…And it’s not a pleasant one. Why, I do believe it’s the spirit of this age reeking again.
Allow me to share my story.
A few days ago, I took a vacation day to recover from my crazy-packed-schedule-admin-ness. I hadn’t had a day off in about a month, and it seemed like time to take one. So I found myself with a free day, an untouched gift card from Christmas, and a friend’s wedding coming up this weekend. Seemed like a perfect time to invest in a new dress.
I went to a local shopping mall. This is not a big entertainment super-plex of a place. It’s got your standard anchor stores, a pretty dinky food court, and assorted random clothing / shoe / bric-a-brac stores. I found a great dress at the first store I went to, but I still had the evening free, so I decided to wander around.
It’s a good thing I did, too. I had been planning for a few days to encourage a coworker of mine and contribute towards a financial need they have. I wanted to get a card for them, but I had yet to find one that was simply pretty on the outside and blank on the inside. Fortunately, this mall had a Hallmark store, and there I found a card that fit the bill.
Having gotten what I came for — a dress and a card — I took my time wandering. I didn’t want to buy anything else. I wasn’t checking out any sales. I wasn’t really even window shopping. I was just enjoying being out of the house and really enjoying not rushing to another looming appointment.
However, when I was at the far end of the mall, I began to notice something strange. That money I was planning on giving away? You know, the gift I bought the card for in the first place? I was not wanting to give it away any more. I could feel myself trying to talk myself out of the amount. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I was being foolish with my funds (I live on missionary support, after all). Maybe I should reconsider…
As soon as I recognized what I was thinking, my next thought was, Good gravy. Get me out of here!
I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about shopping malls. There’s nothing bad about shopping. But I was definitely experiencing something bizarre. I think I was picking up a weird mixture of the credit card hyper-consumer culture (I deserve nice things and I deserve them right now), mixed with the poverty mentality of “everyone panic, we’re in a recession” (What will become of me if I can’t continue to buy all of these nice things that I deserve?)
Welcome to Babylon, folks. This is not the fullness of what we see coming in Revelation 17-18, but I think it’s a definite foretaste of it. This is the same kind of spirit that Daniel faced off with when he was first deported to Babylon as a teenager.
When Nebuchadnezzar took those Hebrew boys captive to Babylon, he didn’t lock them in small, dark rooms, deprive them of basic necessities, and try to torture and brainwash them into the Babylonian way. He was far too cunning for that. Instead, he lured them in with luxuries and comforts. He didn’t just see that they were well-fed — he appointed them portions from his very own table, the finest cuisine to be had in all the land. We only have record of four boys who had the presence of mind and alertness of heart to refuse the luxurious food, and instead opt for a simple diet of vegetables.
Nice food was not itself the issue. But that nice food had a lot of strings attached to it, and Daniel and his three friends were wise enough to spot them. Stomachs that are filled with the abundance and the luxury of a culture produce hearts that are dull to the wickedness and pitfalls of that culture. Overindulged appetites lead to anemic spirits. The more our flesh is pandered to, the less we hear the warnings of the Holy Spirit. Which brings us right back around to our day and time.
Our culture thrives on — perhaps even worships — comfort, luxury, and leisure. Even as believers, we are extremely prone to get sucked into the undertow. You can’t walk out your front door without some ad, somewhere, informing you of how much better your life could be. “Buy it now!” “Consume this!” “Treat yourself to that!” “You deserve it!” It’s the abundance of Babylon trying to sink its hooks into the people of God, winning over our hearts one luxury at a time. Under the banner of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are exhorted to use our own resources to further our own comfort and honor. To dig up the old cliche, “Get what you can and can what you get.” It’s the direct opposite of how Jesus tells us to live, and as such, is a powerfully dulling influence upon our hearts.
As our nation panics because our dream home/car/vacation may suddenly be out of reach, this is not the time to follow suit. It’s time to seize the opportunity to detach ourselves from the allure of Babylon with all its wealth and so-called pleasures. Let’s give extravagantly. Let’s fast and pray. Let’s embrace the road of weakness and humility, living transcendently. Obviously, I still have a long way to go, but I want the delicacies of this age to have no hold on my soul. I’d much prefer to have vibrant love for the holy God (who is the most beautiful, pleasurable Person to pursue anyway), an excellent spirit, and a heart of wisdom. The rich fare of Babylon can’t hold a candle to that.