Defined, Self-indulgence means excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims. Psychologist Jessie De Witt Huberts calls the spirit of self-indulgence, hedonic overconsumption, which is the tendency to overindulge because it feels good. (European Journal of Social Psychology, 2012). If we want to see the worse of hedonic overconsumption, all one needs to do is watch the first season of Preachers of LA. One of the preacher characters boasted he and his wife had to buy another mansion to warehouse her wardrobe. The bishop bragged he is using his old mansion as his “man cave.” Truly the spirit of hedonic overconsumption is alive and well in our world and the Apostle James in James 5 identified this spirit of self-indulgence and it needs to be addressed today as self-indulgence has many faces. Some of us eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much and lie too much. If not careful, we can all fall prey to this sinful spirit. To enjoy a closer walk with God, we must overcome this spirit of self-indulgence. We must break this chain of self-indulgence because God truly expects more of His people! To break this chain of self-indulgence we must:
1. Acknowledge we are God’s stewards in creation. In Creation God told Adam and Eve they were to have dominion over and subdue the earth, and replenish the earth. We are to husband all that God puts within our reach – which means we are to care and nurture all of creation. What this means is when God has positioned us to have more than what we need, we are to find the deficit in our community and help make up the difference. Where we find need we are to help meet it! Where we find hopelessness we are to give a reason of the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15). If we are to eradicate poverty, hunger, or the gap between the haves and the have not’s, we are to make it happen! We must know God has gifted and resourced His people to subdue and maintain what God has created.
2. We must realize believers are God’s agents in the world. When we make a quick assessment of the world’s problems we can trace many of them back to hedonic overconsumption or self-indulgence. James says: “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:5). With biting irony, James described the misuse of money as selfishness and unwarranted riches with which the wealthy indulged themselves. The rich were living a life of wanton, wasteful indulgence and using their wealth solely for display. In glaring contrast to the defrauded harvesters, these rich owners were living lavishly. The ultimate end of self-indulgence leads to excessive striving for yet more worldly pleasure, while the laborers were deprived of the necessities of life and the poor were deprived of justice. True wealth will ultimately come out of our relationship with God. True intimacy and communion with God is priceless. It will not be our wealth that will stand the test of time, rather our truthful and faithful relationship with God.
Beloved, the bottom line is if we are to overcome the spirit of self-indulgence we must realize what we do is not about us, but we are a part of a larger purpose in the world. We are not just here to become fat cats and eat, drink and be merry! We have a greater and larger purpose to fulfill. Some people live below their purpose, and it is not because they don’t make enough money and receive the acclaims of people, but because they have never discovered what God has for them to do. In the end Whitney Houston never thought she was good enough or pretty enough, in spite of her rare gift, so she turned to drugs and died a premature death. The theology of the Bible is based on the premise that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1) and at best we are to be God’s stewards on the earth. We are not our own, we all belong to the Lord and God has endowed each of us with purpose and blessed us with resources not to hoard but to be a blessing to others. (See 2 Corinthians 8-9).
Next Week: Continuation
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.