The Cost of Materialism

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. -Matthew 1:21

Dear members and friends,

The apparent truth is that we are all free and can do whatever we desire to do voluntarily. However, both ancient philosophers and modern psychologists agree that we are not as free as we imagine ourselves to be. There are a variety of additions and obsessions that enslave us physically, mentally and spiritually. If you were to identify yourself as a spiritual person, meaning one who seeks a way to nurture and cultivate your inner self, your biggest challenge may be dealing with the overwhelmingly powerful influence of materialism.

I would like to find some wisdom in what it means to be free in a story from Zhuangzi Speaks:

Finding food isn’t easy for the wild pheasant, finding it necessary to travel ten steps before getting a single worm. And even though it has to walk a hundred paces for a drink of water, it still prefers this to being locked up in a cage. A caged pheasant may have enough to eat and drink and its feathers may be bright and shiny, but it will always crave the freedom of being on the outside.

Do any of us believe that a wild pheasant would willingly walk into a cage because life inside is easier? Jesus Christ proclaims and provides us with a path to the truest freedom. Are we willing to give it up because a materially-abundant life appears easier and more appealing? In John 8:31-32, Jesus emphasizes to those who believed in him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” From what will they be set free? It is in Matthew 1:21, “he will save his people from their sins.” The Greek word hamartia is translated as “sins” here. In Greek, hamartia means “to be without a share in, to miss the mark or to err, be mistaken.” One way to understand the meaning of Advent is that God came to Earth to set us free from constantly missing the mark or losing the share in the divine reality. As we all know, after doing a certain thing repeatedly, that thing becomes a habit. And, when a certain act becomes a habit, we rarely reflect and examine it again. In other words, what is described in the Bible as “sin” could be our habitual adaptation of a materialistic life as a primary, or even worse, the only reality.

May the blessing of God be with you and your family!

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee