Spiritual Disdain for Materialism

January 24, 2008 by  


By Elder George

Media headlines blare out issues with an intensity that gives them almost life and death significance and therefore demand our immediate attention. These issues focus on the economy and money and all that they affect. The media informs us of interest rates, foreclosures, recession, joblessness, gross domestic product (GDP), inflation, the condition of the stock market, and retirement plans. All matters that they consider vitally significant to our well being. They do not tell us what we as individuals can do about these conditions; instead they focus on the economic Lamas of Washington and the materialistic Priesthood whom they work for in the hopes of gaining answers to issues that will improve our lives, or at least protect us.

The media does not address such matters as honor, truth, and manhood—the values that endure. They do not address morality and matters of right and wrong. They do not address the national angst spreading rapidly as a result of the destruction of the family. The media, as representatives of a materialistic elite draw our attention away from matters spiritual and the concept of a divine entity to which we owe our existence.

Spiritual leaders from the earliest of times have eschewed material wealth. Hillel, the famous scholar of the Talmud lived in abject poverty and could not even afford to pay for instruction in the Torah in his youth. One of the great Khurasani ascetics Ibrahim ibn Adham, gave up immense wealth to live a life of extreme poverty. At the time of his conversion to asceticism he said, “I came across one of my father’s shepherds, and took from him his woolen tunic and put it on. I gave him my horse and all that I had with me in exchange, and turned my steps to Mecca.”

We all know the story of the Buddha, who gave up his father’s almost unimaginable wealth, to live a life of material poverty. When a rich man asked Jesus what he must do to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus told him to give away all that he had and follow him. The rich man could not do it and Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Surah 2 of the Koran abounds in instruction to not become attached to wealth. Some of these instructions are …..those that give away their wealth from a desire to please God are like a garden on a hillside……..give in alms of the wealth that you have lawfully earned…………whatever alms you give shall rebound to your own advantage.

Every prophet lived a simple life and every religious text warns of the danger of attachment to the material world. Yet the worship of Western materialism grows unabated. All who adopt the Western culture whether as immigrants to the West or as a part of change in their motherlands trade family for money, and communal love for individual gain.

Few fathers now even attempt to raise a chaste woman capable of being a loyal wife and a loving mother; instead they brag about their daughter’s education and her independence. Few boys are raised to become responsible husbands and devoted fathers; instead they are judged by how much money they make and what they own.

Western materialism crumbles before our very eyes; yet we see it not. The hour is late. God will not be mocked.

Elder George’s website is www.mensaction.net and he can be reached at 212-874-7900 ext. 1329.

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