Consumerism can be the accumulation of material goods but it is also an attitude wherein value is attached to the acquisition of goods. We can see this creep into churches when the facilities move from being mere tools to a measure of success. How big and how nice the building is replaces how functional it is for living out God’s purposes.
But, how does God measure success?
1) faithfulness over results
and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go (1 Kings 2:3)
Well done good and faithful servant! (Matt. 25:23, Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30)
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (Prov. 3:1-4)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. (Josh. 1:7)
2) trusting in God to work, not in our own efforts or striving
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)
3) internal character over outward appearance
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:27)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)
4) eternal, not temporal possessions
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt. 16:26)
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Chris – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil. 3:7-9)
4) God’s glory, not how we look
they (the Pharisees) loved human praise more than praise from God. (Jn. 12:43)
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)
Effects of Consumerism on Christ-like Character:
Consumerism can lead to pride as the focus turns toward what we have more than the Lord. Then we become more concerned with how we look to others, feeling like getting bigger and better facilities makes it look like something is happening in our church.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Prov. 11:2)
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Prov. 18:12)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil. 2:3-4)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with … humility, … (Col. 3:12)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
Consumerism can lead to discontent as our reliance turns more toward what we have, our circumstances, than on the Lord. Then we keep needing bigger and better to be happy.
robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim. 6:5-6)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim. 6:10-11)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13)
Focusing on what God views as success can keep you free from the pride and discontent that tend to grow out of consumerism. This doesn’t mean we would never build bigger or better buildings, if needed, but rather that we do not use it as our measure of success.