Affluenza


Affluenza (1997) is an hour long documentary about the dangers of greedy consumerism. One scene features the Potomac Mills Mall in Northern Virginia (near Washington D.C.).

First, let me confess I have been there, more than once. The place is huge, it actually is divided into neighborhoods to help shoppers keep from getting lost. In a state with Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, a number of key Civil War battle sites, the Eastern Shore, and Virginia Beach; Potomac Mills Mall is noted as the top tourist attraction in Virginia.

Second, I want to share two quotes from the documentary caught my attention:

The narrator says, “Seventy percent of us visit malls each week—more than attend churches or synagogues. On average we shop 6 hours a week and spend only 40 minutes playing with our children.”

A Potomac Mills TV commercial is referenced where an announcer says, “Shopping is therapy. Listen to that little voice in your head. Shop. Shop. Shop. Shop. You can buy happiness. Just don’t pay retail for it.”

I close my thoughts today with three passages of scripture that came to mind as I was reading about this documentary in an Preaching Connection email I received yesterday.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'” (Luke 12:15).

“Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”
(Acts 2:45).

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Affluenza can be deadly. I pray God will purify my heart from whatever greed may be lurking.

License Plate Theology

Saturday morning Lourene and I had stop by Kroger and pick up a few groceries. I parked the car and we began walking toward the door when I was stopped in my tracks. I have a habit of trying to park in the outer sections of a store’s parking lot so as to get a little exercise on the way in. So, we had a pretty good walk to get to the store.

Well, there was this car parked in the lot that we had to pass on our way into the store. While passing by I got a glimpse of the front license plate. Understand that the state of Tennessee does not require an official state-issued license plate on the front of a vehicle. So many people have displayed a front license plate to send a message or to demonstrate their loyalties. For example, I have a Baltimore Orioles plate on the front of my car in order to indicate I am longsuffering and have a sense of humor.

Anyway, we pass this car and I get a look at the license plate and I stop in my tracks, thinking I must have misread the words.

Surely it doesn’t say what I think it said!?!

I called for Lourene to stop, explaining that she had to get a look at this car. We both go in for a closer look. Lourene gasped. My fears were confirmed. The license plate message was exactly as I had thought.

The message on the front of this brand new Jaguar was a simple and straightforward theological statement: “I’m not spoiled, God just loves me!”

O God, save us from ourselves.

Living More Simply

Life has become too complicated for some people. So they are taking steps to live more simply. One group of friends met together for a potluck dinner one night and made a pact to buy nothing new except for food, medicine and toiletries for the next six months. Turns out they were able to extend their agreement for another six months. They made it an entire year without buying anything but necessities.

Their story got out and before long there were groups springing up across the country. Seems a lot of people are tired of how complicated life can be when in response to the seductive messages of our culture we become consumed with consuming. Judith Levine even wrote a book (which I have not read) chronicling her experience Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.

Sometimes my life is just too complicated, too. While I am not ready to sign a pact, I feel the need to ask God for a renewed sense of perspective. How can I simplify without letting the process make me more rather than less focused on things? What do I really need? How do I find the balance between being grateful to God for material blessings and becoming attached to them? When does saving become hoarding? What stuff can I do without?

God, please give me renewed perspective.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Leaving My Stuff

“Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.”
Hebrews 13:5 The Message

According to a recent article in Florida Today, people are leaving their stuff everywhere. Cab drivers find all kinds of items left by fares. In just two weeks, Denver International Airport collected 74 cell phones and 96 laptops forgotten at security checkpoints. Florida airports report people forgetting their jackets there, perhaps due to the warm weather. People even forget to reclaim their shoes after an evening at the bowling alley.

God wants us to enjoy blessings He provides, but maybe we just have too much stuff.

Why?

Why do we seem to have a constant thirst for more and more?

Could it be that we have forgotten God’s words of assurance that He will never leave us.

Maybe we ought to leave behind some of our possessions. Intentionally. Purposefully.

Simplify and learn to be content with God.

What do I need to leave behind?