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Living In Creative Antagonism To The Culture Around Us (Part 2)

Watch out for the hidden dangers of wealth!

Paul understood just how powerful and seductive the culture around us can be. If the tangles of the culture, especially as expressed in wealth, were easy to recognize, there would be no need for warning. But, opiate is the correct word for it. For it appears as something reasonable, necessary, or even mandatory. But, in its clutches comes slavery. I am not saying that culture is sin. But, the sin that culture can and does carry, brings with it more than just how we order life. It brings with it, the seductive challenge to organize life without God.

Specifically, Paul points out three messages inside of wealth that are not true. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant."

The culture that we live in wants to condition us to believe that somehow the wealth that comes to us, we deserve! Paul says the opposite. On all sides, we are bombarded through the mass marketing of a worldview that wants us to be the ultimate consumers. They want to influence not simply the buying and selling of commodities, but our expectations.

It comes at us all of the time. That car, you deserve it. That new house, you deserve it. That new job, you deserve it. That retirement, you deserve it. Even incredibly, that new church, you deserve it! Being able to buy and use it, is not the problem from the Bible’s point of view, as we will see later in this same passage. But, allowing the culture of wealth expectation to convince us that we have done something to deserve what we can afford to buy, is the problem!

".....nor to put their hope in wealth" Again all around us comes the consumptive message. Thirty-year loans, lifetime warranties, built to last, are slogans meant to seduce us into ignoring the obvious: nothing is built to last! But, that is the dream that Man wants to believe, that the world around us has been here for mega-billions of years, and will be here for billions more. And, if Man can learn to dominate the essences of life in DNA and genomes, then Man too can live longer. It is the epitome of the hope of Man, that his significance will be defined in his humanity, its creations and possessions, and not in his likeness to the image of God within him.

"....but to put their hope in God." All that we end up creating and possessing was never intended to be a substitute for the eternal hope that God has promised. This may be the most damaging of the trilogy of lies: that there is anything that can actually take the place of the God vacuum in the deepest recesses of human life. In spite of the Bible’s clear declaration that we are created in the image of God, were intended for relationship with Him, find our meaning defined in Him, and, can live with Him forever after this life, Man finds this message repulsive.

As Paul says in Romans 1:18-20, “But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse." (The Message)

What is it about this kind of "substitution" of Man’s desires that makes it so lethal? Romans 1: 21-25, “What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, “If that's what you want, that's what you get.” It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes! (The Message) 

Solutions to the challenge next time.

Dwight Smith, Author

Dwight Smith

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