27 July, 2009

Have you contracted Affluenza?

Neither a typo nor a new strain of the swine flu, affluenza is not a sickness in the traditional sense.

I heard this word being used recently and thought it was a catchy way of describing a condition that ails Christians and Non-Christians alike.

A (non-Christian) definition from Wikipedia:

Affluenza, a portmanteau of affluence and influenza, is a term used by critics of consumerism. Sources define this term as follows:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

So in other words, a clever name for materialism.

It is interesting that materialism is usually associated with those that have much and are focused on getting more. But really the basic definition of materialism or affluenza is being focused on what you don't have.
  • Those that have much and are focused on getting more
  • Those that have little and are focused on getting more
While we lived in the states, there were lots of examples of those that would be considered rich by most standards and were focused on getting more. More cars, more houses, more televisions, more Ipods, more stuff. I am afflicted by the dreaded affluenza at times as well.

Here in Central America, there are many examples of those that are poor by most standards and are also focused on getting more.

While the rich man has the resources to buy more and does, the poor man does not have the resources to buy more. The problem is that the focus of both men is the same, they are focused on what they don't have.

The world is driven to try to fill a void in their life that can only be filled by a relationship with Jesus Christ. So what about Christians? What kind of void are we trying to fill through the accumulation of more things?

Could it be the same lack in our own lives? Not a lack of salvation, but rather a lack of a real, intimate relationship with our God?

So what am I focused on? What are you focused on? Have you contracted the dreaded affluenza?

Let me prescribe to you the medicine which I too must take far too often.

01 July, 2009

Am I the man? I AM the man. Part III


Stop! If you haven't yet read Part I or Part II of this mini-series, you should read them first before reading this post. It will make much more sense and be a better investment of your time when read within the context of the other two posts.

Part I
Part II

So we left off in Part II talking about the story that the Prophet Nathan used to confront King David about his sin with Bathsheba. We talked about the 3 main characters and the oft-overlooked 4th character of The Traveller.

This time we are going to look at the real-life parallel in the life of David to discover what this Traveller represents for us and what application we can make to our lives from this story.

The components of the real story go like this (paraphrased):

1. King David is walking around on the roof top of his palace while his army is away at war (we will save the topic of why David wasn't with them for another time).

2. He is looking down into the city and he happens to see a beautiful woman bathing herself.
Here I am going to make two assumptions about what happened that cannot be supported nor refuted in the scriptures:
  • Assumption #1 David was not looking for trouble, his glance simply came to rest on something he had no business looking at. He made the decision to sin in continuing to look and then act upon it further, but the fact that he happened to see her bathing was not necessarily sin. Just as if we are innocently walking down the street and have something inappropriate come into view, the issue is what happens next. Do we keep on looking, or do we look away?
  • Assumption #2 Bathsheba was also not looking for trouble, she was simply taking a bath. It was very likely that many "private" places ceased to be private if viewed from a sufficient altitude. The place where she was bathing might have been quite private unless viewed from somewhere up high, such as the roof of the palace. So I am assuming that Bathsheba had no ulterior motives for bathing as she did, other than to be clean.
3. David sees Bathsheba bathing, sees that she is beautiful to look upon, and decides to keep looking.

4. Desires of a sexual nature are stirred within David and he acts upon them by inquiring as to who she is, and then sending messengers to bring her to him.

5. David brings Bathsheba into the palace and satisfies his desires with this woman who is the beloved wife of another man.

6. David tries and fails to cover up his sin with Bathsheba, then resorts to having Uriah the husband killed in battle.

So where does The Traveller fit into the story? Which component of the real life events does he represent?

Let's review briefly combining both story lines:

1. David is The Rich Man. He has many wives and concubines at his beck and call.

2. Uriah is The Poor Man. He has one cherished wife (that we know about) named Bathsheba.

3. Bathsheba is The Cherished Lamb. She is loved and cared for by her husband Uriah.

4. The Traveller comes to visit The Rich Man and needs to be fed.
Here is where I believe we see the role of The Traveller in the real life events.
5. The Traveller shows up and needs to be fed. David sees Bathsheba and a sexual desire is stirred within him.
So The Traveller (in this case) is the sexual desire that was stirred up within David after seeing Bathsheba. Without becoming too graphic, think this through with me for a moment.
Is our naturally occuring sex drive something good or something bad when used within the biblical context of marriage? Something good obviously. Used outside of the biblical context of marriage, it is sin. Clearly.

David sees something that "gets his motor running", so to speak, by innocently glancing down from the roof and seeing something he shouldn't have seen, and didn't intend to see.

The Traveller arrives at the Rich Man's house and needs to be fed. A sexual desire that in and of itself is not wrong arrives within David.

Now the question is: Which lamb will feed The Traveller? One of the many lambs from the Rich Man's own flocks of which he is rightfully entitled to, or the Cherished Lamb that does not belong to him.

So the question is: How will David feed this naturally occurring desire? By being with one of his many wives or concubines of which he is rightfully entitled to, or the woman Bathsheba that is loved and cherished by her husband Uriah?
6. The Rich Man takes the Cherished Lamb from the Poor Man to feed The Traveller. David chooses to sin in looking more at Bathsheba, inquiring after her, and ultimately bringing her to the palace.
Remember in Part II when we talked about how things would have been different if the Rich Man had simply fed The Traveller one of the many lambs he rightfully owned? No harm, no foul right? The Traveller is fed. The Rich Man is happy. The Poor Man is happy. And The Cherished Lamb goes on being cherished by the Poor Man.

The Traveller did not doing anything wrong did he? He was just hungry. The sin was committed by the Rich Man in how he chose to feed The Traveller.

So how would the story of David be different if he had decided to feed the desire in a righteous way?

Imagine with me how the story would have been different had David accidently seen Bathsheba. His "desire" is stirred. He goes and spends some time with one of his many wives or concubines, as he was righteously entitled to do. No harm, no foul right? The desire is fed. David is happy. Uriah is happy. And Bathsheba goes on being cherished by her own husband Uriah.

So what does The Traveller represent for us? I believe The Traveller represents naturally occurring, God designed desires that occur in us and that in and of themselves are not sinful. The question is: How do you feed the desire?

We have seen the example of sexual desires within the Biblical context of marriage which should obviously be fed by your own spouse.

But what about some other naturally occurring desires?
  • To eat food? Enough, but not too much. Eating the right things in the right quantities. Gluttony is where this naturally occurring desire becomes sin.
  • To provide for our family? How many men take this natural desire and allow it to destroy their lives? More than food, shelter, clothing and care, now it becomes bigger and bigger homes and a new car.
What are some other God-given desires that can be fed the wrong way?

So The Traveller was not bad. The Rich Man was wrong for the way he chose to feed the Traveller.

The initial part of David's desire (prior to looking more, inquiring, and fetching) was not wrong. David was wrong for the way he chose to feed the desire.

Are there any God-given desires in your life that you are feeding the wrong way?

Let's feed them God's way so it does not need to be said to us, "Thou art the man".
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