|Exodus 16; Luke 19; Job 34; 2 Corinthians 4
Over the last couple of years, have you followed the story of the Texas teenager who’s attorney’s used an “affluenza” claim in his legal defense for causing a wreck that killed four people? It was a sobering story for me. Beyond making my heart ache for those directly impacted, it made me stop and think about my children and my approach to parenting. What am I teaching, or not teaching them, that will impact in their behavior? Will my influence show up as good or bad choices?
Merriam-Webster defines “affluenza” as the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence regarded especially as a widespread societal problem, such as feelings of guilt, lack of motivation, and social isolation experienced by wealthy people; extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.
I would argue this condition is rampant in America. It extends beyond those who most of us would consider as super affluent, successful or wealthy. For example, almost every kid in my children’s school has some kind of electronic device, gaming system or smart phone. They wear designer clothes. They travel often. They want for very little. My children are no exception. I am a pretty average mother who is trying to teach my kids right from wrong, how to make wise choices, how to be a good friend, to love Jesus, and so much more. These are really hard lessons to teach and to learn, especially when we are focused primarily on ourselves. Most of the time, even if we don’t want to be, we are just down right selfish.
When I started today’s reading in Exodus 16, the first two verses hit me with an unfortunate sense of familiarity. Exodus 16:1-2 says …on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Wait a minute. God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. He miraculously parted the Red Sea, overtook their enemies, and led them safely to freedom on the other side. Less than two months later, they were already grumbling? Weren’t they even the slightest bit grateful for the significance of what had taken place over the last 45 days? Like me, their true selfish nature came through. They couldn’t see past themselves (and their hungry bellies)!
Despite their grumbling, God provided for their needs. He did so in order to try and shift their focus off of themselves to him. Exodus 16:4, Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
Exodus 16:11-12, And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
We are made in the image of God, we are created to glorify him, and he desires relationship with us. Even so, we are often unable to resist the urge to focus on ourselves/our wants/our desires and forget that he is the source of everything we have. As we read on through the Old Testament, we will find the Israelites struggling with this for many years.
Now jump to our New Testament scriptures for today…
Luke 19 starts with the story of Zacchaeus. He was a wee little man (couldn’t resist singing the song in my head) with a deep rooted history of selfishness. He was a tax collector who acquired his riches by overcharging/ripping off taxpayers. Luke 19 doesn’t give a lot of background on why Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, it just states that he was. After spending time with Jesus, we see evidence of Zacchaeus turning his focus away from himself. Luke 19:8-10, And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We don’t have the opportunity to spend time face to face with Jesus. But through his blood, we have direct access to speak to him through prayer all the time. This is the cure for our selfishness!
Where is your focus today? Will you commit to spending time communing with God, letting him help to shift your focus to him?