Who or What Rules?


In a recent conversation with what one might call a concerned, but disenchanted Anabaptist (or Mennonite, if you wish), the current state of affairs among the collective Anabaptist scene in North America was discussed. He made a rather disquieting and thought-provoking comment. He said, “Materialism has taken over.” What do you think—has it? Does this friend have a talking point? What about us—how do we rate?

In another recent conversation with a visiting couple from Europe came the following observation or perception: “Americans live selfishly and give little or insufficient forethought as to where their decisions, acquisitions, and actions will lead. They just go full speed ahead.” This was another weighty and thought-stimulating statement. Is that really the way it is? Is that, in fact, what Americans are like? If so, one would have to conclude that it is, to a large degree, a form or result of materialism. To what degree this is true of the reader might depend largely whether one is just an American or a sincere Christian. That can, and should, make all the difference.

From a religious viewpoint, materialism, simply stated, is the tendency to be more concerned with material (of the earth) things than with spiritual things. This can be anything from empires, acres, and dwellings, to even small details about clothing or any other possessions. It can include reality or perception. It can be only in one’s mind-set, or it can be evidenced by one’s manner of earthly pursuits and attitudes concerning one’s possessions (be they ever so little or much). Sometimes materialism and its evidence are not centered on any one thing in particular. It might be just intense earthly interests and activities. It is not limited to any caliber of ownership or the lack thereof. It can be driven by a perceived need, illicit desires, or by popular trends, fads, and fashions. Remember, it has to do with inappropriate mind occupation with and about earthly things.

A few questions follow. What topics really catch your interest? What wakes you up? What subjects readily grab your attention? What dominates your thoughts? What do you like to talk about? What are the most important things in life for you?

In Romans 6:16, it says: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” That which we allow to dominate our thoughts and actions becomes the ruler in our lives. It can be in a small degree of error or it can grow into a controlling force. And if one is not concerned and alert, we might hardly be aware of it.

Another revealing and perhaps somewhat scary checkpoint comes from Matthew 12:34, where Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” To be interested and concerned about the earthly welfare of others is good, and to be willing to share about how things are going for us can be valuable. Educational discussions about earthly things can be very much in order, but if those things are about all we can talk about, it may be a sign of trouble.

And so, the question remains: who or what rules our lives?

From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 111, No. 01, January 9, 2013