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September 21, 2014

Rolls Royce hood ornament, Pebble Beach, Photo by Brendel (CC A-SA 3.0 Unported)

 “ ‘He swallows down riches and vomits them up again; God casts them out of his belly’ ” (Job 20: 15).

Our society celebrates extravagance. We have television programs about the sale of multi-million dollar homes, and the lives of the famous or would-be famous. We have programs showcasing remodeling projects running into the hundreds of thousands and houses so choked with material goods that their owners seek out professional help.

The actress, Cate Blanchett, was slated to carry a $100,000 designer handbag at the 2007 Academy Awards. The handbag was made of alligator, and framed in 18kt gold with black and white diamonds. That was paltry compared with the $1 million diamond encrusted flat iron used to style celebrity hair. There had already been $2 million shoes (studded with 565 platinum-set diamonds) worn by singer, Alison Krauss, to the 2004 Oscar ceremony.  Presumably the price has gone up since.

What is reputed to be the world’s most expensive chocolate was selling for around $90/lb when last I checked. Another brand of chocolate identifies itself by “vintage” year. A third comes with instructions that suggest “pairing” with spring water.

Facial powder with 24kt gold flakes sells for about $97/oz. Spa treatments followed by a sprinkling of gold dust (“to give the face and body a natural luminescence”) can be had for a mere $125/hour or so.

Meanwhile, the woman at the checkout counter $10 short on food stamps causes an intolerable delay to those standing behind her on line.

The disparity between “haves” and “have nots” has grown to grotesque proportions. Rather than nauseated by this, we are becoming inured to it.

We are, after all, entitled. Those who fail to break out of poverty and all it entails, those crushed under the wheel, simply did not try hard enough or were “ungrateful” for the slender assistance extended them. So we believe.

It is more comfortable to insulate ourselves against the truth.

Take one instance. Americans spend some $29 billion annually on cosmetic procedures, anti-aging creams, lotions, and other nostrums — $450 million of this on Botox alone. That figure is nearly twice what the United Nations estimates would be needed annually to curb the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

If just a third of the 300,000 American women who have breast implants each year decided to forego vanity in favor of something more lasting than all those bags of salt water and jelly, they would have from $600 million to $1 billion at their disposal with which to create something of real beauty.

There is an accounting coming.  And no amount of wealth will be able to purchase a reprieve.


  1. Excellent post! Some of these statistics I’ve never heard. Amazing but not surprising.

  2. Very good post, again. We bring awareness to our indulgences. Even though you gave us the extremes, compared to the rest of the world, how many of us really indulge to an extreme?

    • I am deeply troubled by our culture. How many Christians may have modified their behavior and beliefs to accommodate it, I cannot say.

  3. I too, am deeply troubled by our culture, Anna. I’m distressed by the promotion of entitlement, selfishness, ‘every man for himself’ attitudes, victim-blaming, narcissism and blatant injustice perpetrated against those who are genuinely disadvantaged. I find it repulsive that people spend so much on the body beautiful and on the acquisition of indecent wealth while our brothers and sisters are homeless, in pain, suffering from hunger, thirst, lack of medical care, and unspeakable oppression at the hands of abusers. A ‘drop in the bucket’ to one entitled, avaricious human being is the difference between life and death to another. There will be an accounting one day, as you say…and there are those who should tremble at the thought of its coming. Yet even those of us in the Western World who feel we have little…have so much compared to billions of others in developing nations. I love this post…

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt comment, Miss Min. I am grateful to have found a kindred spirit in you (Eccl. 4: 9-10). We can so easily become discouraged when we believe ourselves alone. The challenge is, I think, to bear witness in the face of these distressing trends, and continue to have faith that God is in control. I look forward to hearing from you again!


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