Steve Dresselhaus – Jaunuary 2013

He was the pastor of a mega church, a phenomenally gifted orator who held people spellbound with his sermons. He was energetic, youthful and visionary and his church was experiencing what could only be considered explosive growth. He had a beautiful young wife and two happy, healthy children. He was sought out as a conference speaker around the world and his books were usually instant best sellers. He was a success story of the church in the United States.

Unknown to everyone, including his wife, this pastor led a secret and very dark life. For years he had managed to hide his alter ego from the public eye. No one could see his thoughts. No one could observe his activities behind closed doors. No one knew of the late night internet explorations while his wife slept soundly upstairs. On those rare occasions when his wife would wake up and look for him, he would hear the wooden floor boards creak and immediately close out the page he was perusing and bring up next Sunday’s sermon outline explaining to his curious wife that he couldn’t sleep.

Many evenings, often only a few hours before preaching his guaranteed –to- be- great sermon, would find the successful pastor driving through parts of town in which he should not have been. The lure to enter certain businesses was often stronger than he could resist. He knew he should not be where he was but he would see the gaudy, colorful, tempting signs, the invitations to go in and the available parking in shadowy lots. He was hooked. Head down, collar of his jacket upturned, and baseball cap pulled low, he would dart into the stores hoping that no one would recongnize him.

Once inside his desires grew to uncontrollable levels. Every conceivable fantasy was on open and on unembarrassed display. Young attractive women and handsome young men would, with eager smiles on their faces approach this pastor eager to please him. As he roamed the displays, thoughts of how this, that or the other thing would make him happier flooded his mind. He would convince himself that just “once more” would be enough to satisfy him and that he would then be able to kick this habit, this will breaking addiction and leave behind forever the sordid, lurid world in which he was trapped.

Without fail, the temptations would prove too great for him to resist. He should not have entered this establishment. Seduced beyond his ability to say “no” any longer to the attractive young man or smiling young woman, he would yield to the pressure, take out his credit card and purchase the flat screen TV, or tablet, or camera, or smart phone or whatever else the Best Buy store had to offer. If the irresistible temptation had overcome him at home while surfing the internet he would find instant gratification through “one click” with two day delivery.

Why are we Americans so fixated on sex sins and oblivious to the destructive forces of materialism? Why does pornography trump greed in our from bad-to -worse sin scale? Why do we feel sexual lust is worse than lust for more possessions? I am not advocating skin sins nor do I want to minimize the damage they cause, but have we ever truly considered the damage caused by the materialism in which we actively and without remorse participate? Our greed ruins relationships, destroys the environment, shackles our souls, and it keeps us from doing the good things we know we are designed by God to do. At least we feel guilty when yielding to sexual temptation but when it comes to idolatrous greed and the worship of stuff we are not even aware that we are sinning. We are embarrassed when we get caught yielding to skin sins but are applauded by our friends when we succumb to greed.

Perhaps our fixation with sins of the flesh stems from our limited definition of lust. The word in the original New Testament, which we normally translate as lust, means something like “strong physical desire.” It could be referring to hunger, thirst, or as in the case of Jesus the strong desire to be with his friends and celebrate the Passover with them. It was in no way limited to a sexual theme and it was not always a word associated with sin. The King James Bible and our American understanding of the word may have overly influenced us and prejudiced us towards a limited sexual focus of the word.

A second factor which may have led us to accept materialism as a minor issue, and as an acceptable and tolerated sin, is our seldom challenged belief that we are a nation blessed by God because of our Judeo-Christian heritage and our historical support for Israel. The Bible does say that God will bless those who bless Israel, but I doubt that means God will drown a nation in relationship ruining, environment destroying, family budget wrecking, material possessions whose main function is to cause us to ignore Him. We must remember the context and conditions of the original recipients of this divine promise. If indeed the promise is for material goods, which I doubt, it was made to a people who lived in minimally furnished huts or at best very simple stone houses, who likely owned no more than two changes of clothes and who only had a two to three day buffer against starvation. To them the word blessing would have meant something far different than it would to us.

Is it time for the church in America to show more grace towards those individuals who yield to sexual temptations? By all means. Is it time for us to minimize the dangers of sexual sins? Of course not. Is it time for American Christians to repent for having ruined our culture, our families, our nation, our environment and our churches because of our greed and lust for stuff? Absolutely.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

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