we are to maintain a good witness, and what witness would we be presenting if we drove something less than a Mercedes or a Jaguar? Is it really necessary to splurge on such luxuries in order to reach the upper class population? To reach anyone?
On the other hand, would you steal in order to witness to a burglar? Would you prostitute yourself to win over a prostitute? Of course not! So why would anyone think it necessary to rationalize an extravagant lifestyle in order to evangelize? Upscale witnessing doesn’t drive home the conviction that delivers a heartfelt “yes” to Jesus from the new believer. It approves of mammon and cheapens the gospel.
Why? Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is to set us free from the idols that we were enslaved to. If we strive to maintain living a lifestyle that requires a high standard of living in order to effectively witness, then we have undermined true faith and have pointed them to a diluted gospel.
In Mark 10:20-22 the rich man walked away with his riches leaving behind eternal life. He was not able to live as if he had nothing. In Luke 19:5-10 Zacchaeus, who was wealthy as well, opened his heart and his moneybag and gave back to others. Zacchaeus understood the kingdom principle of giving. He understood that the kingdom that Jesus talked about was not how wealthy someone was, but how they distributed it.
Zacchaeus reached out to others and gave while the rich man, who did everything right according to the Jewish law, kept his wealth. The kingdom of God flip flopped, and if they lived according to the principles of the year of Jubilee, they gave to and forgave others. This principle shook the social economy and left no one richer than the other.
Materialism enslaves us and binds us. We attempt to climb the social ladder of success by displaying it. We become obsessed with an insatiable appetite for more, all to be accepted and welcomed by our friends. In contrast, those who have truly embraced kingdom living are inconspicuous in their service to the Lord. Their need to boast and desire for themselves riches here on earth is replaced by concern for their brother or sister in need. They give sacrificially to those who are hidden from or rejected by the wealthy and rich.
1 corinthians 13:1 – “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”