How serious is our desire for material wealth? Perhaps we’ve been stricken ill with “Affluenza.” Learn how to find the remedy for this common cold.



Morning.  David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.  

Before I begin, as you’re going to hear about in Announcements later, next week we are serving FREE Chipotle Burritos to everyone after every service.

We really want to use this as a tool to help people encounter Jesus.

The reality is, many, many people want to try church again…or try it for a first time.

And we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for them to follow through on what God is already doing in their hearts.

So be bold this week, and may God use you to be a world changer…a Renovator. 

Well, as we get started this morning, let me tell you about the lives of the super wealthy.

There’s Barbara, lately she’s been impressing all of the women from her neighborhood because she has some new technology in her kitchen.

It apparently washes your dishes for you.  They call it a DISH-WASHER.

The year:  1956.

Then here’s Jim.  He’s recently been impressing all of his friends on Wall Street by taking them out to lunch in his fancy car…which has a brand new Cassette Player where he rocks out to Neil Diamond.

The year:  1972

Money is funny sometimes, isn’t it?

The things we crave…are often quite comical when we step back from them in a few years.

In 1975, less than 10 percent of families owned a microwave, but in the late 70’s, people started to brag about their MICROWAVES!

Someday, we’re going to feel dumb that we ever showed off our Fitbits, our Kindles, or Smartphones (no really, it searches the internet!). J

Many of today’s industries are built on our desires to always have more…our desires to always impress.

Think of the iPhone.  (Full disclosure: I own one, they got me too) J

But think of it… A new iphone comes out every 12 months or so, and immediately, they’ve conditioned you to look at the very phone, that 24 months or so, you stood in line for!)…they’ve conditioned you to look at it and think, “What a piece of garbage!”

“I can’t believe this doesn’t have a built in pedometer in it…garbage”

We are stuck in what many sociologists are now starting to call, “Affluenza.”

A combination of the words Affluence and Influenza.

It’s the idea that our desire for wealth and affluence is so prevalent in America that it’s contagious…like influenza.

Now, let me preface with what I always preface when I talk about money…

It’s not that money in and of itself is bad.  Don’t freak out.  It’s not. 

Jesus had some rich friends.  Like Joseph of Arimathea. 

Paul knew some wealthy folks who helped fund his ministry. 

It’s not bad.

What’s bad is that we pursue it for the wrong reasons.

Listen, I’ve met relatively few people who’ve said, “I just want to make more money because if I can make more money, I can help sponsor more kids in Haiti…I can give more to the Kingdom of God, so more people can meet Christ…If I make more, I can be more generous.”

I do actually know a few people like that.

But 95% of us…want more…so WE can have more…BECAUSE why??

Because we think…if I can have more, then…I can have more, do more, be safer, and be happier.

And that’s what the Bible calls idolatry.

It’s finding our worth in something else besides God.  

This morning, I want to take this topic even further.

We are finishing a series today called the Gilded Age.

Named after a real period of American History (1870-1900) where on the outside it looked like every one was swimming in money, and yet, on the inside, poverty was a very serious issue.

We’ve covered a lot of modern day topics in this series where it looks like things are gilded (which means covered in a thin layer of gold) on the outside (like our instagrammed lives), but on the inside…we’re hurting.

And this morning, I want to talk about our neverending chase of money.

Our chasing of having a great house, a great car, a remodeled kitchen, a great garage, a man cave, the best (and biggest) flat screen TV, the best phone, the best furniture…and we could go on for a long time.   

And I just want to warn you at the outset, I’m going to ask you some uncomfortable questions today…but Biblical questions.

I want to encourage you to say to yourself now, “I want to risk being uncomfortable…so I can hear what it’s like to live like Jesus…not the culture”

Let me preface this way:  If Jesus moved to the suburbs in 2015, what do YOU think his life would look like?

So if we’re Christians (which means little Christ’s), we need to ask hard questions…

And questions that we don’t often ask because our culture is in such a “fog of affluenza” that we don’t even think to ask these questions anymore. 

Yet, when we hold our culture up to the Bible…there are some challenging questions there.  

Like:  What are we actually chasing?

If we get another promotion…a bigger house…will it be enough?  

One of the richest men to ever live, King Solomon, says it will not:

(Ecclesiastes 5:10) – NIV

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

Here’s what happens:

There’s always someone better off than you can compare yourself to.

Lindsey and I spent the first 7 years of our marriage in an apartment, and when we finally bought a house…it was all too easy to say, “Ahh, but the neighbors have a walk-out basement…if we just had a walk-out”

You can get a new car…but there always seems to be a version of your car nicer than yours.

We had to get a different car with more seats because my Honda Civic couldn’t fit 3 children 2 and under in it…and while I was test driving something larger, the guy says to me, “If you had the nicer version, this little compartment right here actually has constant AC in it and keeps your drinks cool!”

Ahh…if I only had THAT!”

The rich, always find someone richer to compare themselves to




And when we find out it’s not enough, we resort to putting on a “gilding” that says it works J 

It’s much like we talked about with our Instagram message in week 1 of this series

All the “fun filtered” events that we put on social media aren’t actually filling us up, but perhaps if our ‘friends” praise us for doing them, THAT will fill us up.  

And in a similar manner, when money, a raise, a new car, a new house, doesn’t fill us up, we think that perhaps at least the praise and admiration of others will fill us up.

But it won’t.

Maybe for a second it will.

Happiness from possessions is like cotton candy.

Sweet for a moment, but dissolved an instant later.

But we think, “we better keep up the appearance that this is working for me!  See how successful I am!”

And we’re serious about this pursuit!  I can prove it too!

The average American household with at least 1 credit card, now has around $10,000 in credit card debt. 

That’s credit-card debt.

Not money you owe on your mortgage or school loans.  Credit card debt.

For what?!?

We’re in debt…so we can put a nice, thin, gilded, gold layer over the financial realities of our lives…so people can see how “pretend happy” we are.

It’s all over the place.  And you’d be surprised at just how common this is.

When I was a Youth Pastor, I would have parents come to me all the time, and say, “I can’t afford the $99 for the retreat for my son.”

And I would stop and think, “You live in a $400,000 house…how can you not afford $99?”  

It’s a gilded layer

Do you remember playing the Game of Life growing up? 

You know, you get the blue and pink pegs, start a family, hit the pay day spots, play the stock market, and hopefully you retire a millionaire?

Well, in Milton Bradley’s latest version of Life from 2007, players get (no joke) a VISA electronic game card

And even if you’re hugely in debt, no matter, you’re still playing!

In Monopoly back in the day, if you’re bankrupt, you’re out.

In fact, even in the games that the Game of Life was essentially copied from in the 1800’s, there used to be a square for living a life in debt.

It was literally called, “The Road to Folly” 

 But culture has changed.   

Our need to gild over our financial difficulties has apparently increased tenfold 

And let me just ask you:  Is it working for you?

Is it bringing you deep joy?


Do you wake up in the morning just feeling satisfied to your soul because of what you have?  

If you ARE struggling in debt…and you want help…I highly encourage you to google Financial Peace University…

It’s an amazing class we’ve offered before…other churches are offering it all the time.

Find help.  It’s out there. 

Before we go any further, let me stop you for a moment.

Whatever we want to call this:  Coveting, discontentment, materialism, greed… are all some of the HARDEST things for us to self-identify as our problems.

In fact, there was an interesting study done about the 7 deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, sloth, and greed).

Out of the 7, when polled, GREED was said to be the biggest problem facing modern-day society, however, when we’re polled personally, we say that GREED is OUR least common sin of the 7 deadly sins.

So, let me recap, we say Greed is the BIGGEST problem facing society, but for us, personally, it’s the least problematic.

Somebody’s lying here J

Like anything that’s rooted deep within us, our defense mechanisms are quite complex

Let me tell you the most common defense mechanism for “Affluenza”

Maybe you’ve even been shielding yourself from my words with this one so far. 

Here’s what we do:  We identify a particular place in our life where we are quite frugal, and we hold that up as a shiny example of who we are…and we ignore all of the other evidence for our rampant materialism.

So, all morning, you’ve been thinking, “I drive a 2001 mini-van…I don’t think this applies to me”

But you spent $2,000 on your “hobby” last year

And $500 on jewelry in the last 6 months

We pick and choose all over the place when it comes to this topic.

So start daringly asking yourself, “Where do I struggle with this?”




Because if you don’t ask that question…you’ll always be chasing more…trying to find contentment in the cotton candy of this world.

Because that is what you’re looking for, right?

Contentment?  Happiness.

I think most of us want to just wake up in the morning, feeling great about our lives.

Feeling satisfied.  Like we’ve done the right things…and are happy with how things are going.

But I’m telling you… that if you keep chasing upgrades like every other American…you’ll never find contentment there.

I was reading some material from Rick Ezell, who is a pastor in South Carolina, this week, and I found this to be so helpful

“Our tendency is to look for things that will make us content – those things that are better or those events that are next…rather than putting forth the effort it takes to learn how to be content.”  - Rick Ezell

There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

So ask yourself:  Am I just looking for the next THING to make me content, or am I trying to find contentment in what I already have??

Those are two TOTALLY different paths

And most of us have been on the completely wrong path.

We’re chasing things trying to get to contentment, when we just need to stop running. 

See, because right in front of you (above you, around you), is something far greater than what we’re chasing.

(Hebrews 13:5) – NIV

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

The greatest contentment can be found in what we already have:

You have Jesus. 

A God who loves you and forgave you…and will never leave you.

The glory of his love for you now…and throughout eternity is going to make the riches and possessions of this world look like crumbling pieces of paper being swept along with the wind

You have someone who will love you and take care of you for the next billion years

Why look for contentment in green paper, or 4 wheels, or business suits?

They’ll be in the dump with everything else sooner or later.

Can you find contentment in just Jesus? 

The Puritans, when they would sit down to a lowly meal, sometimes of just bread and water, would pray, “All this…and Jesus too?!” 

We’re blessed. 

They found contentment where we would complain

Seminary Professor, Sinclair Ferguson, defines contentment this way:

“Contentment is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord at his disposal” – Sinclair Ferguson

Contentment is where you don’t need anything else but to love and serve Jesus.


(Psalm 73:25) – NIV

 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

We’ve taken over 50 people to third world countries on missions trips in the last few years and probably the number one reaction I get is:

“I can’t believe how happy the people are.”

What’s happening there?

Our assumption is:  “They don’t have anyTHING...they must be depressed”

The truth:  The have JESUS…and they’ve learned they don’t need much else.  

Let me be honest with you…we hate thinking about this as Americans…but the reason so many of us are miserable is because we’re chasing things that we are convinced will fill us up, but they never do.

 And few of us have the guts to…trust God…get off the rat race and try something different

Few of us want to look deep into the Bible and say, “What should this really look like…as a Christian?” 

Can you be content with just God?

What if you didn’t have so much stuff?

And I’m differentiating between money and “stuff”

Money, can be used amazingly to change the world.

Stuff…usually not.  

What if you changed how you accumulated possessions?

I know a number of people who’ve read and loved Jen Hatmaker’s book “7,” where her upper-middle class family experiments with living off 7 foods for a month…of 7 articles of clothes…or by giving 7 things away a day for a month.

And asking, “Can we still be content?” 

“Or is Affluenza actually an idol for us?”

Trust God in this. 

Look at his wisdom:

(1 Timothy 6:6-10) – NIV

 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.


(Philippians 1:21) - NIV

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.




So how do you live like that?

Let me give you an obvious tip and one that isn’t so obvious to us.

The obvious one is:  Start spending more time with Jesus.

You aren’t going to realize how satisfying He is to your soul until you actually get to know Him.

Spend time talking to Him everyday…in prayer.

Read His letter to you, the Bible, everyday…on your phone, on paper, on audio on your commute.

Make Sunday mornings and house groups, a priority in your life…not just something you do if your schedule allows. 

And let me spend some time on the not so obvious tip:

It’s hard for you to believe in ‘contentment in Christ’ while you’re still standing in the current of consumerism.   

You can not serve two masters. 

(Matthew 6:24) – NIV

 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

One of them has to be the thing you live for. 

It’s logic:  One of them will always come before the other.

So, if we’re going to find our contentment in Christ first…we need to get serious not just about spending time with Him, but also about stepping out of the current of consumerism

And figuring out which river you’re currently caught up in…because it’s different for everyone

Let me ask you an interesting question:  “What is the one thing from this world that you think might be standing in the way of your happiness?”

Fill in the blank:  I will be happy when _______

When I finish school.  What I get a new/better job.  When I have a baby.  When I go on vacation. 

Well maybe that’s the current you’re standing in that’s keeping you from finding true contentment?

Let me ask you some more questions J

Do you ever feel like you have to spend money to have fun…you have to go somewhere…eat somewhere?

How much do you think or talk about new clothes, or the next vacation, or how you both will be happier when you have a nicer place?

See, you can’t find contentment in God…while you’re standing in the current of consumerism.

Figure out where you’re chasing contentment in other things…where you’re building up a gilded layer…to show others how great your life is.

And then ask yourself some really, really hard questions

What if you went home and did an audit…better yet, what if you had someone else do it so you could see past your own blinders. 

What if you went through your house and asked, “Where are we living in excess and drifting along with the current of affluenza?”

And when you found it, you stepped out of the current, and you sold it away.

And you didn’t keep the proceeds…because that wouldn’t get you out of the current.  

But rather you gave the money to a family in need. 

Or to one of the 17 people going to Haiti in a few months.

What if…you started asking hard questions about “What exactly are the activities that keep you in the current of consumerism instead of the contentment of Christ?”

Is it magazines with all the latest clothes that you just learned you had to have?

Do you need to just keep your phone for 4 years as a way to step back?

Do you need to stop going to parade of homes…because you already have a home, and you’re grateful. 

Is it websites, looking at cars, is it something on TV…

What is it that is keeping you in the current of consumerism that keeps sweeping you up in Affluenza?

And then start making hard choices about living differently.

If you’re married, do this together.

This is an incredibly hard topic to speak to Americans on. 

We are in bed with consumerism, and we feel if we walk away from her, we will be ostracized or weird or worse.   

But why aren’t we more nervous about not looking like Jesus?

Look at the words of the great Apostle Paul:

(Philippians 4:11-13) – NIV  - Leave up for 30 seconds

 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

It’s ironic, this is one of the most commonly misused verses in America.

We quote that last verse as some sort of spiritual catalyst that helps in our successes.

I can win this football game, get this job, get this degree, sign this mortgage…through Him who gives me strength!

And yet, do you know the context of this verse?

Paul, is writing this towards the end of his life, where he says, I have LEARNED to be content…over time.

And he’s writing this letter…from PRISON in Rome.

He has NOTHING right now. 

No Gilded House…no money…no anything really. 

He’s been beaten, shipwrecked, and arrested for following Jesus…and now he’s in prison.

And he’s saying, “In good or bad, fed or hungry, free or in prison, I’m content…because of Jesus”

I can endure…survive…and find joy in all things…because He gives me strength.  

So even if my house were to burn down or my possessions were buried at sea, my contentment was never found in that anyway.

HE gives me strength.

HE gives me life

So…my challenge to you is to begin this lifelong journey

Step out of the current of consumerism…and find your contentment in Christ. 

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.

David SornThe Gilded Age