The second “tooth” of the wolf that Sittema talks about is materialism. Secularism is the idea that the here and now is all that’s important. Materialism says that stuff is all that’s important. So, secularism has more to do with time, whereas materialism has more to do with space (see p. 55). The problem here is that the church is incredibly wealthy in the West. Basically, if you have any discretionary income at all, you are wealthy, and that would describe most Americans. But stuff breeds greed for more stuff. It is intoxicating to have more and more. And yet, those who are honest with themselves would admit that it’s never enough. John D. Rockefeller, a very rich American, was asked how much is enough, and his answer was the classic statement of the problem of materialism: “Just a little bit more.” It will not fill the God-shaped hole in anyone’s life.
The advertising world banks on materialism, because it uses the classic hook of dissatisfaction with what you have in order to entice you to want more. The danger here, as Sittema points out, is that materialism denies the spiritual dangers inherent in wealth (p. 58). Sittema is not here saying that wealth is inherently evil. Rather, he is saying that with much comes much temptation, and he’s certainly correct in this assessment. In the rest of the chapter, Sittema outlines a biblical response. I think the most helpful point here that he mentions in combating materialism is the principle of biblical stewardship, which includes a view of one’s possessions as not one’s own, but merely entrusted to us by God to be used for His kingdom. This makes giving away possessions and wealth much easier: it’s not really ours to begin with. Phillip Ryken would put it this way: “What’s mine is God’s.”
And, secondly, we need to realize what a terrible idol wealth has become, and we need to identify it and repent of our own idolatry. Our idolatry may not be as blatant as Rockefeller’s: it may come in the form of desiring our own comfort at the expense of the kingdom of God. But comfort is often just another way of saying “a little bit more.” Comfort is one idol I see up here in the Midwest. And it is not hard to find out why: North Dakota is absolutely brutal in the winter-time. It is not exactly comfortable. But people usually build things in order to make them comfortable here. There are different ways this idol makes itself manifest elsewhere in the US, so I’m not singling out North Dakota, by any means. But that’s just where I am, and that’s what I see.