I think there is a part of us that has been trained to desire the finest and fastest. A lifetime of commercials and movies has given us (especially the western world) a high standard of status. Every item, destination, and activity has that certain level that we refer to as "The cadillac of..."
The last 7 years in Nashville has been the closest I have ever been to observe that kind of lifestyle. The 'homes' themselves are startling to look at- we spent our first few months just driving around and gawking. And I know that there are higher areas still- levels beyond my comprehension of caviar, yachts, pearls, and luxury.
What does Proverbs say about this? The largest contributor to theses aphorisms is purported to be Solomon- a royal indulger himself of wine and women.
1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person
who is always thinking about the cost.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
and will have wasted your compliments.
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”
Who can deny that the beer companies make the best advertisements? But have you ever really pondered the life they sell? Does it really satisfy?
If you read a lot of biographies you will find that many times the wealthiest and most famous in the world are often the most miserable. They get to the top and find it all and realize that they still haven't found what they are looking for.
There are countless tales of these. One of the saddest is the last words of Guy De Maupassant-famous french writer in the 19th century. His talent, handsome appearance, wit, and charm led to his accumulation of great wealth and status. A famous womanizer- he entertained and dined in the most luxurious ports on the mediterranean- travelling on expensive yachts and enjoying the best that life could offer.
On New Years day of his 41st year of life- Maupassant was already ravaged by his lifestyle. Experiencing the attack of syphilis and distraught by his loneliness he cried out in chilling starkness, "I HAVE COVETED EVERYTHING AND TAKEN PLEASURE IN NOTHING!"
The next day he tried to commit suicide by slashing his own throat, was committed to an asylum and died in depression a year and a half later.
The verses we point to above give a clue to how we are to live and one of the keys is to be careful and not fall into a lust to live extravagantly- we need to learn discipline and godly contentment. This is such a tough deal- it is such a subtle slide. Enjoying the 'good' life and 'longing' for the good life are small gaps. Having good things and NEEDING good things is just a silent slip.
My constant message is that is is not a sin to have wealth- no one needs to feel guilty- we just need to be grateful.
So we have these YEARNINGS and DEEP THIRSTS- love, significance, companionship, security, meaning.... and we sometimes go to the wrong fountain to fill those thirsts: Fortune, Fame, Power, Pleasure- only to find us more thirsty and more addicted.
The key is to find the LIVING WATER- your thirst is for an answer to your fatherlessness- the only Being to fill that hole of eternity in your heart is God Himself. That is why we are told to seek God and all these other things will take care of themselves. (All kind of verses here: Matt 6:33, John 4, Jeremiah 2:13)
Finally, I think all of us struggle here- it is so easy to substitute for God- our hearts do, as Calvin said, constantly manufacture idols. So do I never put on a tux, or eat on fine china, or sip tea on the beach in a luxury resort? Heavens NO- enjoy God by enjoying all of His blessings- but allow the Holy Spirit and His word to wrestle and purge the dark side of the longings.
Here are a few tips to help:
1) Honor and serve those who have less things materially. Not for show or guilt removal, pray for a heart to see them as worthy and important. It is not hard, most of the blue collar-common folk I rub shoulders with are by far more admirable individuals as a rule. In the previous chapter we read -
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.
2) Cry out to God for the balance between contentment and complacency. The Proverbs have a tight tension- we are NOT to be apathetic and lazy but at the same time we are not to wear ourselves out for riches. What drives us? Why? Where is God's will in our pursuits? These are deep, life long questions.
3) TITHE- I know of no greater way to slay the dragon called greed than to give. God does not need my money- He has provided the command to give of my first fruits for my benefit and a healthy heart. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I Timothy 6:10
4) THANKFULNESS- When you get to do lush things- play on a golf course- fish in the gulf- drive a fancy car- PRAISE GOD and be thankful- hold it all with an open hand and ask how you can bless others as well. I have been a huge recipient of wealthy believers who have decided to bless me- I have done things and experienced things that a man of my lot could never afford.... And the whole time my heart just leaps with joy and praise to God and I pray for blessings on the giver.
Consider the testimony of the apostle Paul here in Philippians 4:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Well, time to close.... I will forever struggle here- I live like a King- and I need to constantly do a 'heart check' for gluttony and greed. But I hopefully have experienced enough to know that what we long for sometimes is not all it promises to be......