RS: Let’s pray. Father, we love You, we thank you for just Your goodness and Your mercy, and Your love for us, and we thank You for this time together. We ask that You would just be here in our midst, that You would speak into our lives, Father, that You would teach us what we need to hear, that You would challenge us, that You would move in our lives. We ask that Your Holy Spirit would just fall on this place, and that we would clearly hear Your voice. We commit this time to you. In Christ’s name, Amen.
But, let me take just a minute to just give a review of what we talked about last week, and then we’re going to kind of continue down that path. We looked at Jesus’ words to Peter, really to the disciples, when He said, I must be killed. He didn’t say, this is going to happen. He says, this must happen. And, Peter doesn’t like it and goes and actually rebukes Jesus, and you see the rebuke in Matthew 16. He said, Lord, I’m not going to let this happen to you. And what you had was that Peter had this picture of the way he wanted life to be. What he wanted the future to be, and Jesus comes along and blows up that picture when He informs the disciples that He’s going to die. And what we saw was that Peter’s will was not aligned with God’s Will. It clearly was aligned with Satan’s will, and Satan does have a will. II Timothy 2:26. And that’s why He comes and says, “Get thee behind Me, Satan.”
And then we spent time considering about, and taking a look at our pictures, you know, what is my picture? Because, let’s face it, as I look around, we’re well on into life, and here you are today, and somewhere out here is the time that you’re going to die and go home, and so you’ve got this amount of time left. You know, what is your picture for the rest of your life? What do you want life to be like for you? And when we start talking about what is it that men really want, we then turn to Luke 12, and looked at verse 16-21 about the rich fool. And, as I look around, I realize all of you weren’t here, so I’ll just share this. That the number one goal for, and I think I’ll say this is predominantly men, but it’s probably true of women as well out in the workforce, is that the number one goal for middle-aged people who are in middle and upper income brackets, their number one goal, if you remember, is early retirement. I was reading something today about people that are trying to retire by the time that they are 40, and this was on the, I go to this, it’s a Yahoo business site that I like to go to and they have different articles, and it had these are the things you need to be doing if you are going to retire by the time that you are 40. So, this is something that is obviously on the minds of a lot of people and we talked about why, and I went over this, this graph. As you can see on this axis, you’ve got responsibility and challenge, high and low; you’ve got skill and education, high and low. And the guy, I call him Mihaly (Csikszentmihalyi), but that’s not how you pronounce his name, but he’s a Hungarian economist, who came up with this. He said, for instance, if you’re here, and where you want to be is what he calls “Flow”, where your skill and education matches up with the challenge and responsibility you have in your job. He says the problem is for so many, many people, they’re up in here, (draws on board) or they’re in here, or they’re out of flow, and when you’re up over the line, you experience stress. And that’s what I have concluded why so many people want early retirement, because their life is full of stress, and they want to go from up here thinking life will be great when I come down here. And that’s when you’re looking at a life that’s full of boredom. Now, what we talked about last week was that stress will kill you. But boredom can ruin your life as well. And we talked about the book by Richard Winter about how our culture is such a bored culture, and we talked about all the things that boredom does to a person. And we ended by talking about, ultimately, the danger of an easy life, a life of leisure, a life of boredom. And we ended by looking at what Rogers, Rogers Kirven, he was about to sell his business at the age of 43 for like $50 million bucks, and before he did, he went and talked to two men that he knew that had done the same thing several years before and he was shocked to find that both of them were divorced, apparently from having affairs, you know, in their boredom playing with their toys, they ended up cheating on their wives, and so he went out and interviewed 36 people. Thirty-six people who, in their 40s, sold their businesses for at least 45 million dollars. And of the 36, 34 of them had gotten divorced. And we talked about what boredom can lead to, and one of them is sexual immorality and sexual addiction. And that’s kind of where we ended, on a real positive note.
So, I want to kind of pick up on that today, and kind of look at it more from a Biblical standpoint, what we talked about, and before I start, I want to read a quote that I stumbled upon. I don’t know who, I don’t know who to attribute it to. But I had it written down so I’ll use it anyway.
Author Unknown. “It’s not so much that prosperity corrupts us. It’s what prosperity makes available to us that can potentially corrupt us.”
That’s what happened to those men. It’s not so much that they sold their businesses; it’s once they had nothing to do and they had all this money, look at what was available that could potentially corrupt them, and did corrupt them. And you know what? Guys, you see this also consistently in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. How many of you are familiar with the term Sodom and Gomorrah? I think you probably all are. The two cities that are destroyed by God. But most people would say when you think of like, Sodom, what do you think was the main sin of the people in the city of Sodom?
Unidentified audience member: Sodomy.
RS: Something like, well, let’s just put it like this – sexual perversion. But that’s where sodomy comes from. The word. Now, everybody thinks that’s the main problem with Sodom, was they were sexually perverse, but, Ezekiel tells us something else. Turn to Ezekiel 16. Now, I know some of you are not, don’t read Ezekiel on a regular basis, but it’s right past Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel. We learn something completely different about Sodom in these two verses were going to look at. Ezekiel 16:49-50. All right, everybody there? Everybody found it yet? Ezekiel chapter 16, verses 49 and 50. Reynolds, you want to read those for us?
Reynolds: Be happy to. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom. She and her daughter had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me, so I removed them when I saw it.”
RS: Reynolds read from the NIV, let me read from the NAS. It says, same thing, but it says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom. She and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and,” listen to this, “careless ease.” Didn’t he say an easy life, careless ease, and she didn’t help the poor and the needy, thus they were haughty and arrogant and committed abominations before Me and therefore, I removed them when I saw them.
Commentator Matthew Henry says, an idle life of ease is like standing water. It very quickly becomes stagnant and filthy. Now, let me give you another good example of this. Think about in the book of Daniel, we’ve looked at, we continually always seem to go back to Nebuchadnezzar when we want to talk about arrogance. But do ya’ll remember what happened back…Daniel is right next to Ezekiel, so, turn to Daniel. Remember chapter 4? Listen to what Daniel warns King Nebuchadnezzar. All right, look at verse 27. This is what he says to him. “Therefore, O King, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there might be a prolonging of your prosperity.” And then, of course, does he heed what Daniel says? No. And you see his incredible arrogance in verse 29. Twelve months later, he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” What do you see there?
Unidentified audience member: Arrogance.
RS: Arrogance. But do you know what’s interesting? You really kind of get to the root of his issues by, you’ve got to go backwards to verse 4, in chapter 4, so, go back to verse 4. Now, the NIV says, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.” But the NAS says, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease,” there’s that word again, ease, “in my house, and I was flourishing in my palace.” I mean, you see kind of the groundwork that had been laid that led to Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance and failing to care for the people in his kingdom. The poor, particularly. Think about David, guys. Think about David. Now, we’ve got to go way back to go to this verse, but go back to II Samuel 11, the early part of the Old Testament. II Samuel 11.
Unidentified audience member: Is Daniel talking about the government caring for the poor here?
RS: That’s a good question. Daniel, obviously, you’re not caring for the poor in your kingdom, you need to be doing that. Is everybody at II Samuel? Take a second and, I tell you what, instead of having somebody read it out loud, let’s just read it silently. II Samuel 11:1-6.
We learn two things about David here, before he commits adultery. Where was he supposed to be?
Unidentified audience member: War.
There was a time it says, when, at the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David’s at Joab’s. And so, instead of, you know, he had, at this particular time, when they were obviously at war, he had a lot of responsibility and challenge. He should have been up here (draws on board) [unintelligible 14:34-:36), but David was down here. The second thing is, in verse 2, it says, in the evening, but, the literal word is “evening tide”. Do you know what evening tide is? It’s late in the afternoon. So what was David doing late in the afternoon?
Unidentified audience member: Sleeping.
RS: Getting up from his nap! He’d been napping. I mean, here they were, at war, and he’s not out there in the battlefield, leading his men, he’s back napping in the afternoon. And look what happened. He should have been with his men, but instead, he chose a life of ease. Allen Redpath, who wrote a great book on the life of David said, “Here you see the consequences of an indulgent life of leisure hours and a slackness in the life of David.” Now, let’s look at one more. Looking at the Israelites, look at, it’s a description that’s given by Hosea, which is right past Daniel, and, in chapter, I’ll just read it to you, and then I’ll stop, and after I finish this, I’ll see what comments and questions you’ve got. In Hosea 13, verse 4, it says, “I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt, and you are not to know any god except Me, for there is no Savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness in the land of drought, as they had their pasture,” in other words, they’d come into the promised land, they became satisfied. And then once they were satisfied, their hearts became proud and therefore they what?
Unidentified audience member: Forgot.
RS: They forgot Me. I don’t know if you noticed, but do you notice arrogance in every single situation, almost? That’s what it says that we read in Ezekiel about Sodom, that you were arrogant. You see the arrogance of Nebuchadnezzar. I mean, you see, really, in one sense, you see the arrogance of David. He takes this woman, and then has her husband killed. And then you have this. Listen to how Moses described the Israelites in Deuteronomy 32. He says, “But Israel grew fat and kicked, you have grown fat, thick, and sleek, and they forsook God Who made them, and scorned the Rock of their salvation.” Listen to what Matthew Henry says in regard to these verses. “The Jews indulged themselves in all manner of luxury and gratifications of their appetites, as if they had nothing to do, but to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts of it. They grew fat, that is they grew big and unwieldy, unmindful of business and unfit for it, dull and stupid, careless and senseless, and this was the effect of their plenty.”
Let me stop here. What comments or questions do you have? Are you with me? Do you see kind of this pattern? And this isn’t to say you never retire, because I know we’ve got some people in here probably that are retired. But it’s saying, what are you going to do once you have retired? Or once you feel, I mean, I met with a guy the other day, he’s being forced to retire, leave his job at 65, so, that’s not to say, that you’ve gotta say, okay, I’m going to work until I drop dead, but, the concern is, okay, what am I going to do with the rest of my life? Because you see the danger of a life of ease. Comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: Richard, I think of, you know, you described the arrogance here, and I think that is a more obvious outward expression which we can all see in other people, sometimes not in ourselves, but I think just as deadly, at least my experience has been for my own personal walk with God, is pride. And pride is a form of it, but, to me, pride is a lot more insidious, it’s a lot trickier to detect, and can be just as harmful, but in a different way. Does that make sense?
RS: Yeah. And that’s why C.S. Lewis says, pride is the great sin, and one of the reasons it’s the great sin, and the reason it’s so deadly is for what you just said. He says, because you don’t see it in yourself. You see it in everybody else, oh, I can see the pride in you, but it’s like, I’m not subject to pride. I don’t have a problem with that, and when, in reality, it’s our great struggle. Anybody else?
Okay. How many of you are familiar, as we kind of bring this back to home, looking in the Old Testament here, how many of you are familiar with a guy, a historian by the name of Alexander Tytler? Any of you heard of him? He was a Scottish historian and he lived from 1747 to 1813, and he taught at the University of Edinburgh, and basically, he studied ancient civilizations. And, after studying the fall of the Athenian republic, he made this observation, guys. Please hear that, what I’m going to read to you was written 200 years ago, okay?
Tytler says this, and I quote, “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote for themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”
Now, that was written 200 years ago. He goes on to say, “The average age of the world’s great civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith;” I mean, that’s kind of, you know, we were in bondage to the English, “From spiritual faith to great courage; From great courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; then from abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence, you go back into bondage.” And that’s what happened to the Israelites. There seems …
Unidentified audience member: Where are we now?
RS: Well, a lot of people would say we’re down here in the, I don’t know, that’s a good question. But I tell you where we are, I’d say we’re not, maybe not there yet, but democracy finally collapses through the loose fiscal policy, which, I mean, we’ve got a 20 trillion-dollar debt, and it’s just, someone says, we’re not going to do anything until there is a crisis, the problem is, when you have a crisis, the crisis, it may be too late.
Unidentified audience member: You can’t do anything.
RS: But you have to wonder, what lies ahead for our country.
Unidentified audience member: You know, there is a missional point that somebody made that said, that’s why a successful democracy has to have a strong Judeo-Christian underpinning, to keep it going.
RS: Yeah. Well, I’ll come back to that in a minute. I’m going to read from Francis Schaeffer.
Unidentified audience member: Richard, what’s the name of this guy that you were talking about?
RS: Alexander Tyler (Tytler). If you Google him, you’ll get him. He’ll come right up. But this has an application to us, in that you see that a life of abundance, a life of ease, a life where you don’t do anything with yourself, creates certain dangers, and we’re not generally aware of those dangers until, again, we get, remember what we read last week, what did Mike Tyson, is it what Mike Tyson just said? He said, yeah, they had a plan, you know they had a plan, but by the time they got hit…you know, and you don’t want to get hit before you recognize your need to change course. To change direction. But, let me just share this thought. One of the great, maybe the greatest dangers it poses, and you saw this, and I’m going to make mention of it in a minute, but you saw this in the scripture that we just read in the Old Testament, is that it leads to a person losing their burden and compassion for others. I mean, think about Sodom. It said they didn’t care for the poor and the needy. What did Daniel say to Nebuchadnezzar? Think about David. He had no regard for this woman, Bathsheba. She was a married woman, and he commits adultery with her, and then has her husband killed on the front lines, and did it without feeling a lick of guilt or compunction, until he was confronted by Nathan. I mean, think about it, what an incredible corruption that had taken place in the life of David. And this is, that’s what happened to him. He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, and he was, he spent his afternoon napping, and then, he didn’t have anything to do, and then he sees this beautiful woman taking a bath. You know, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the, he was one of the great Christian scholars of the last century, his name was Francis Schaeffer. He wrote a book in 1976, which is what, 41 years ago? Is the math right on that? 41 years ago?
Unidentified audience member: Yes.
RS: He wrote a book titled, How We Should Then Live, and it traces what’s happened in Western Civilization, and he does it by, he has all these pictures, he deals with the arts, it’s a fascinating book. Well, anyway, he made a series of films on this book, like, I think, ten films, and it was like a two-day event, like going to a seminar, and he went through it, and I was living in Atlanta at the time, and he came through Atlanta, and I went to it, and it was fascinating. They’d show each film, and Schaeffer was there, and he would then stand up and answer questions, and what I remember most is what he predicted, what he saw happening to America. He said, at one point in our nation’s history, the Christian dominant consensus had the greatest influence in our culture. But then he said, and I don’t remember whether he said, it’s in the book, and I recommend the book, and I can’t remember whether it was the 60s or the 70s, probably the 60s, maybe even before then, but, it began to weaken. The influence of the Church, the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition on our culture. And what he predicted, 41 years ago, and he was addressing this primarily to the Church, he says he was concerned, he saw that we were adapting to, what he called, impoverished values. And the two impoverished values, and you can answer this yourself, has this come to pass? Was he really prophetic? He said the two impoverished values were personal peace, and affluence. Let me tell you what, personal peace may not be what you think. Listen to what he says. This is right out of the book. He says, “Personal peace means just to be let alone. Not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether they’re across the world, or across the city, or across your street. It means to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren.” He’s talking about losing our compassion. Well, I don’t want to be troubled by anybody else’s troubles. And he says, the second, of course, is affluence, which, “Affluence means an overwhelming and increasing prosperity – a life made up of things, things, and more things – a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance.” I’ve heard it said that one of the primary ways that you can judge the spiritual vitality in a person’s life is by the compassion that they have for the hurting, or the poor, and for the spiritually lost. Let me stop and ask, comments or questions.
Unidentified audience member: They were adopting what kind of values?
RS: Impoverished values. Anybody else? Yeah, Moe?
Moe: It kind of reminds me of some of these dot.com wizards that are predicting the future for us. They say that robotics is going to be our savior, that we won’t have to do physical labor anymore. And we’re going to end up in a place that they describe, and it sounds like heaven on earth, but that’s not going to be.
RS: It’s interesting, I’m going to close our time together reading something that’s very pertinent to what you just said, but it was written 35 years ago, but, just, hold that, what Moe just said, I mean what they’re predicting is true, as if, you know, we won’t have to do anything, we just let the machines do everything. But, as we said last week, God ordained for us to work, to be productive. I’ll put it that way. To be productive. And when you’re not, as we said, things happen to you. What else?
Unidentified audience member: They said they’re going to distribute a universal income to everyone, like, I don’t know what it is, but…
RS: Isn’t that what, what’s the Facebook guy’s name?
[Multiple unintelligible comments and chatter]
John: It seems like most of this attitude began with a breakdown in morals…..and….
RS: Hold on, guys, John’s talking. Go ahead.
John: During Earl Warren’s tenure as head of the Supreme Court when they banned religion in the schools, and that seems to be a line of demarcation from…
RS: Could be. Really, that’s kind of what Schaeffer is saying. We’ve kind of lost our influence. The Church has lost its influence in the culture, in fact, what we read last week is that, or is it the week before, when I read that article about, you know, how Christians now, I mean, we never thought Christians in our culture would be persecuted, but you’re seeing it. And you’re seeing that – what was that article I read? Any of ya’ll remember? Very much the same thing that you just said. What else?
I want to make a few comments about the poor and the spiritually lost, because if you really think about it, there’s two types of poverty. You’ve got material poverty, and you’ve got spiritual poverty. And the scripture addresses this, and I tell you, for time’s sake, why don’t we do this. From George over on this side, why don’t ya’ll look up Deuteronomy 15:11, and from Thornton on this side, how about ya’ll looking up Jeremiah 22:16. All right, everybody ready? Jay K?
Jay: “But the poor will never cease to be in the land, therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.”
RS: What does it tell us there?
Unidentified audience member: Don’t be stingy.
Unidentified audience member: There will always be poor people.
RS: There will always be poor. Remember, Jesus said that. Remember when the woman was pouring the ointment all over Him, and Judas complains, you know, this could have been sold for 200 whatever denarii, and the money given to the poor, and Jesus said, the poor will always be with you, and it’s not like He’s saying it’s a horrible thing to be poor. But, we are told to care for the poor, which leads us to Jeremiah 22:16. Who’s got it? Daniel Dillon, you got it?
Daniel: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know Me?’ declares the Lord.”
RS: You know what’s interesting, is also, if you look at that same chapter, and go down to verse 21, it says, in the NAS, “I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you wouldn’t listen.” The poor will always be with us, but those who are not poor, particularly the people of God, should be willing to care for the poor, and ultimately, but what’s happened, is the government has decided to take that role over from us, and we’ve allowed it. You know the mark of the people of God is to take action. I love Daniel 11:32, it says, “The people who know their God will display strength and will take action.” Now, some of the best teaching, I think, on what we’re talking about, the poor, the destitute, the down and out, the lost, is in, and I know, guys, we’re jumping all over the place. It’s much easier when we’re in John, and we just stay right there, and just park it in John, but, it’s in Isaiah chapter 58. Isaiah 58. All right, we there?
Unidentified audience member: 58 what?
RS: 58, verses 10 and 11. Bill Clements, you got it?
Bill: I do. “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they might see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in Heaven.”
RS: This is really enlightening. This is, I think, very significant. It says, that when you minister to those, to the down and out, to the destitute, to the poor, to the lost, he says, in effect, there are two consequences. One, it impacts you. It has an impact on you. So, we’ll be like a well-watered garden. We’ll be like a spring of water whose waters don’t fail. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 11:25. It says, “A generous man will prosper and he who waters others will himself be watered.” Some translations say, he who refreshes others will find himself refreshed. But, secondly, it says, your light will rise in the darkness. It means God will be glorified. There is a famous letter written by an early Roman emperor. His name was Julian, and Julian was one of the Roman emperors that came after Christ, that hated the Christians. He wanted to stamp them out, and in this letter, that they helped preserve, that he wrote, he says, “I cannot stamp these Christians out, because every other religion takes care of their own poor, but these Christians don’t just take care of their own poor, they take care of every other religion’s poor.” In other words, it makes a difference. People see. God is glorified. He is honored. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they might see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in Heaven.”
So, we’ve been in the Old Testament looking at the dangers of a life of ease, a life of boredom, a life that’s unproductive, but Jesus talks about this also as we talk about ministering to those who are poor, those who are, whether it’s poor spiritually or poor materially, and He talks, we looked at it in John 4, I don’t know if you remember, but we also talked about it in Matthew 9. So, turn to Matthew 9 real quick. Everybody there? Now, remember what we read back in John 4? In verse 35, Jesus says to them, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields. They are white for harvest.” And then He uses this term again in Matthew 9:36-38. Jase, you got that? Can you read it?
Jase: I need my glasses.
RS: I tell you what…
Jase: These may work…
RS: Well, if they don’t, we’ll…
Jase: “He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When He looked out over the crowds, His heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.”
RS: All right, what is that?
Unidentified audience member: He started at 35.
RS: He started at 35? Okay.
Jase: I’m not sure, because my…
RS: Did you go through 38?
Unidentified audience member: No.
Jase: It says, “’What a huge harvest!’ He said to His disciples. ‘How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!’”
RS: What translation is that? That’s interesting.
RS: Message, okay. What does He say? Thank you, Jase. He says, the harvest is what?
Unidentified audience member: Plenty.
Unidentified audience member: Plentiful.
RS: The problem is, the workers are few. In Matthew and in John, He says, there’s a huge harvest out there, guys, and He doesn’t tell us why there are few laborers in the harvest. And so, maybe Schaeffer was right. Affluence, prosperity and ease causes us not to want to get involved in anybody else’s life. I want my life to be undisturbed. Don’t be bothering me. I don’t want to have to bother with anybody else. So, maybe this is, what we see is, how should I put it, seems to be the condition of man. And we so easily gravitate towards that. Now, clearly a second consequence of a life of ease and a life of leisure is, and, I don’t want to spend much time on this, because we saw it, in what we just read, it’s easy to drift into an immoral lifestyle. Think of the people of Sodom. King David. The Israelites. What we read last week on Rogers Kirven. Of the 38 men, 36 fall into adultery, and get divorced. But, you know, there is a final danger that I think that a life of ease and leisure leads to that’s deadly, as well. And, it’s, well, I’ll just say, it’s hedonism. You know that term? Hedonism. That’s what the rich fool, that we read about last week, remember what he said? I can build bigger barns, and do what?
Unidentified audience member: Eat, drink, and be merry. I looked up the word hedonism, and it is, “the belief that pleasure and satisfying your sensual desires is the sole aim and highest good in life”. And, as economist George Gilder said, I don’t know that Gilder is a Christian, he says, “Achieving prosperity without becoming hedonistic will require heroic leadership, courage, and discipline.” Because, he says, “history will tell you, hedonism leads to not only a shallowness in your life, but a deadness to your soul.” Now, what I’m getting ready to read to you is very powerful. It was worth you coming today just to hear what I’m getting ready to read to you, okay?
As we think about this thing, hedonism, just everything we’ve read thus far, I’m going to read this to you, then I’m going to stop and see what you have to add to it. I read a book about 25 years ago that was very powerful. It had a real impact on me, and the title of the book was, and it’s not a Christian book, the title of the book is Amusing Ourselves to Death. Any of you heard of it, by Neal Postman? Any of you heard of it? It was a best-selling book, and he wrote it in 1985, so, that’s 32 years ago. But, it’s incredible how prophetic his words are. And before I start, just to make sure, all of you are familiar with the novel, 1984, by George Orwell? About Big Brother, warning about Big Brother and Communism? It was written in 1949, you know, basically, that’s when the Soviets were really, you know, becoming a power, just a great world power and everybody was praying, there was a Communist behind every door, and this is what – I’m going to read to you part of the foreword to the book.
All right, I want you to listen to it. He says, “We were all keeping our eyes on the year, 1984. But when the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves, because the roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror of Communism had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another book, slightly older, slightly less well known, but equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell, in 1984, warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression, like the Communists. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression,” and listen to this, “to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”
Now, this was before the Smartphone, this was before the personal computer. This was before the laptop. “What Orwell feared was those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book because there would be no one who wanted to read one.”
That’s a good question, guys. Are we reading? What are we doing? What are we filling our minds with?
“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with how we feel. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. And this book is about the possibility that Huxley, and not Orwell, was right.”
You know, guys, as I shared last week, as we ended up, is that we are all, I really believe, that from 50 up, we are approaching, or we are, most of us are in the most productive years of your life. I mean, you are so much more mature, and wiser than you were when you were 30. You have more influence now than you did when you were 30. You have a much wider sphere of influence than you did when you were 30. The question is, what are we going to do with these years? Because I believe that God does have a plan for our lives. He wants to do something and work in and through each of us, and our question is, what is that, and do I want to follow God’s Will for my life? As I look at the second half, and some of us are in the fourth quarter, but, the bottom line is, what are we going to do with those years? What are we going to do with our life? Because I really don’t think that anybody sitting at this table wants to live a life of leisure, bored to death, and being totally unproductive with your life.
Any final comments or questions?
[Multiple concurrent questions, comments, chatter]
Unidentified audience member: Appreciate the fourth quarter analogy.
RS: I’m right in it with you. I’m sorry, what did you ask, Thornton?
Thornton: I got it.
Unidentified audience member: I have a practical question. So, is it enough to give money to some of these charities that do work with poor people, or should we actually be hands and feet?
RS: You know, I think that ultimately, you have got to determine what God wants you to do. I think that…
Unidentified audience member: You’ve got to have both.
RS: I do think it’s kind of like there are years of your life where you probably have, are making and have more financial resources than others. And less time. But then, as you move forward, you will have more time on your hands as well, and that’s what, the question is, what are you going to do with that time.
Unidentified audience member: But there are also people who are employed full-time to take care of the poor, and they need to be paid, and I would think they would both have equal weight in there.
RS: We could talk for a long time about the poor. I brought in Clear Story for some of ya’ll to be introduced to. There are a lot of great, great ways that you can serve God out in the world. What you’ve got to figure out, is what are you wired to do. How has God put you together? What is…this is the best…I love this term…I love Os Guinness’ book, The Call. What is He calling you to do? Because what He’s calling you to do, and what He’s calling Cog to do versus Jay versus Dan versus John, is going to be completely different. But I do believe there is a call on our life, and I do think work is a part of that call. But, at some point, you quit working your regular job and you go do some other work. But, basically, you have to think about it, and that’s why I try to encourage people all the time, even while you’re working, you see Paul prayed this all the time. Pray that God would open up a door to use me in the life of somebody. And, if you do, I’m telling you, if you will begin to pray that way, God, just get ready, He will provide the opportunities. The opportunity is out there. We’ve just got to be aware. Our problem is like Schaeffer said. It’s so easy to develop an attitude of, I just don’t want to be bothered by anybody else’s problems. I ain’t got time. And that’s kind of how easy it is for us to think that way. Guys, this was a very sobering message – these last two weeks – kind of somber, when we start thinking about our country and where we’re headed, and whatever, but, you know, as I said, we should not despair. God is sovereign. He is in control, and, ultimately, the Truth will win out. But, this is a difficult time that we’re going through right now in our country, and it will be real interesting to see where all this ends up.