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Self-indulgent: who, me?

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–The United States has become a nation of pleasure-seekers without equal in the world. We develop billion dollar industries to produce items so trivial that one has to wonder if we’re not a little bit nuts.

Even the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing worldwide battle with terrorism, seem only to have temporarily slowed down this indulgent drive for bigger, faster and more.

In the weeks before Christmas, we see a whole lot of indulging going on. But the holiday season is only a condensed version of what occurs during the rest of the year.

This is not to suggest that we should consider that all material belongings are bad. After all, God wouldn’t have given us the intelligence to create such things as clothes, cars and even toys and games, and then forbid us to use them.

God wants us to prosper and to enjoy the fruits of our labors. However, Americans have stretched this principle beyond the boundaries of common sense. We’re always searching for superior and more unique stuff to make us “happy.”

The energetic and spirited Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic since she was injured in a swimming accident years ago. A Christian, she understands the importance of a wheelchair, and Wheels for the World is Joni and Friends’ flagship wheelchair outreach program.

They have provided tens of thousands of people with wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers and other rehabilitation equipment through a volunteer organization called Chair Corps. The World Health Organization estimates that there is a need for 20-30 million wheelchairs around the world.

One of Joni’s trips to Africa to deliver wheelchairs gave her a keen understanding of what true selflessness really is. She was providing wheelchairs to homeless and handicapped people. Some were impaired by disease and many had missing limbs.

Unfortunately, the supply of wheelchairs she brought to Africa was limited. So, many of those in need were left out of the distribution, including some teenage boys. Nevertheless, instead of becoming jealous or angry, these young men celebrated with the people who did receive wheelchairs.

Living in such difficult circumstances — having their own needs unmet — how could those young men find the will to be happy?

A better question might be: “How can people who are in much better circumstances, like Americans, not find the will to be happy in the midst of such plenty?”

The answer lies in King Solomon’s wisdom: “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16).

Anything we accumulate that has little or no utility to us is an indulgence. Then, does that mean Christians are never to have things purely for pleasure? Of course it doesn’t.

However, expanding our collections of such items should be consciously and diligently controlled. We shouldn’t allow pursuing such things to become the norm for us, as many have today.

Are we indulgent Christians? Well, we might be if any of the following strikes a chord.

— We continually seek something better than we had before.

— We always must have something bigger or better than someone else has.

— We find ourselves consistently trying to top the lifestyles of others.

And, this might be the clincher: We can be sure that we’re indulgent Christians if we’re embarrassed by our lavish lifestyles, and often find ourselves explaining or rationalizing the things we’ve done or accumulated.

How do you answer this question: If you were in need of a wheelchair and had been left off the distribution list — as those young Africans were — would you have rejoiced with those who did receive wheelchairs?
If you have wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or walkers in useable or restorable condition that you’d like to donate, visit Joni’s website at www.joniandfriends.org. Howard Dayton is co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries and the current host of Crown’s radio program, “Money Matters.” Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.

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  • Howard Dayton