The Vanity of Materialism in the Face of Death

A man sits in his chair, eats his soup, lies down in his bed, and he dies very soon after. He is judged to be a criminal, like all others, before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). Only then, before the Great White Throne of God’s judgment does he realize, fully, his misguided life (Eccl 1:2; Rev 20:11).

Some have worked hard…others, not so much. Some have played games, while others have coped with a myriad of mechanisms. One fairly common pursuit is the accumulation of material items.

Woe to you, hoarders! For the moth is watching you, and rust has been appointed for corruption. Men labor to maintain what they have, and the more they have, the more time it takes to maintain it all. The rich expend their riches to hire managers to do the job of maintaining material wealth and possessions.

Wasting resources, like wasting time, is balderdash. It is tomfoolery to imagine you are the owner of either (Ps 24:1). Do you realize everything you have is from God (1 Cor 4:7)? Do you realize everything given to you is entrusted as a stewardship? The challenge for the Christian is to live godly, being content with God’s apportionment (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim 6:8; Heb 13:5).

Here is the grave error of most, and many Christians are guilty of this libertine consumption to their own hurt (Fat Christians in the Age of Hunger), or to the hurt of those around them. A particularly precious painting must be meticulously guarded to avoid theft. What is the painting’s true value in light of 2 Peter 3:10–12, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (v. 10).

Thieves come into our lives unexpectedly. They rob us of what holds value in this world. Car-jackers take cars. Kidnappers take children. The sudden prospect of loss brings terror, remorse, grief, and wailing lament. There is mourning in the house, emptied by the burglar, whose intent was larceny.

The Day of the Lord, however, is the day of God’s justice. We have stolen glory, praise, and honor from God. We have valued things above people…no one more so than the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. This misjudgment is evidenced in Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler; Jesus’ account of the rich man in hell; and with the rich fool, whose soul was required of him, suddenly.

Dying and death are everywhere around us. Blessed are the assisted living employees, who are eye-witnesses to human degradation, leading to death. It is the fast track to wisdom. They see the body of others in malfunction mode, and mere maintenance is “a good day.” The mind forgets ever-increasing swaths of memory, until it forgets that it forgot.

Human existence is entirely meaningless, for in death, all is being forgotten. The eulogy of the ogre is a pleasant reflection. More soup awaits those obligated to be there by some social norm. The terror of universal vanity causes delusional justification by the lying preacher, “Jean-Luc helped change the world.” Really? Is that even honest? The world is as it has been since the fall of Adam, and it will be the same until the day of fiery judgment. There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9).

Who can deliver us from our futile chasing after the wind? Amazingly, it is the very Judge who is appointed for sentencing of the wicked, unto eternal punishment. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, has redeemed God’s elect people. He has come into the world, with love for His bride, the church. He laid down the most precious thing in this life, the body that houses us during our time here.

In forsaking His own body, offering it and Himself up as a substitute sacrifice for the ones He loved, Jesus demonstrated true value in its ultimate form. Infinite value was given for worthless trash. God’s ways are higher than our ways. The glory of redemption will be known in the marvel of pristine restoration.

Christ’s motive for such an act was love. It warrants our endless praise. The world laughs out loud. Either this is the pinnacle of fairy tales, or Jesus is stupid above all else, “He saved others, why can He not save Himself?”

In the face of death, Christ revealed God’s valuation of beloved souls. Ungodly, unjust, unholy sinners are salvaged from the burning trash heap of eternal hell. Why? God only knows the answer to such a mystery.

By giving His elect, redeemed the Spirit of Christ, God has given eternal life to His chosen few. The making of a new, spiritual man means there is a new life for the new creature to live. The Christian no longer misplaces value on material possessions, ultimately ordained to be stolen by fire (2 Pet 3:10–12). Rather, these are given away in denial of self, as investments in the kingdom of heaven, and as a sparkling display of Christian faith.

Eternal friends are made, when the mammon of unrighteousness is given to the poor (Lk 16:9), especially in the household of God (1 Jn 3:17), so that we, too, may lay claim to the words, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (Acts 2:44–45).

Christian, you are hurtling toward your day of death. Your life is but a vapor (Jas 4:14). You have a stewardship for which you must give an account to your Master, who supplied all your needs for life and ministry (2 Cor 9:8). What have you done? Is the charge against you: Prodigal? Lover of this world? Lover of money? Foolish slave? Servant of mammon? Betrayer?

Examine yourself. Confess your pecuniary sins to God. Redeem what time you have remaining before the day you stand before the One who loved you and gave one hundred percent of Himself for you. Pray for guidance; ask for wisdom; call upon the Lord to give you the grace to be profusely generous with your allotted wood, hay, and stubble. May God turn the vanity of materialism into the conduit for your storing up treasure in heaven. Got fish? Got loaves? Got a date with death? What are you going to do?

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

October 9, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher