Following on from S&P’s thoughts on ministers getting swept of track in the area of exaggeration, I wondered whether this example of corruption by luxury is another example of how leaders and even entire congregations can get swept off track.
In the Sydney Morning Herald today, this article regarding exposure to luxury appeared. Basically, students who were exposed to luxury objects were more likely to make decisions that were self-interested when visualising themselves in a CEO situation, than students who were exposed to non-luxury goods. The goods were items such as shoes and watches.
The students who viewed luxury goods were significantly more likely than the second group to endorse production of a new car that might pollute the environment, launch a new software with bugs, or market a video game that might induce violence, according to the study.
“Results … suggest that when primed with luxury, people endorsed self-interested decisions that could potentially harm others,” the researchers said in the study.
“Luxury-primed individuals tend to make decisions that are self-interested and arguably unethical.”
From ‘Exposure to luxury can alter decision making: study’, SMH, February 3, 2010 (Reuters)
So what does the promotion of lifestyle enhancing luxuries as a sign of God’s blessing, or as things to be aspired to, do to our churches? Are churches who use images of these things in their marketing and advertising – flashy cars, gorgeous people, attractive or trendy fashion items, leaders’ conferences in exotic locations – are they corrupting the flock? Does self-interest become more of a feature of those cultures, than say in a church that eschews these things? Are decisions made poorer quality when it comes to their effects on people, though they might satisfy the goal of the organisation in the short term? On the other hand, does the eschewing of these things make a better church? Where is the balance to be found?
Personally, I tend to think that obsessing too much about material things in either direction is a trap (which I’ve no doubt been guilty of myself). Still, is this another trap for pastors in prosperity driven churches? Do they change from their initial motives to serve, to becoming increasingly self-interested, and not necessarly abusive, but more disinterested in the real lives of those around them, such as congregation or church staff, when there is no personal gain to be had?
Is exposure to luxury a trap for all of us in the materialistic world we live in?