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Of Scarcity and Sanctity

It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have everything one wants—Blaise Pascal, Pensées.

Jeep Cherokees are beyond my salary as a philosopher. I am driving one because my humble 2012 RAV-4 is in the repair shop. The Jeep sports a touch screen dashboard, which I often find confusing. I drove it for a week without understanding how to regulate the heat. A young student of mine figured it out in less than one second. Sirius XM radio offers over a 100 channels, most terrible; one great: Real Jazz. The steering wheel heats up—on high or low—in a few seconds—as does the seat. One could go on. I hope it takes months to fix my real car.

The Jeep is impressive, luxurious even. It has comfort written all over it. And I forgot to mention the power seats. Luxury, however, used to be deemed a sin. The on-line Oxford English Dictionary defines luxury as:

The state of great comfort and extravagant living

It states the word’s origin as from:

Middle English (denoting lechery): from Old French luxurieluxure, from Latin luxuria, from luxus ‘excess.’ The earliest current sense dates from the mid 17th century.

Excess is the word for my (rented) Jeep. All these luxurious features cost money that could be better spent on other things, such as on overseas missions or on pro-life groups at home. Putting that aside, though, being too comfortable is dangerous. Being excessive or an extremist for pleasure insolates one from life as commonly lived. I don’t put air conditioning in this category. Pampering body and soul as a way of life is, ironically, poisonous and unhealthy. Peevishness accompanies excess, since everything must please. It is not easy to step out of your Jeep Cherokee into a clunker car when it is called for. The love of pleasure for its own sake is incompatible with the love of God and man. The Apostle Paul warns of this snare in a list of vices:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Timothy 1-5).

There is no place for masochism in the Christian life. God has given all things to enjoy, but none of them should be worshiped. The Jeep Cherokee is fun for a time, but I will not be buying one.

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