Saint Augustine said:
[S]ins, however great and detestable they may be, are looked upon as trivial, or as not sins at all, when men get accustomed to them; and so far does this go, that such sins are not only not concealed, but are boasted of, and published far and wide…And so in our own times: many forms of sin, though not just the same as those of Sodom and Gomorrha, are now so openly and habitually practised, that not only dare we not excommunicate a layman, we dare not even degrade a clergyman, for the commission of them…For it is only when we are not accustomed to them that we shrink from them: when once we are accustomed to them…constant familiarity leads to the toleration of them all, and habitual toleration leads to the practice of many of them (Chapter 80, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love).
What sins today are now so openly and habitually practiced, that they are boasted of? The following is just one of an incomplete list that I will be offering my speculations on, take it for what you will. Just be careful that you are not justifying yourself, rather than justifying God:
- Financial Greed.
Tell a Christian something like, “I don’t think a Pastor should make that much money” or “a Christian should not be driving a Porsche.” You will be accused of being a Pharisee or a Legalist, reminded how there is nothing wrong with money, just the love of it.
You, oh man, listen to Scripture:
The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise (Luke 3:11).
[F]or where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21).
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him (1 John 3:16-17)?
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (Matt 13:22).
How can your treasure be in heaven if it is invested in a vacation house, a “Summer Car,” a different Gucci bag for each day of the week, and other examples of spontaneous consumption? Clearly, this is Earthly treasure.
The flesh, which desires the edification of oneself and not the putting of oneself to death for the sake of the brethren and our God, speaks as thus: “Didn’t Abraham, David, and Solomon have fantastic wealth? Then how can you say, ‘luxuries are inconsistent with the Christian walk’?”
Abraham, David, and Solomon also had slaves. They had multiple wives. They also slept with women they were not married to. They all had clear periods in their lives where they profoundly sinned. These men were also saved by faith in Christ, but not every aspect of their walk is exemplary.
Also consider a list of things that someone collecting social security due to a disability will have that Abraham, David, and Solomon never had: A car, air conditioning, a microwave oven, television, a computer, a phone, a refrigerator that stores foods from several different continents, access to clean laundry, need we say more?
How prophetic was Augustine, whose standard of living was standard for the ancients, when he said that such sinfulness can be “so openly and habitually practised…not only dare we not excommunicate a layman, we dare not even degrade a clergyman, for the commission of them?” He would have never imagined that we don’t merely live like kings. Rather, by their standards, we live like gods.
Apparently, Elysian-Fields-level material wealth is not “enough” for most Christians. They want more. Yet, God has given wealth as a gift not to edify oneself, but to edify the Church.
Praise God if He has blessed you with wealth and praise Him is He has blessed someone you know. But, make no mistake. God is not pleased with spiritual gifts that are not used, but rather neglected. Wealth, used squarely for self-edification, is a gift which has not been used to the full potential that God desires. It is misused.
Heavenly Father, have mercy on us. There is not one of us who has not spit back in Your Holy face and wasted what You have given us. We are like sheep gone astray, each going in the direction we please, and we mistake Your gentleness for approval of our waywardness. Show us the Way to everlasting life by faith in Your Son Jesus Christ, who walked in perfect obedience and lived a blameless life. Upon Him, yes upon Him, you have laid the full penalty of our iniquities, iniquities we commit even still. Father, we are so weak and unwilling. Give us willing hearts and wisdom to see where in our lives we continue to fall so short from the glory of God. In the Holy, exalted name of Jesus Christ, whose intercession we seek and beg for. Amen.