By Not Known

The young sometimes complain that their parents are obsessed about making money and need
to enjoy themselves more. Parents sometimes complain that their young are
obsessed about having a good time and need to settle down and be serious about
career and savings.

Both complaints have their points and both are connected.

A preoccupation with wealth represents economic materialism. This is a view that
meaning and fulfilment are found in ‘things‘. A preoccupation with a good time
represents hedonism. This is a view that meaning and fulfilment are found in
pleasure. Both these preoccupations reflect philosophical materialism. This is
the view that the only reality is material. Both economic materialism and
hedonism see no spiritual dimension to life. They are two sides of the one
bleak ideology that is rampant in Singapore and in many other places.

materialism and hedonism have a historic connection in Singapore. It was easy
to be preoccupied with building personal and national wealth in the difficult
days after independence. It is different for the younger generation. They have
inherited prosperity from their parents’ sacrifices. They assume wealth and have
moved on to the next stage of philosophical materialism – pleasure.

The Bible
speaks about both forms of materialism. The writer of Ecclesiastes searches for
meaning through possessions and pleasure (EC 2:1-10). His conclusion is in a
terrible Hebrew word – hebel (2:11). This word can be translated ‘emptiness‘,
nothingness‘ or ‘vanity‘.

Ecclesiastes challenges philosophical materialism at
several points. God has put a sense of eternity in the human heart (3:11). We
should remember our Creator in our youth (12:1). Life is to be lived in the fear
and obedience of God (12:13).

Both old and young need to learn from the
criticism of the other, for both are partially right. But both are tragically
wrong in their worldview. Both need to learn from God. Both need to widen their
worldview by seeing spiritual realities. Both need to escape hebel by
remembering their Creator and responding to him with awe and obedience.