Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
The Influence of Materialism
Texts: 1 John 2:16, 17; Luke 14:26–33; 12:15–21; Deuteronomy 8:10–14; 1 Timothy 6:10; John 15:5; Galatians 2:20
January 6, 2018
So, who were some of the richest people in the world in 2017? Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, passed up Bill Gates this last year to become the world’s richest man. His net worth is estimated at $90.6 billion. Bezos owns 17 percent of Amazon along with a private space company called Blue Origin. This last year Amazon purchased an upscale grocery chain Whole Foods for about $13.7 billion. Bezos’ started Amazon, the gigantic online shopping store, out of his garage in Seattle.
Bill Gates was born in Seattle and has loved computers since he was a kid. His friend, Paul Allen, co-founded Microsoft with Bill in 1975. Gates was CEO until 2000, but now serves as a member of the board. His net worth is about $90 billion. Amancio Ortega is the third richest man in the world with a net worth of $83.2 billion. He’s a Spanish self-made billionaire known for founding Inditex fashion group, a retail clothing company. He comes in at $83.2 billion and is followed by Warren Buffett at $74.3 billion and then Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame) who has a net worth of $72.2 billion. 
Our Sabbath school lesson this quarter is on stewardship and the first lesson of the quarter is titled, “The Influence of Materialism.” We are warned in Scripture to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). It’s tempting to apply this text to people with great wealth, but in truth we’re all tempted by materialism. And let’s not forget, money isn’t the root of all evil. It is the “love” of money that creates problems (see 1 Timothy 6:10).
We can’t really judge the motives of the heart since we are unable to read the minds of others, but we can observe how people spend or share their wealth. It might be helpful to note that Jeff Bezos’s parents, Jackie and Mike Bezos, operate the Bezos Family Foundation, which supports youth education. Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, co-chair the world’s largest private charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They also encourage other billionaires (along with Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg who plan to give away 99 percent of their wealth) to donate large portions of their money to charity through “The Giving Pledge.”
The challenge of owning so much money is that people begin to think more highly of themselves than they ought. We can become deceived about our true value and status when our pockets are full of cash. But money, in and of itself, does not bring us any closer (or further away) from the kingdom of heaven. It does not change God’s view of us. A person who is poor has an equal standing before God. We are not measured by money but by motives. That’s why the widow who gave two mites (“all she had”) gave more than the wealthy Pharisees.