Living in a Material World
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
Coming from a poor farmer’s family in Henan Province, Wei Feng dreamed of attaining “the good life.” For him, that meant a good education, followed by a high-paying job, a pretty wife and a comfortable lifestyle, in short, nothing like his hard upbringing in China’s heartland.
Against all odds, Wei Feng succeeded in attaining all of that. As a child, he studied hard and scored well on the college entrance exam, high enough to attend a prestigious university. After graduation, he went to Hong Kong for his MBA, followed by securing a lucrative job with an American company operating in China. A few years ago, he married his long-term, live-in girlfriend, Sun Ling. They live in a spacious high rise apartment in Shanghai.
Wei Feng had it all. He advanced to the executive level of his job. He made more money than he ever dreamed. He and Sun Ling vacationed every spring in Hainan Island, China’s “Hawai’i.” He drove a shiny BMW and was the envy of his friends back home.
But he still had a nagging sense of emptiness. Wei Feng had everything, but was unfulfilled. His pursuit of material excess temporarily satisfied his physical needs but left a constant gnawing in his soul.
Materialism is quickly supplanting atheism, Communism and Confucianism as the dominant worldview in China. China’s unprecedented economic growth has had many positive results (for example, almost universally raising the standard of living in the country), but this has come at a great cost as well.
The spiritual vacuum created by decades of atheism once made for fertile ground for the gospel. Now, however, many are turning to the enticements of materialism instead. As seen by its effect on the West, materialism is powerful in its ability to keep people in spiritual darkness. It leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of pursuing wealth and accumulating more.
Whatever it takes – cheating, bribing or sacrificing family life – it doesn’t matter as long as it helps one get ahead. But the fallout can be harsh: mass corruption driven by greed, broken marriages, and dissension between poor and rich.
Sadly, materialism is influencing some in the church as well, whether through the preaching of an unbiblical health-and-wealth gospel or through distracting believers from the eternal treasure of Christ with the temporal treasures of this world.
Thankfully for Wei Feng, God used his restlessness to draw him to Christ. Looking for answers that atheism and materialism couldn’t provide, Wei Feng began reading the Bible at the urging of a Christian neighbor. He previously thought Christianity was an outdated foreign religion, but now saw how precious the Good News really was. God has transformed his life. He now lives not for himself, but Christ and his purposes. May many others follow his example in turning from the idols of materialism to the living God.
- Intercede for the Chinese people, asking that they would not be blinded by the allures of material excess.
- Pray that biblical values of generosity and serving others would supplant self-seeking materialism.
- Ask for God’s protection over the Chinese church, that the prosperity “gospel” would not take root. The Chinese church has long been a model of embracing suffering and the cross for the advance of the gospel. May it continue to be so.