Somehow I can’t quite imagine it coming down to this level, but it did. Harold and Frances Mountain stood, well…actually “sat”, on the floor of a Las Vegas courtroom and delved up what was left of their belongings – a $5,000 Beanie Baby collection. The couple had finalized their divorce some four months previously, but hadn’t been able to reach an agreement over the stuffed toys. When Harold filed a motion to get his share of the BB stockpile, family court Judge Gerald Hardcastle said “enough!” Hardcastle ordered the two to solve their disagreement by piling their possessions on the floor and dividing them up one by one. “Because you folks can’t solve it, it takes the services of a…judge, a bailiff and a court reporter.” According to the news, Maple the Bear went first. A few spectators in the gallery quietly snickered when the selection was made. Somehow I missed the humor though. A marriage had been severed (Matthew 19:6b; Malachi 2:16) and all that was left were some brightly-colored cloth and dried beans.
Evidence would suggest materialism was at least one factor in the dissolution of the Mountain’s marital relationship. “Materialism” – according to Webster’s it is, “the tendency to be more concerned with material than with spiritual values.” On one occasion Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness…” (Luke 12:15; cf. Romans 3:9; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; James 4:2; 2 Peter 2:14). To engage in covetousness, Greek – pleonexia, is to engage in the greedy desire for more things. /1 Paul said, “Covetousness…is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5). An idolatrous person worships or bows to the inferior (1 Corinthians 8:4; Jeremiah 10:14); he renders ultimate devotion to an object of limited value. Therefore, materialism is a “bowing” to the greedy desire for and pursuit of things – and exalts such above God. “There is a sort of religious purpose, a devotion of the soul” to tangible, temporal concerns. /2 One brother appropriately calls materialism “the gospel of the flesh.” /3
“…Man is bowing down figuratively to an idol when he keeps for himself much. It is remarkable [that] covetousness is listed with fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire; all such passions so detestable within the heart of a Christian. Yet, it is listed there evidently because it is what turns the heart of a Christian away from God! It dethrones God from His rightful place. When a man seeks happiness in things, possessions, money, etc., he has dethroned God from his heart.” /4
While our modern-day idols may share little physical similarity to their crude counterparts of wood and stone (today ours could be made of brightly colored cloth and beans), we – like Harold and Frances Mountain – pay them a certain reverence, don’t we? And although the position of our bodies may be somewhat different (in that we do not physically bow), the position of our hearts is essentially the same.
Friends, materialism is a threat to the stability of our marriages, and the Word is clear, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). “Keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Are there any idols in your house? What do they look like? Perhaps Maple the Bear?
/1 Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ’76), p. 177.
/2 J. Noel Merideth, “The Beauty of Holiness and the Spirit of Praise,” The Book of Colossians, (Lebanon, TN: Sain Publications, Getwell church of Christ, ’86), p. 217.
/3 James Meadows, “The Menace of Materialism to World Evangelism,” Spiritual Sword, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Memphis, TN: Getwell church of Christ, July, ’74), p. 30.
/4 Roy Lanier, Jr., A Little Contribution (Montrose, CO: Lee and Mark Hanstein, ’92), p. 28