The Worldview Of The Adversary
Worship Your Stuff
by Anthony Selvaggio
While the biblical worldview calls us to keep our possessions in proper perspective, our adversary seeks to convince us to do exactly the opposite. Satan’s goal is to encourage us to find our meaning and satisfaction in material things. He wants us to be primarily consumers of things, rather than worshipers of God. His aim is to get us to worship our stuff. When one surveys modern Western culture, particularly in America, it appears that the adversary has been waging a very successful campaign. Seventy percent of the American economy is made up of consumer spending. Americans are the consummate consumers. America’s national avarice for stuff is wreaking havoc on our national pocketbook and on our spirituality. The consumerism of our age is turning us away from God…
By promoting consumerism, Satan is enabling us to violate the first commandment. He is encouraging us to worship a false god. This false worship is affecting both our culture and the church…
Filling Us with Emptiness
The first way that consumerism is leading our culture away from God is by encouraging us to fill our lives with emptiness. Augustine once said that we are all made with a “God-shaped void.” Only God can fill that void in us, but consumerism offers the false promise that stuff can fill our void. In this way, material possessions are offered to us by our culture as false gods claiming to satisfy our inner longings. Yet the false gods offered by consumerism, while temporarily satisfying us, ultimately leave us feeling empty. This emptiness often leads to despair and meaninglessness.
Tellingly, the Bible links idolatry to the concepts of vanity and emptiness. For instance, many of the Hebrew words used for idols in the Old Testament can be translated as “vanity” or “emptiness.” Idolatry leads to emptiness. . . . By worshiping the idols of consumerism, our culture is eviscerating its own soul. What is left is emptiness and disillusionment…
Consumerism not only leaves people feeling the horror of emptiness, but also serves as a great distraction… Pursuing material possessions and wealth is for many people their entire life’s work. They work eighty-hour weeks, neglecting family and faith, to keep the things they have and to acquire more.
Our culture, with its endless advertising and spacious malls, continually feeds new products and new distractions to us. In this sense, we live in unprecedented times… We have so many “things” to occupy our time, we never give thought to the great issues of life. Consumerism leaves our culture spiritually empty and mentally distracted.
Consumerism and the Church
Unfortunately, the devastating power of consumerism has also severely affected the church. This impact can be seen even in the architecture of our modern churches. Many new church buildings look remarkably similar to the temple of consumerismÑthe mall… But the architectural influence of consumerism is not the biggest challenge faced by the church from the infiltration of consumerism. Consumerism is influencing the impact and theology of the church.
Consumerism and the Life of the Church: The Haggai Problem
Consumerism impacts the effectiveness of the church because it impacts the priorities of Christians when it comes to the use of their resources. In other words, the acquisition idolatry that permeates our wider culture has infected the church. The end result is that the church has to compete with the consumer desires of its members for the resources necessary to expand its influence in the local community. When it comes to our financial priorities, the church is dropping farther down the list as it competes with the cultural avarice to acquire consumer goods. The church is suffering from what I refer to as the “Haggai Problem.”
…Haggai tells us of Israel’s efforts to rebuild the temple of God, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. The main obstacle to the completion of this work was a lack of resources. The people eventually concluded that this lack of resources was an indication that the time had not yet come to build the LordÕs house. But God had a different interpretation of the situation. God, through his prophet Haggai, rebuked the Israelites for their misplaced financial priorities…
Haggai tells the people of Israel that the problem is not a lack of resources, but rather a competition for resources. The church was competing with the consumer desires of the people, and the church was losing. The people had “paneled houses,” while God’s house remained in ruins. This is the Haggai Problem, and it remains with us today.
Just as in Haggai’s day, the church is hobbled in its efforts by having to compete for resources with people who prefer their modern equivalent of “paneled houses.” How many church buildings suffer from disrepair in our age while our homes are filled with every modern amenity? How many pastors are underpaid and treated in ways we would never tolerate in our own workplaces? Our adversary is very happy to see us undermining the work of the church in this manner. The enemy seeks to subversively weaken the power of the church, and all he has to do is to convince us to make ourselves the priority. Unfortunately, convincing us to place our consumer desires above the needs of the church is an incredibly easy task, and the enemy has the entire culture to help cheer us on in this idolatry.
So how do we combat the Haggai Problem? We begin by examining our consumption habits and our financial priorities. We combat the problem of consumerism by following Haggai’s advice to the people of Israel. Four times in his prophecy Haggai admonishes Israel with the following words: “Give careful thought to your ways” (1:5; 1:7; 2:15; 2:18). Haggai was calling the people to examine the priorities of their lives. We need to do the same today. We need to give careful thought to our ways and to resist the worldview of the adversary.