- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently at Covenant Life Church by pastor Joshua Harris:

What is affluenza? Affluenza is a nifty little word that some clever sociologist created by mixing two different words together. The word affluence means having a great deal of money. Influenza is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease. When you mash these two together, you get affluenza, which is a useful word for describing the problems generated by a rich consumer culture that has an endless hunger for more and more stuff. Affluenza is the disease of greed. It’s the materialistic mind-set that says getting more money and possessions is the ultimate aim of life. Affluenza is the spirit of our age, and it has infected all of us.

Jesus never condemned wealth in and of itself, but He knows how easily our hearts can make money our god. Jesus knows, and He wants us to understand that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hindrances to spiritual life and spiritual growth is material wealth and the temptations that it brings with it.

God wants us to see that when it comes to money problems, our greatest concern should be avoiding the pitfalls of covetousness. Jesus seizes this opportunity to help us understand the deceptive work of greed, and He tells us three things.

No. 1: Greed lies to us. And it tells us that what matters most in life is how much stuff we have. That is the essential lie of greed. Greed says that the quality of a person’s life is measured in the size of their bank account and the quality and quantity of their possessions. In Luke 12:15, Jesus warns us not to fall prey to this mind-set. He says: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness. Watch out for it, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

In other words, watch out — don’t believe the lie of greed. Don’t buy into it, because if you do, you’ll pass by what truly matters in life. And that’s the second thing that greed does.

No. 2: Greed blinds us. It blinds us to what is truly important in life; it blinds us to spiritual realities. And Jesus illustrates this by telling us a story of a rich man who has believed the lie of greed.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t say that having money or being skilled at making money is wrong. Many godly men and women in the Bible, as well as in church history, have been wealthy, have been entrepreneurs, and have been skilled at making money. The issue is how we view and use the money that we have. The rich man’s problem is not that he’s rich; his problem is that he’s selfish. He hoards what he has, he uses it for his own pleasure, and he puts his trust in his wealth. Do you notice how everything the man thinks and does revolves around himself? He has the “I, I, I, my, my, my” syndrome.

We’ve all heard the saying hundreds of times, possibly, that on their deathbed, no one ever wishes that they spent more time at the office. And we always say, “Oh yes, that’s true,” and we nod our heads. But how many of us work in a way that contradicts that truth because we want just a little more? I’ve never met an adult who looked back on his or her childhood and wished that their parents had spent more time away from them so that they could have had more toys or money; but I do meet adults who wish their parents had been around more.

We can see the lie of greed much more easily when it’s functioning in someone else, can’t we? Maybe you can see it clearly in your parents, or in a relative or friend. But do we see it in ourselves? And do we see the subtle ways that it can shape our life? How many of the decisions and the actions that your family take are based on the lie of greed — that getting more stuff is going to make you happier, healthier and a better person? All of us need to stop and ask the question: Where is greed blinding me?

Point No. 3: Greed ultimately destroys us. It might be tempting to think that the worst consequence of greed is a few too many days at the office. That doesn’t sound that bad. For some, greed might seem like the one sin with variable consequences: You do those other sins, you get into trouble; but if you slip up when it comes to greed, you just wind up with cool stuff.

But it’s worse than that. Greed doesn’t just lead to regret in this life; it ends in eternal loss at the end of life. Greed operates on the assumption that all that matters in this world are the rewards that it can give us. But in the story that Jesus tells, He shows us that this is not true. He gives us a glimpse into what comes after death for this rich man. He lets us see beyond the grave. What is God going to speak over your life when you die? The rich fool lived for money and ignored God. He overlooked the needs of others and lived for himself. He prepared the ultimate retirement, but he neglected to prepare for eternity. What a tragedy — and only death opens his eyes to the lies and the blindness brought about by greed. But it’s too late for regret, too late for remorse. The rich fool had gained the whole world and lost his soul.

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