The Love of Luxury

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?

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RavingPente


32 thoughts on “The Love of Luxury

  1. It reminds me of the ringstraked, spotted and speckled sheep of Jacob’s flock! In fact he was made prosperous by the effect of the images he put before his flocks at the feeding trough!

    If a church has a policy of excellence why would there be a problem? I don’t see where God encourages a presentation which is daggy, dirty, dingy or dilapidated. it doesn’t have to be expensively extravagant to look good to honour God, but I think it does lift people’s sites when a church is well presented and has a bright and friendly outlook.

    People perish where there is a lack of vision. What we see and hear impresses a culture into our thinking. If we have a vision which is depressing or oppressive, we will produce depressed, oppressed people. If we are judgemental, we will produce suppressed, even critical people. If we have an atmosphere where faith, hope and love can thrive we will develop people accordingly. ‘The kingdom of God isn’t meat and drink; but joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit’.

    But I can tell you that there are some powerful levellers in churches, even those where prosperity is not frowned upon. I mean by this, that, from time to time, people we love die, and there is mourning. Or people are struggling and need care. Or people are hurting and need comfort.

    Churches with a goal of excellence are not immune to these things. Suffering is a reality, as much as blessing. And they tend to keep us firmly focused on truth and the need to minister the love of God.

  2. Faithlift: “I don’t see where God encourages a presentation which is daggy, dirty, dingy or dilapidated.”

    It’s odd you say this. Let’s see… Did God encourage, ever in the bible, a presentation which is daggy, dirty, dingy or dilapidated…

    -Cane’s, Noah’s, Abraham’s, Israel’s dirty bloody animal sacrifice, presented before the Lord.

    -Joseph before Pharoah.

    -Moses before Pharoah.

    -The Israelite’s to the nations.

    -Pessimistic Machaiah to Jehausaphat, Rahab and the prophets.

    -The ministries of the judges (including Sampson).

    -Dirty, moany, depressed Jeremiah to his nation.

    -Scraggly Elijah before the Baal Prophets and Jezebel.

    -Prophet Ezekiel’s demonstration to Israel in eating human/cow excretion.

    -Prophet Hosea marrying a whore to prove the love of God to Israel.

    -Prophet Jonah!

    -Hairy, smelly, sticky, long-haired, John the Baptist’s presentation of the gospel to Israel.

    -The nativity, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension.

    -Paul preaching the gospel.

    -The boring sermon.

    I think you’ll find Facelift, that God doesn’t really care about ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ presentation of the gospel. If anything, it detracts from it. Christ – the perfect representation of God, died like a criminal on (possibly).

    Rewording Paul slightly, this ‘presentation’ of the son is foolish to the world. There was no glamour and sparkles.

  3. Personally, I don’t really care about the packaging.

    I am only concerned about the content. As long as people are taught to fear God … the Gospel will be preached effectively.

    The trouble is, the packaging takes priority over the content and if the content detracts from the packaging, the content is distorted.

    It’s the triumph of style over substance. We so want to be seeker sensitive … to be relevant to contemporary society that we leave most of the message unspoken, we just communicate the “nice” bits, forgetting that those bits are “nice” merely because the “Nasty” bits are so frightening.

    “Don’t fear those who can kill your body … rather fear Him who can throw body and soul into hell.”

    Shalom

  4. It’s interesting that there was an instant association made between ‘luxury’ and ‘a policy of excellence’ and a church that is ‘is well presented and has a bright and friendly outlook’. (Quotes from FL.)

    This misassociation is not the issue raised.

    First, a policy of excellence is in no way dependent upon access to luxury items. The research study actually showed that exposure to luxury items _reduces_ the quality of decision making in people. It effectively acts to detract from excellence.

    Rather than making the best decision possible with everybody’s interests at heart, decisions were taken to release software with bugs in it, or items with lower quality, as self-interest was greater. It is not an act of self-interest to have a culture of excellence. It is easier to produce sub-standard products or environments that people will still buy into, but that still have inherent problems. It’s just that the problems might not present themselves on day one, and later, another product can be sold, improving the substandard one, and inviting another wave of profits.

    Secondly, friendliness is a relational expression that has nothing to do with luxury items. Poor people with no luxuries can still be friendly and generous. A bright outlook also is not dependent upon luxury items.

    Thirdly, everyday items (not luxury items) don’t make things dark and dingy. Generic, everyday items can still be looked after and look neat and presentable. Flashier, brand name items can also be less well looked after and become dark and dingy.

    The point is, that a study has been done showing that exposure to images of luxury items has a measurable effect on the decision making of a range of people. The decisions on average became more self-interested, and less about excellence and a good result for the end user.

    If this was the result of mere images of luxury, how much greater could the effect of actual objects of luxury being paraded around?

    A private jet is the most extreme example. So if the leader – or congregation – of a church sees speakers with their private jets, or designer-name watches, clothes, cars and so forth, on a regular basis, and if they are shown that kind of image in any visuals that accompany promises of prosperity, how will they be affected? Is it likely to motivate them to love their neighbour? Or, in the light of this study, is it more likely to cause them to become more self-interested? (The opposite direction.)

    Apart from poorer decision making, the other effect was to make the subjects less interested in other people. Again, not the direction you’d think we want to go in re loving our neighbour or loving God.

    Megapastors are obvious examples of where in some instances, luxury may have corrupted to an extreme. Does prosperity doctrine create an environment where the effects of this study are demonstrated?

    To a greater or lesser degree, we are all exposed to these images. So its also something to become aware of in our own lives, and perhaps to think about whether our own decision making is affected.

    The answer isn’t for the pendulum to swing back towards poverty doctrine. I think it lies in being content with what we have at any time, and in examining the cultures that we create around ourselves, whether they be within our church setting or our home setting.

    A church can focus on the inner life of people, and on helping people meet basic practical needs. It can encourage them to aim for excellence in their working and family lives. This will help, providing that these things are measured in relational terms rather than in terms of material wealth. Luxury items can be symbols of material achievement and success, but aren’t to become symbols of the kind of success we hope for as Christians leading our lives for God.

  5. Digging up the dirt again, s&p! 🙂

    Look, none of the scenarios you gave are the local church. They are, for the most part, OT illustrations of isolated incidents involving rural participants, often in ceremonial acts, which, I thought, we had been redeemed from, the ceremonial acts, mean.

    Moses grew up in the Pharoah’s household, by the way. Then, after killing an Egyptian slave-master, he ran way and lived in the backside of the desert, before being recruited by God to free his people from slavery. He left Egypt with Israel and all of the spoil of the Egyptians. They had the Cloud of God to cover them by day, and the Pillar of Fire of God to cover them at night.

    Moses also built the tabernacle in the wilderness, which was more wonderful than any other tent before or since, and was fashioned form the gold, silver and precious stones plundered from Egypt!

    Joseph ended his days as the Prime Minister of Egypt, and was second only to Pharoah! I don’t imagine he lived in a pig-sty for the remainder of his days as a leader of Egypt!

    Who says Elijah was a scruffy, straggly man? He carried the mantle of God! He left the earth in a chariot of fire!

    Of course, God will be present regardless of the presentation provided we are led by the Spirit. I’ve been in meetings out in the bush in the dust, and God has moved in power. I’ve preached in the charcoal remains of an old fire in the desert, and people have been saved.

    If you want to come back to the present, the point I am making is that a church which presents itself well is more likely to be seen as able to assist people in their own lives.

    What I mean by daggy and dirty is when a church doesn’t care about what they look like and are lazy about things like replacing broken things, mowing lawns, painting surfaces, cleaning up, and very simple things which at least demonstrate some care and a desire to honour God. It makes a meeting place far more welcoming for someone who is seeking God.

    I mean, do you let your home look untidy and dirty? If a visitor arrived asking how they could be saved, would they look at your home and see that it wasn’t dysfunctional, that being a Christian had given you a sense of value in Christ?

  6. Daggy/dirty actually is not the opposite of luxury. Hence a sidetrack to the real issue.

    There is no assertion that a church should be scruffy to please God! God looks on the heart. At the same time, there are some situations where appearances can’t be helped. But here, we are looking at how images of luxury presented to a church affect its culture.

  7. We crossed over, RP. I understand better what you’re saying, but I don’t know why you have singled out mega-church pastors for this. Most of the excess is emanating from US TV evangelists.

    For instance, what is it a about Phil Pringle, Brian Houston, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Mark Connor, Phil Baker, Joel Osteen, or similar mega-church leaders mentioned on these pages that immediately cries out luxury or ostentatious? None of them, to my knowledge, have private jets. They tend to dress very casually, neatly, but in clothes accessible by most people in their churches. I don’t see them flashing around expensive personal luxury artefacts boastfully. A couple may have nice homes, but certainly don’t thrust that in our faces, and most actually live in relatively modest homes. The only common thread I can see is an attitude of excellence in presentation in their ministries, which is why I brought this aspect out.

    I think the main culprit of what you’re saying, as the pastor of a large church, would possibly be Creflo Dollar, who was one of the ministers reprimanded by Kenneth E Hagin for being overly ostentatious about wealth, and abusing prosperity teaching. Otherwise you have to look to the TV evangelists, who are not pastoring churches.

  8. It’s not simply mega-church pastors, though there are some easy examples there. I would also look at the marketing culture in the church, and whether people are encouraged to aspire to luxury goods as a motivation for success. The key word there being ‘motivation’.

    Some people are successful, and can easily afford luxury items, but may not have been motivated by those items.

    I’ve been to ‘wealth’ seminars. Yes, I’ve aspired to improve my finances, and have been to events that educate us about investing etc. At these seminars, you typically see images of yachts, houses, cars and nice holidays. In that environment, they are held up as symbols of success that are worth aspiring to – that is not a church environment. Pat Mesiti speaks at these kinds of events – he’s an example of a pastor (or ex-pastor – I’m not sure) who has also made the cross over to the wealth seminar industry. He’s also spoken at both Hillsong and C3.

    Many times, I’ve heard ‘a better house’ referred to in sermons re God blessing people’s prosperity. Material aspiration is a part of prosperity doctrine, and images are sometimes used when teaching it. C3 had their pastors conference in Hawaii the other year – a luxury destination.

    Maybe some others here could come up with a few more examples – those are just some that come to mind.

    What I’m asking is, is it helpful for these images to be held up as things to aspire to, and to be modelled as things to aspire to? Does it create a more self-interested culture? Does it create a culture where people are less content with their holiday up the coast, or their everyday house in an everyday suburb? That is, comfortable, everyday things, which don’t indicate poverty.

  9. BTW – I’m not advocating judging a book by its luxury cover, either. Some of the very wealthy people I’ve known have also been very generous, in both material and non-material ways, and have not been distorted by it. So I’m raising the issue of how a culture is affected, rather than wanting to imply judgement of people who can easily afford luxuries.

  10. “I mean, do you let your home look untidy and dirty? If a visitor arrived asking how they could be saved, would they look at your home and see that it wasn’t dysfunctional, that being a Christian had given you a sense of value in Christ?”

    Too often now, I’ve been hearing the quote in my own house from guests “Better to look lived in then not”. I’ve been pretty clean with my house. With the last few months, I’ve been busy. People are seeing the mess and are actually glad to see that I am human.

    And looking at what RP said, I couldn’t help but think what the bigger church syndrome is spreading: “Greedy see – greedy do” seeds among the churches that attend these prosperous churches.

    I think it was in 2006 I noticed a change in two churches I attended in their approach to material possessions in their church after they attended C3’s ‘Presence’ Conference. Their love for lighting and tv equipment put the pay on hold for their church staff, who were in financial trouble.

  11. Bigger church syndrome? Isn’t it God’s will for his church to grow, get bigger, expand? It’s not a sin to be involved with a big church, you know. The Jerusalem Church was huge. 3,000 saved on the first day! Other NT churches were major growth areas! Starting small and increasing.

    As churches grow they have different challenges and needs. They have to restructure. But there is absolutely nothing is scripture which says ‘stay small’ or ‘decrease’, apart from John the Baptist saying ‘I must decrease, so Christ can increase’!

    I can’t comment of the examples you give because I have no way of confirming what you say. Lighting and TV equipment, however are not a sign of greed or material possessions, but of functionality. You don’t, I presume, live in a home without tv and lights? I don’t think God has a problem with us using technology to reach our audience!

    I don’t think this is what RP means, anyway. Lighting and recording are an important part of modern church life. They are not really luxury items, or excessive, unless you have the latest $100,000 HD Cameras in a church of ten people! For less than $2,000 you can purchase a reasonable recording camera.

    RP probably has a valid point with what she is suggesting, because people are attracted to materialism, and bombarded by commercialism. Advertising agencies are paid millions to convince the community of their need of certain items. What she is describing is temptation towards covetousness.

    I just don’t think this is confined to a certain church group, or the fault of mega-church pastors. I guess I’m attempting to draw the line between excellence and excess.

  12. Jesus never once did he say that having wealth was a sin. But he did say that wealth can blind people from the truth.

    Love of Money is the root of all kinds of evil. That love for wealth is the issue not wealth itself.

    It is not surprising that wealthy people tend to more selfish and have lack of empathy for others. In the letter from James the brother of Christ he warns people not to favor rich people and they are the one’s who oppress others.

    When I go to church I want to hear something about God’s character and how to respond to God’s love. I don’t want some dickhead pastor speak how we can use God like an ATM to gain wealth.

    An interesting note that Moses had a speech problem and had to use Aaron as his mouth pierce. What counts is not the presentation of the message but the message of Good news that can transform people’s lifes.

    That doesnt mean you should be lazy and dont things whole hearted. It is just that the Good News is better caming from an non slick presenation than an excellent SHOW telling people that God will make them RICH and leading people to Final judgement.

  13. Is God worried about the presentation of luxuries? – I don’t think so – Joseph was given an extravagant coat.

    God wasn’t so much interested in the item/event as He was in what that item revealled about the hearts of the people surrounding the event.

    What did it reveal about Josephs father’s heart, Joseph’s heart, Joseph’s brothers hearts?

    The presentation of luxury is neither here nor there, it’s what it brings up and how it is dealt with on an individual basis that matters. In fact it’s a good thing because it brings up issues that we need to work through (which is the essence of life and the point of our struggles on earth).

    An old saying is that ‘God will offend the mind to reveal the heart’. Through such things we grow in our relationship with Him. I guess the important thing is whether or not we are helped to work through such feelings or hindered from doing this by ‘the practical outworking’ of attending certain churches?? And how real and honest the pastors/leaders are about dealing with their struggles as an example.

    Each person will have a different conclusion. For some it will be OK to own a Bentley for others it won’t. It’s the flexibility of being able to get to your own personal conviction (without having to blindly follow the masses) that is important.

    I’m pretty sure it’s OK for me to drive a Bentley – is anyone else feeling prompted of God to buy me one?

  14. I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed the article correctly. It was presenting people with images of luxury items that presumably they could aspire to, and others with everyday versions of the same items.

    It didn’t look at people who actually owned luxury items, or of gifting items to people, but at the process of dangling their image in front of people who would have to make money in order to get them, then at those people’s decisions in an imaginary CEO situation.

    Joseph’s coat was an interesting example. The fact that Joseph had it was fine, but look what their focus on it did to the family.

    I think its a matter of motivations. Obviously if people are exposed to images of luxuries beyond their current ability to afford in order to be motivated, they will behave differently from people who are exposed to maybe images of people in poor societies or even just images of their everyday surroundings. So perhaps a church could be careful in the images that it uses to encourage and motivate its congregation in their lives. Maybe rather than focussing on the ritzier results of prosperity – and in extreme cases, flaunting them – it would be helpful to keep things more everyday. (Whatever that means for the culture around them.)

    So for example, rather than sending pastors off to a conference in Hawaii, sending them to a local conference that is easy for most people to reach and afford. Or in the case of an international church, maybe taking turns with alternative affordable locations. That kind of thing, translated into most other things.

    This isn’t to downplay excellence, but rather the opposite, because the focus remains on doing whatever one does for the Lord, and doing it well, instead of focussing on how it will get you closer to some luxury item that is currently hard to reach.

    It’s also not to downplay people’s everyday aspirations to own their own home or whatever is normal in their society – just not raising the bar to that point where nothing is ever enough, and decisions become adversely affected.

    There are many examples in the Bible of people with luxurious things (not all, but some) who also knew God. Solomon had luxurious things, but counted them all as ultimately meaningless.

  15. Muppet, that is funny. I drove a Corolla for many years until it finally died. They seem to go on almost forever.

  16. I understood your point RP. I was trying to say that God operates through the imperfections. He seems to sit back and allow wrong examples or motives to come to the fore. I can remember when I first joined with my current business partner. His previous partner from the same church we attended was pulled up on stage and interviewed as a shining light of what Christians can achieve in the business world. He had all the bells and whistles (luxury items).

    What everyone didn’t know was that he was running away from $100s of $1,000s worth of debt (literally leaving the country) and leaving my friend to pay it off.

    We spent the next 10 years repaying all these debts and had to live with the shame associated with it.

    However, we made the decision not to be upset by it all but just move on.

    So although I don’t like a lot of what goes on, it does seem more important to God how we, as individuals, respond to the situations. We don’t have to get upset by everything or be understood in everything.

    God is building His Church, but we need to look for it in different places. I don’t have a problem with Hillsong, but if I want to see the life of the church, I don’t look for it on the stage.

    I’m tired and rambling, but I wasn’t negating the point of this important discussion, just looking at it from a different angle.

  17. Well, that’s a ghastly experience. Moving on in that scenario is a major accomplishment, to put it mildly, particularly with a 10 year effect.

    I’m familiar, but not as personally affected (at this point in my life), with people successful in business ending up on stage at church as examples. Hard when occasionally they turn out not to be quite what they were first held up to be. A friend of mine worked for one who was later exposed for corruption of some kind.

    I agree that how we respond as individuals is most important.

    I’m not wanting to have a go at individuals, but to look at the results of the research and how they might relate to some church cultures. It would be good but perhaps too much to hope for, that research like this might cause people who create an extreme prosperity doctrine style culture, to think a bit about what they might be doing. It relates to the management of churches in that culture, partly because of the CEO style of decision making as well.

  18. The presentation of luxuries and the holding up of successful business-people as role-models helps to reinforce an aspirational mind-set where people are constantly looking up, at the people who have attained more riches than them.

    This already happens in wider society, it is a means to motivate people to work harder and harder for status-symbols (and consequently status).

    Christianity should be counter-cultural in this respect. Ie. we should be constantly looking below, at the people who do not have as much as ourselves and asking how we can help. “Doing unto the least” and all that.

    We are all susceptible to the temptation to escape into luxuries, and thoughts of higher status. So those that put these images in front of us may have an ethical issue to confront. Advertisers may be able to justify it, but churches?

    There was another article in the Age last week prompted by the Maquarie Bank/Miranda Kerr pictures issue. This quoted a study that showed that men who had viewed racy pictures of women at work then tended to judge the women at work more harshly – downplaying their intelligence and generally making it harder for them to do their jobs.

    Workplaces now have policies on this and would not show these images because of the effect on people and the disadvantage that causes others.

    If images of luxury were shown to have a similar bad effect shouldnt there be a policy of not showing them in church?

  19. FaceLift: “Look, none of the scenarios you gave are the local church. They are, for the most part, OT illustrations of isolated incidents involving rural participants, often in ceremonial acts, which, I thought, we had been redeemed from, the ceremonial acts, mean.”

    If you go to Asia, it’s really apparent that objects are signs of status. With the upper classes of Sydney, just the slightest change of a buckle, brand, food styles, music genre or the way you dress, walk or present yourself reveals your status.

    In essence we are all products, with that I mean as humans we concerned with what we are worth in the eyes of others.

    I believe the Corinthian letters address this issue well. Paul could not care less of the clever speakers, the latest revelations or the rich speaking to the church. What he cared was the content. They had all the glamour and clever speech, but he didn’t wish to see that to be focussed on. To Paul, the message was more important than the messenger.

    As to the comment about lights and recording devices (I take it to mean cameras), it helps further package/present the person, the stage and the overall church package. It is essentially selling, marketing, profile, image and entertainment.

    I think you can rightly guess the more a church has, the more self-indulged they are. Proverbs talks about the snare of the rich. I should find it.

    FaceLift: “The Jerusalem Church was huge. 3,000 saved on the first day! Other NT churches were major growth areas! Starting small and increasing.”

    With a church of 3000, they didn’t stick around long! They scattered and went to homes, streets, and back to different towns, cities and nations.

  20. Wazza2: “The presentation of luxuries and the holding up of successful business-people as role-models helps to reinforce an aspirational mind-set where people are constantly looking up, at the people who have attained more riches than them.

    This already happens in wider society, it is a means to motivate people to work harder and harder for status-symbols (and consequently status).

    Christianity should be counter-cultural in this respect. Ie. we should be constantly looking below, at the people who do not have as much as ourselves and asking how we can help. “Doing unto the least” and all that.”

    I’ve heard this kind of thing taught both in Hillsong and C3 leadership colleges. Role-models.

    It’s now wonder they have such a barbie doll and emo-legs culture at these churches. Monkey see, monkey want!

  21. The Church is encouraged to publish the good news any way we can, using whatever means is available to us. The Gothenburg Press was the technology of Luther’s day, and it changed the world, placing the Word of God in the hands of the ordinary people for the very first time since Paul’s day, when manuscripts were copied and hand-written as they were passed around, but the printing press multiplied the accessibility of the Word! What a change that was.

    Jesus was not averse to using the best means of conveying his message. He had his disciples push a boat out unto the lake so he could cast his voice further to the crowd, water being a natural conveyer of sound. He positioned himself for the Sermon on the Mount where he could reach as many people as possible. He used whatever means he could to cast his voice as far as he could.

    Technology is marvellous for reaching people. We have started churches in areas where there was no gospel being preached by sending dvd’s of our teaching to people who then invited friends. We have sent cd’s and dvd’s to many people in different parts of the world; those who contact us and ask, because they enjoy receiving the word. Some use them as evangelism aids. It’s amazing what can be done with a few simple tools. We do not charge them for this service. It is the technology we utilise which makes this possible.

    Lighting is a natural means of seeing things better for longer. In Jesus day they used candles and oil lamps. It was the technology of the day. Now we have far more sophisticated means of producing light for longer, and for many uses. Illuminated signs simply put across our message in a more constant way. We can use lighting behind images to produce incredible effects which publish our message.

  22. Using technology is one thing, wearing $5,000 suits while doing it is another. But that’s the society we live in, like S&P says we have to deal with it all day anyway.

    So I don’t have a problem with it happening in church, but it should be addressed and talked about so that we can respond correctly (ie not make more self orientated decisions). This would then help us deal with it when we are confronted with the same issue all day every day.

    I renovate peoples homes for a living whilst being a renter myself. So it was quite humbling initially not to be able to do similar things for myself.

    Now, I can see that some renovations add great value to the family lifestyle, whilst others are merely fashion statements.

    We try to avoid the latter, because these people have all sorts of problems (financial etc), they tend to be just generally unwise.

    It’s not the things themselves that are the problem, but the lack of discussion around them. When things are just presented, we want them, whether they add value to our family lifestyle or not.

  23. So I don’t think the presentation of luxury items in church is necessarily a problem, it should be an opportunity to learn / be taught how to respond to this every day issue correctly.

    It doesn’t happen where the pastors themselves are trying to keep up with the Jones’. But this isn’t always the case, some people provide great examples to follow!

  24. “It’s not the things themselves that are the problem, but the lack of discussion around them. When things are just presented, we want them, whether they add value to our family lifestyle or not.” – Muppet

    Yes, that’s the thing. Discussion about what really adds value would be helpful.

    An extreme example using renovating might be that opening up a closed in kitchen area to a living area (an expensive reno) might enhance family or social relationships over many years to come, but cladding the living room wall in gold leaf when you can’t afford it but really love the look, doesn’t really add any relational value at all, and might add financial stress.

    Wazza made the points that I think it would be helpful for churches to consider:

    “We are all susceptible to the temptation to escape into luxuries, and thoughts of higher status. So those that put these images in front of us may have an ethical issue to confront. Advertisers may be able to justify it, but churches?” – wazza

    And then using the Miranda Kerr images example:

    “Workplaces now have policies on this and would not show these images because of the effect on people and the disadvantage that causes others.

    If images of luxury were shown to have a similar bad effect shouldnt there be a policy of not showing them in church?” – wazza

    I think it depends in what context things are displayed. If they are displayed as a model for people to aspire to, then the focus has become a material one. If there is just the occasional image in a different context, there may be no issue. Plus, it might change a little depending on the congregation.

    It would be a mistake to become legalistic about it, but to be aware of the issues, including discussion about values etc, and adapt behaviour accordingly would be good.

  25. If luxury is defined as the state of great comfort and extravagant living then we have to designate at what point that state is reached.

    This will be relative to many conditions. Compared to some people you and I live very simply, but compared to others we live in incredible luxury. Just living in Australia would, for some people, be an aspirational goal.

    I believe in as few rules as possible in church life, but if it is to be a rule in church that we don’t promote a certain level of perceived luxury, then where do we draw the line? isn’t wealth a state of mind for some people?

    Are there not people who have much but consider themselves poor, and others who have little but consider themselves rich? When people believe they can get by without God I think they are stepping over a dangerous line.

    ‘“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ –and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked–I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

  26. That’s why it doesn’t work to become legalistic about it. You’d have to define a line, and that line then becomes a law.

    However, discussion raising awareness of the issue can help people to question their own motives, or to apply wisdom to a situation, to determine whether doing something is going to be helpful, unhelpful, or doesn’t really matter.

    We wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit if we could always easily draw a line in the sand that applied to all circumstances, and stay on a particular side of it.

    There’s also a difference between having a life that contains luxuries, and promoting the aspiration to luxury for its own sake, or as a symbol of status and success. Particulary if our successful aspiration to these things leads us to being regarded as better people in some sense than others who don’t have the same level of material comforts.

    I hope that we can all have some luxuries in our lives that we are not ruled by. At the same time, I hope that we don’t judge others by whether or not they have certain luxuries. I also hope that it doesn’t interfere with our decision making or relationships in a negative way – those last two are kind of where the study was pointing.

    Now I love beautiful things, and I used to work in the design industry, where these things are admired for their own sake. I still greatly admire beautiful design. Beautiful design can be a luxury that few can afford, but the magazines are filled with it, and many people compare their own homes unfavourably with what is in the magazines. Yet real happiness doesn’t depend on whether your house is beautiful – it is more to do with the relationships you build in that home, and whether your home works for you in a practical sense. So we can make our home beautiful, to the extent that we can afford whatever will work for us, but if we focus on that and not on maintaining our relationships in the home, then we will have a beautiful, miserable home, and its all worthless.

  27. Thought this was well worth posting here:

    http://net-burst.net/god/unfair.htm

    Blessed????

    A key feature of Jesus’ teaching is that present inequalities will be ironed out in the life to come – so much so as to boggle our mind.

    Luke 6:20-26 Looking at his disciples, he said:

    ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
    Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
    Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
    Blessed are you when men hate you . . . because of the Son of Man, . . . . because great is your reward in heaven. . . .
    But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
    Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

    Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

    Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.’

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