Sabbath School Lesson for December 30-January 5, 2018
If we’ve learned anything from our studies in Peter’s epistles, and then Paul’s to the Romans and Galatians, it’s the importance of being a faithful follower of God. Stewardship looks at all the ingredients for making us faithful. All our efforts to glorify God fall short without faith and love, the true motives of the heart.
Therefore, we take on this subject of stewardship, finding much in the Scriptures to enable us to manage our possessions, both tangible and intangible, in a way that glorifies God most fully. Stewardship is merely the expression of our love for God, a very practical application of what it means to follow Jesus. It encompasses our attitudes, commitment, sacrifice, and self-discipline.
Our first task is to take a look at what constitutes materialism. Recognizing our desires and preoccupation with our possessions as a hindrance to our discipleship will help us avoid this spiritual pitfall.
Remember this: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV
Conforming to this world is not the goal of a Christian. Rather, we must be transformed into a being that represents God’s perfect will. This is not done by outward compliance, self-actuated behaviors, or any other external means of transformation.
It happens by a renewing of our mind, a deep, heartfelt longing that allows God to make appropriate changes in us that benefits God’s purpose for the universe. Our will and desires must be subservient to God’s perfect, all-inclusive will for everyone.
Sunday: The God of This World
We are all looking for a god of some kind. Someone or something that will provide security in this unstable state we find ourselves on earth. For a vast majority, the answer seems to come in the form of financial security. Whether we have it or not, money allures us with the promise of offering a better life.
But alas, we find that even when more money comes our way, it’s never enough to satisfy even our most basic needs, which aren’t always something you can see. Money may allow us to enjoy bigger and better “toys”, but in the end, it will never alleviate loneliness, guilt, or a longing for love and acceptance.
Another reason why money doesn’t measure up when it comes to security is its temporary nature. Money comes and goes. Where’s the security in that?
Jesus came to earth to encourage us to reach out and achieve real security by following Him. When we forsake the world, Jesus is there and will never forsake us. Our Savior gives us the choice of living for the present, or living for God. Our desires must be centered in Him, not on the things money can buy.
Read Ecclesiastes 5:10, 11 and 1 John 2:16, 17. Why should we not love money and the things of the world? How is this love for money avoided?
Read Luke 14:26-33. What kind of cost is often involved in following Jesus? Is there a place for wealth or even family in God’s plan for us though? How do we know when our worldly commitments have taken the place of God?
Read Mark 8:36, 37. How valuable is our chance of eternal bliss? Can anything on this earth match God’s security?
Monday: Filling the Barns
Jesus told a parable about someone who has been called a “rich fool”. In an effort to store all his worldly possessions, a rich man built bigger and bigger barns. These treasures were selfishly accumulated in order to supply the man with a secure future. He felt at ease to sit back and enjoy life, little knowing that his life on this earth was about to be cut short.
Covetousness has the reputation of causing us to forget who supplies every material blessing. God is nowhere in our consciousness when we allow our grasping, coveting, lusting nature to take control.
Even if products to be sold are good and necessary, marketing strategies usually make them appear even more so. We are often led to believe that our lives will never be complete or happy without a particular brand or product. This is how the sales world operates. We must be aware that our affection for worldly possessions is largely driven by these marketing deceptions.
Only by a conscious effort to include God in our everyday lives can we avoid the spiritual desert we create when we surround ourselves with excessive material goods and possessions.
Read Luke 12:15-21 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10. What do we learn about covetousness in this parable?
Read Deuteronomy 8:10-14. How can our material possessions draw us closer to God?
Read Matthew 19:24, 26. Does this mean to be rich means you can’t be saved? What examples in the Bible can you think of to show that wealth doesn’t always have to be a factor in our losing eternity?
Tuesday: The Allure of Materialism
Why are we so attracted to the things we see? Eve encountered the first enticement of this nature when she approached the wrong tree in the Garden of Eden. The fruit shown her there was attractive enough, but the one holding the fruit, the beautiful snake that flew to her side, must have grabbed her attention as well.
We must recognize that the object of those who sell merchandise is to appeal to our senses by creating an excitement which may be pure fantasy, but it achieves its purpose by making us buy their product.
To this day, we are still attracted to the things of this world that shine the prettiest. We discover too late that the very brightness that attracts us to “things” also has the capacity to blind us. We fail to see that our obsession with possessions erodes our commitment to God and our love for others, as these “things” slowly begin to take first place in the affections of our heart.
Jesus called the eye “the lamp of the body”. Indeed, what we feast our eyes on has the tendency to control our thinking and behavior to the extent that we may end up in total darkness, if we’re not careful.
Read Matthew 6:22-24. How do we make sure our possession don’t possess us?
Read Galatians 5:16, 17 and Romans 6:12. Why are the Spirit and the flesh so opposite from each other?
Read Romans 8:5 and John 3:6. How does the new birth experience become a crucial factor in our ability to not be enticed by sinful pleasures?
Wednesday: Love of Self
Besides a love of money becoming a snare for the soul, we discover that a love of self is also a trap to avoid. The love of money encourages us to have an unbalanced sense of our own importance. This is the beginning of narcissistic thinking.
Lucifer, being the original narcissist, was self-deceived into thinking that he was more beautiful, more intelligent, more everything, than all the heavenly hosts (Ezekiel 28:17). Others have followed this line of reasoning: notably, King Nebuchadnezzar, just before he became a psychotic mess (Daniel 4:30), and the Pharisee who prayed such a self-glorifying prayer in the temple (Luke 18:11, 12).
The only way to counter this unlovely trait of narcissism is to foster humility. Only by thinking more highly of others than ourselves can we prevent this all-too-common human trait from growing in our hearts.
It isn’t easy to maintain this humble stance, however. Have you ever felt pride in having acted so humbly in a certain situation? Remember, pride is the opposite of humility. You can’t be humble when you’re proud. And you can’t be proud when you’re humble. It should be easy then; but sadly, it isn’t. Satan sees to that, proud master of narcissism that he is.
Read Ezekiel 28:17, and Isaiah 14:14. Why does love of self become so ugly and contrary to God’s love?
Read 1 Timothy 6:10, 2 Timothy 3:1, 2, and Exodus 20:17. How are love of money and greed related? Is covetousness the same as greed?
Read Luke 18:11-14, Philippians 2:3 and Romans 12:16. Give a “humble” version of the prayer that the Pharisee should have made that day in the temple. How should he have worded his prayer?
Thursday: The Ultimate Futility of Materialism
Perhaps the major problem with our possessions is that we tend to identify ourselves with them. Who hasn’t felt an inflated sense of pride in driving a fancy car or purchasing a new home in a high-class neighborhood? And then there are those who feel much less of themselves, simply because of the shabby part of town they live in or the out-dated vehicle they are forced to drive.
God wants us to identify with Him. He has called us a chosen generation, a special people, His special treasure. Yes, God has identified with us and wants us to identify with Him. That’s what happens in a relationship.
Unfortunately, materialism may take over our identity and any other relationships we may have. Essentially, we are what we own. But let’s remember who owns us. And because the King of the Universe owns us, we don’t have to feel that close to our possessions. Instead, God invites us to feel close to Him.
When we stop defining ourselves by our things, we can begin to let God define us as His chosen, special people. There is nothing more secure than the knowledge that He sent His very own Son to die in our place. How can we not place our trust and identity in such a loving God?
Read Deuteronomy 7:6 and 1 Peter 2:9. What is God’s purpose in making us His special people?
Read Galatians 2:20 and John 15:5. What causes us to identify with Christ? How does this identification benefit us, and those around us?
Read Luke 12:21 and James 5:3. What kind of treasure is not to be stored up in the last days?
Here’s some advice on how to manage the pull of materialism:
- Don’t let money, or possessions, be your god. (Sunday)
- Don’t store up temporary treasures that won’t last. (Monday)
- Don’t be swayed by the alluring nature of worldly merchandise. (Tuesday)
- Don’t let love of money cause you to love yourself more than you should. (Wednesday)
- Don’t forget that you are God’s special treasure, and that’s all that really matters. (Thursday)
Let’s remember that materialism isn’t about how much we have or don’t have. Its our attitude toward our possessions, or even lack of them.
Safeguards for this wiser line of thinking can be found in many Bible verses…
- “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2 NKJV
- “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NKJV
- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NKJV
- “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15 NKJV
As you set up your family budget for the new year, keep these principles in mind. Remember that the “good life” consists of more than what’s in your pocketbook.
Next Week’s Lesson: I See, I Want, I Take
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/