King's Business - 1966-03

King Midas? Can’t we do without a few of the frills ? In its final analysis, of course, materialism is an attitude, a way of looking at things, a perspec­ tive. Perspectives can become distorted as readily in metropolitan tarpaper shacks as in bi-level bun­ galows out in the new housing project. Material­ ism’s work of dry rot can infest the homes and hearts of people with small means as well as peo­ ple out in suburbia. But what we must remember, now and always, is that it is the elite, the wealthy, the well-to-do who are most susceptible to the wooing of the ma­ terial, for the same reason that tooth decay is more of a danger for the youngster who works at the drug store soda fountain; he’s just nearer the source of trouble. ^ ^ u r concentration on the material is, in a way, understandable. America has enjoyed in the last few decades an unprecedented wave o f economic prosperity, the greatest in mankind’s history. Since early 1961 when we moved out of the latest recession, our gross national annual product has risen by BO billion dollars — an average o f over $300.00 per person. Corporate profits are up, as are investments in savings and loan associations. The end is not in sight by any means. W. M. Kip- linger, editor o f Changing Times, predicts that by 1984 these are the things our national wealth will bring us: television screens hung like pictures from the walls of our rooms, electrostatic wands for the wife to dust the table, automatic dishwash­ ers that can be wheeled to tableside. Virtually all new homes will be air-conditioned — some of them heated, lighted and cooled by rays from the sun with the apparatus on the roof. Windows will close automatically when it rains, bed blankets will cool —as well as heat—paper throw-away clothing and shopping by television from home. As we enjoy this unprecedented prosperity, are there not some serious questions we need to ask ourselves? When millions throughout the world lack proper food and shelter, when many Christian organizations hang perilously near the brink of bankruptcy, when missionaries move through our churches telling stories of need and oppression and want, is “keeping up with the Joneses” that impor­ tant? Cannot we put some controls on our hunger for the status symbol? The picture of poverty is not a pleasant one. Every day ten thousand people throughout the world die of. malnutrition. One and one-half billion of people—more than half the world’s total popula­ tion—live in perpetual hunger. The impact of this ugly picture is slight insofar as most Christians

days of tireless labor, and strenuous study. This is not to say that comfortable living is out of order. The Lord promised, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly,” and if this includes, as it does for a good many of us, a modest share of this world’s goods, we should ex­ hibit humility and gratitude. Yet it is to say that when we let materialism carry us too far, when all our lives become involved in a worship of the “ almighty dollar,” then it is time to call a halt. For years I have listened to a nationwide evan­ gelical broadcast, have contributed to its support and gratefully acknowledge the blessing it has brought thousands. Quite by chance some time ago I visited the home of one of its staff members. The house was gaudy beyond description — expensive, filled from corner to corner with extravagant gad- getry and apparatus. Standing in the middle of this celestial palace, this showplace of opulence, my mind went back to letters which had come to my desk from this broadcast, exhortations which plead for me to give, give, give—so the broadcast could keep on “ one more week.” A haunting question came to mind. Would the officials of this broadcast permit a photo of this home, this dream castle, to appear in one of their letters ? When you stop to think of it, a strange cloud of sophistication has spread over American Protes­ tantism, a sophistication that regards thrift, fru­ gality, doing without and giving until it hurts as cliches and ancient anachronisms instead o f the Biblical concepts they really are. Dissipation and squandering have achieved in Christian circles a dubious and unmistakable respectability. Pounds of literature and streams of oratory on “ stewardship” are heaped upon our churches, but the precise definition of stewardship seems little more than the occasional breaking off of a crumb from our prosperity and tossing it ceremoniously in the direction of the Lord. Sacrificial demeanor, when it is practiced by the member of a .commu­ nist party, is a virtue that from pulpit and press we laud and praise. If we could only serve our cause as fervently as the communists serve theirs, we hear it said, then a new day would be here. But let someone become specific, let him suggest that perhaps our houses are too lavishly constructed, let him wonder aloud about our Christmas spending sprees, well now, that’s becoming super-critical. Look at the luxurious cathedrals that we know to be our churches! Many o f us have chatted with missionary returnees who view these gala temples with open dismay. Couldn’t our building commit­ tees, they ask, demonstrate a fragment o f economy and thrift? Must our churches rival the castles of


MARCH, 1966

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