Sins of affluence
If the recent Power Ball lottery craze showed one thing, it is that people want to get rich and get rich quick.
In fact, there are a lot of people promising instantaneous prosperity these days. Listen to the average politician running for office, and most of their appeals will be to improve the economy and your personal income. Flip through TV channels, and you will hear high flown promises from prosperity preachers of an affluent future for your life. Listen to sales pitches on TV, and you hear how “you too can become a millionaire overnight.”
This should come as no surprise. Our society is one in which we determines a person’s worth—their success or failure—solely on the money they have, on economics. In God’s economy, however, the poor have as much value as the rich (Prov. 22:2).
All of our obsession with material gain has come with a cost and brought forth some characteristic sins of luxury. If you stop to look at the sins gnawing away at society today—pornography, abortion, pride, prayerlessness and greed—each one of these is a symptom of a life corrupted by affluence.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.”
Not only have we forgotten that we need God, we have forgotten that we need each other. In a farming society, parents rely on children and other family members to get the work done. In a modern, luxury-based culture, who needs kids? They are viewed as a burden, not a blessing.
In a peaceful age of luxury, is it a surprise that manliness is viewed as optional and that homosexuality becomes fashionable? In an electronic media age, where so-called sexual gratification is a click away, is there any wonder people are substituting unfaithful lust with faithful love?
The British writer Edward Gibbon, in his classic book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, tells of how the Ancient Romans traded republican liberty, under the balanced Roman Constitution, for the age of affluence under the Caesars.
Gibbon talks about how the Romans moved away from military service and civic responsibility toward a time in which they wanted to have one strong ruler and be left alone to be prosperous and entertained. All of the Romans wanted was “bread and circuses.” The late historian J. Rufus Fears points out that in the same way, Americans want cable TV and plenty of fast food restaurants.
As Christians, it is our job to help people see beyond the here and now and into eternity. Indeed, personal evangelism is all about getting a person above their day-to-day cares and to think about their eternal destiny. Only through Christ, do we have what we need to live our lives and be prepared for death.
No matter how prosperous a society is or is not, what matters most is the soul. While we do pray for a good economy, expanded opportunity and the benefits that wealth and luxuries bring to all classes, we recognize that these are not what matter most. We recognize that if we get the prosperity we pray for, it may be the thing that, in the end, holds us back from Him.