Oct 242016 0 Responses

When the Affluent Life Disappoints

If there is any major idea of American culture, it is that wealth, power, and fame will solve life’s problems. We might cognitively know that isn’t true, but we feel it is true and we live our lives as though it is reality.

It’s not. (See: Why a New Job or Spouse Rarely Leads to a Changed Life)

If there is any major idea which Jesus dismisses, it’s that wealth, power, or fame can solve any problem.

In John 6, the gospel writer tells the story of a man with major physical problems. He is laying outside an entrance to the Temple living off the meager gifts which worshipers would give to him as they entered the Temple. (for more on the story, watch the following sermon)

He is laying next to what he believes are healing waters. Legend told that when the waters were stirred up, the first person in the waters could receive healing. But he was never first. His condition was serious enough that it slowed him to such a pace he could never be the first in the water. Yet the condition was light enough that others might look at him and think he could make it on his own. In his mind, he just needed some good friends or a good break and he would be liberated from his plight. If he could just dip his toe into the waters, he would be whole.

When Jesus sees the man, he asks him if he wants to be healed. It’s an obvious question, but Jesus didn’t ask it for obvious reasons. He knew the man was believing a lie. While his condition was real, what he thought was the solution was not. The man would forever be chasing a mirage for as long as he thought his life’s problems could be solved in healing waters. Only Jesus could make him whole.

Searching for Healing

What was true of that man’s outward condition is true of our inward condition. Our souls are sick. There is an inner disease which has stripped us of emotional and spiritual health. We can sense the symptoms–a longing for meaning, a desire for connection, a hope for purpose, a belief that there is more to this life.

To that condition, we are told about healing waters. If we can just get the circumstances right–a well-financed 401K or the right spouse or an influential job title or enough prestige–we can be cured. We think if we can dip our toe into the abundant life that all our ills will go away. But they don’t. They multiply, and that’s confusing. (See: Hate My Sin, Love Other Sinners)

What we think will heal us can actually make us more sick. It’s a classic addiction–we are seeking solace from the very thing causing us pain. This is the curse of the affluent life. For many, the only difference between affluence and poverty is that the impoverished may still have hope that something can heal them. They might still believe that money or influence can cure their condition. The affluent have lost hope.

The Hope of Disappointment

The emptiness of the affluent life brings great hope. It’s a gift that we don’t find deep meaning in riches or power. The longing for more can be the motivating factor to drive our search other places. If wealth and influence provided what we desired, we would have little reason to look for God. Yet because they leave us empty, we have the opportunity to consider that satisfaction might come from another source.

God’s love for us does not allow us to find lasting meaning and value in things other than Him. They might bring us a taste of what we are looking for, but they are certain to never fully satisfy.

The affluent life is meant to disappoint. It’s not a sign that we need more; it’s a sign that we need to stop seeking from other things that which can only be found in God. We are all looking for something to heal our inward need. God’s grace is the only outlet where true satisfaction can be found.

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