Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Idols of our Culture

I have been teaching/preaching this late Summer on the seven deadly sins. Last week and this week as I preach about the deadly sin of lust and the deadly sin of avarice (Greed), I am deeply aware that lust and greed are two of the more deeply ingrained idols of our modern American culture. We are a sex saturated society. Parents struggle with raising PG kids in an R rated and often X rated world. We are inundated with the pop culture idea that love equals sex and our youth are expected to mature and become sexually active at a younger and younger age. Apart from the biblical expectations it is reasonable to ask: "how is this working out for us?" There are over 200 sexually transmitted diseases, rising teen pregnancy, an escalating abortion rate, and increasingly ruined lives would suggest to me that it is not working out very well at all. A reconsideration of our society's expectations might be in order.

This week I am looking at the deadly sin of Avarice (greed). I remember the Michael Douglas character in Wall Street declaring that "greed is good." We are a culture that wants more and more and bigger and better. We seem to believe that we are entitled to consume all we want whenever we want. Commercials prompt us to buy, buy, buy, and consumer debt continues to climb. Greed is a desire to possess, amass and keep for ourselves. Greed plays out in our material things, our homes, what we drive and, even our spirituality. Greed gets mixed with soft soap Christianity to produce an interesting hybrid called "The prosperity gospel." This teaching suggests that "God wants you to be rich!" There are many biblical verses and passages that are drawn on to support this position. Fortunately (for our soul's sake) there are at least as many to suggest otherwise.

The Biblical solution for greed is faithful stewardship. But I think the deepest cure is generosity. Learning to live life with open hands and giving generously out of what we have is the fastest cure to being controlled by our stuff. The truth is clear in a society driven by greed the best way to break the pattern is to learn to give it away. Many of our societies richest people (from the old days of Andrew Carnegie to the modern Bill Gates) have taken what avarice has amassed and given most of it away. For us who may be on the middle to lower end of the economic strata we also must learn to live life with open hands.

How to be generous? First, get your financial house in order. Clear your debts, stop overspending, learn to give stuff away. Jesus put it rather succinctly: "For whoever wants to save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25)."

Learning to overcome these things that can hold us down is one of the critical keys to freedom!

Brother BJ

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