Ask most people to describe materialism and you’ll hear references to big-screen TVs, computers, SUVs, spacious houses, and overpaid CEOs. A few might mention “consumerism” and “greed.” Most would agree with the idea that materialism has been a major obstacle to relieving world poverty. Some would say it’s the cause of that poverty.
But what if materialism isn’t really what most people think? We could fall prey to materialism unawares or reject good ideas we have misidentified as materialism. In seeking to help the poor, we could waste our efforts opposing what really contributes little to the poverty problem.
So what is materialism? I’ll pursue a definition by countering four popular myths.
A widespread attitude, especially among Christians, is that materialism involves attaching value and importance to material things—and that these things are not truly important.
But wouldn’t that make God the first materialist?
Consider creation from a before-and-after perspective. Before Genesis 1:1, there was nothing—no material at all. Apparently, God considered this situation and decided that He wanted material to exist. He created matter, energy, time—an entire, mind-bogglingly huge universe of material. Before He created it, He invented it. After He created it, He repeatedly declared it to be “good” (Gen. 1:4, 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, etc.).
"[T]here are many similarities between the materialism of 'the rich' versus 'the poor.' In both cases, their hearts are set on wealth. However, there is an important difference between the two: the rich have received their reward and their hope, whereas the poor have not." Neither Poverty nor Riches
"Half of Protestant churchgoers say their tithes can go to a Christian ministry rather than a church, compared to what is often taught by pastors and Bible study aids. A third say tithes can go to help an individual in need and nearly one in five say tithes can even go a secular charity" BPNews