The Problem with Affluence

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” – Mark 14:32-42

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Yes, that’s a Maserati emblem on the rear pillar of this very nice (and expensive!) car. Photo taken in San Diego, CA | March 2017


Often, when Diane and I enjoy a bottle of wine, I will be reminded of days gone by, when we would stop and think twice before spending $5 on a bottle of wine. Today our threshold of thinking twice is a bit higher, but we still tend toward lesser expensive wine. Once in a great while we will splurge on a really good bottle of wine, but that is a real treat – for a very special occasion. Still, when I am reminded of those more spartan days, I will say a prayer of thanks to God, that he has given us the good fruit of the vine, and that we are able to afford such a luxury.

Too often, however, we enjoy the luxuries of life with little thought of how rich and affluent we are. It’s very easy to forget to thank God for his gifts in the face of the more pressing issues of life: getting our cell phones to work, redoing our landscaping, or other accoutrements of the good life. An even more grave result of a life of affluence is how easily we can be numbed to our need for God by the barrage of opulent pleasures and worldly favor.

We may not think of the disciples living in the lap of luxury, but their post-Passover meal fullness all too quickly gave way to a spiritual lethargy that numbed their desires and awareness of their need for God’s favor, protection, and salvation. They would soon face grave temptation. Soon the events of this evening would unfold in a most frightening and chaotic manner. It’s difficult to find God when you’re numbed with earthly pleasures – even when you are rudely rousted out of your naive stupor.

You might think that your level of affluence is nothing – especially compared with that of the rich and famous. Your car may have no standing next to the cars on Top Gear. But even the disciples who lived a fairly simple life found ways to distract themselves by the world’s comforts. Truth is we can all find places of affluence in our daily lives.

Thank God that Jesus never got distracted by the things of this world. Though Satan even tempted him with all the glory and riches of the world, he refused, and remained faithful to God. My hope is that we all would follow Jesus’ example of leaning on God’s word, trusting his goodness, seeking his rule and reign, and remain faithful to his commandments. When we fail we can be thankful that Jesus never did fail, and that he took the cup of bitter wine and drained it for us, offering us the opportunity to drink freely of the water of life and enjoy the rich wine and finest food in the life of the world to come (cf. Isaiah 25:6-8).

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