Summary: Affluenza is a dangerous illness that Christians are either afflicted with or susceptible to, and we must be on guard against it.
October 23, 2005
There’s a illess going around. You’ve definitely heard of it, even if not by the name I’ll use today. It’s not the bird flu. It’s not the regular flu for which many of you have already gotten flu shots, or will be getting one soon.
It’s not one of the more notable illnesses, like AIDS, or HPV. But again, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. In fact, everyone has seen it. Everyone has seen its devastating effects. Some have seen it up close and personally. Some have experienced it themselves, or seen a loved one devastated by it. Some of us here this morning are plagued with this illness, perhaps just a mild case only affecting a part of our life, but infected nonetheless.
But the scary thing is how contagious this is, and how susceptible all of us are to this illness. Any of us can get this illness, and all of us have to take ongoing precautions against getting it. If we let our guard down, and don’t take illness prevention steps, it’s likely we’ll be infected.
But, though we’ve heard many warnings about how this illness can affect us, we tend to take it for granted. We tend to think, no, not me. I won’t get this illness. I won’t be affected.
What am I talking about this morning? Let me first read a passage of scripture which gives a warning about this illness, and then I’ll tell you a modern-day name for it.
Turn with me to Luke chapter 12.
Luke 12:15 (NIV) 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."
Here’s our warning against this illness. Watch out, be on your guard, said Jesus, against all kinds of greed. This illness is called affluenza. And our culture, especially our western culture, is really sick with this illness.
Since we live in this culture, it’s hard to avoid exposure to this illness. Now, calling this human tendency to value things more than God affluenza is not my original idea at all. I first read author and speaker Steve Farrar as he wrote of this, writing about affluenza, and its impact on the family, in a couple of his books. He may have heard it elsewhere, that’s just the first time I saw the word used. He wrote of the many warnings in scripture about this illness, and then wondered if anyone had ever seen a warning label on money, like we have on so many other things.
Now, it’s a widely used word, even outside the church, where people recognize how getting caught up in materialism can be a real sickness…it can ruin lives… it can cripple families, it can debilitate and cripple us, and have a ripple effect that destroys us.
Scripture says that too.
1 Tim. 6:9-10 (NIV) 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. 10For 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.
Here are some ideas about what affluenza is:
Americans are infected with an all-consuming virus that threatens our individual and communal well being. It is called affluenza, which is defined as a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste, resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. The symptoms are everywhere, the causes not so mysterious and the treatment available, but sadly there is little evidence that many Americans recognize they suffer from affluenza and even less evidence that those who are aware will actually take significant steps towards recovering from the disease.
Symptoms of affluenza include: shopping fever, bankruptcies, family upheaval, an ache for meaning, the consumerizing of our children and a loss of community and satisfaction accompanying our lives.
Even PBS, hardly a bastion of spiritual truth, noted the problems with affluenza in a special report a few years ago:
This report called affluenza a dysfunctional relationship with money/wealth, or the pursuit of it. This program noted that affluenza is characterized by:
- an inability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration
- a false sense of entitlement
- loss of future motivation
- preoccupation with externals
- rampant materialism and consumerism
I think an example of affluenza.is our society’s infatuation with the lottery. I read that Oklahomans spent more than $5 million in the first five days of lottery ticket sales in our state, the 41st of the 50 states to give in to affluenza in this particular form. This also shows that affluenza is not just a rich peoples illness. Most of the people who play the lottery don’t have the money to waste. But they’re infected with this illness, which apparently also makes you stupid, because, against all logic, against incredible odds, those with affluenza seem to think that it could happen to them…that they could be that big winner, and never have to work again a day in their lives.