Bling Bling Culture, Part 1

District Fellowship News

July, August 2008

I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘bling bling’ used to describe expensive accessories and possessions, usually very obvious ones such as diamonds, watches, jewelry, etc. Originally used in rap lyrics and brought into hip hop, it was used as a way to describe the trappings of success as defined by a culture that sees possessions especially of unnecessary items as a measure of how important or powerful you are. Although the term came out of the rap and hip hop cultures, it has permeated almost all of culture and was even used by presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he greeted a mother who’s baby was adorned in some gold jewelry. Unfortunately for today’s society there are many people who live for the ‘bling bling’. Their aspiration in the world is to have, to obtain, to own, or at least to have the appearance of importance and wealth. This ’bling bling’ culture has permeated the outlook of Americans young and old. Studies and surveys have shown a shift over the years in attitudes about possessions and position.  ‘Bling bling’ is just the latest outgrowth.

Unfortunately, this culture permeates the church as well. Attitudes and values are brought into the church through the people who participate and attend. When Paul writes to the Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, he could be speaking directly to attitudes about finances and wealth. ‘Bling bling’ is all about what makes me look good, what makes life easy for me, what lifts me up. That’s the pattern of the world, but when it is brought in to the church it collides with God’s pattern for us. God’s pattern involves provision, stewardship, sacrificial love, compassion, humility, and denial. We have to let God renew our thinking so that we can be free of the world’s success definitions, and become the instruments of his kingdom here on earth. Over the next few articles, let’s address a couple of issues in this area.

What are your financial priorities? Recently we have been shocked by the sudden increase in fuel prices. The cost of travel to work and back has doubled in a year. Transportation costs have caused increases in costs of a wide variety of products including food. Heating oil has increased in price by 70% in a year putting additional strains on household budgets. In addition, home values are retreating and many individuals are caught with increased mortgage payments and an unsalable home. Of course, most companies have not stepped up and matched the price increases with increases in employee wages, you must absorb the additional cost and meet your obligations with your current income. So we must revisit our decisions on where to spend our money. There are only two options, cut spending or increase income. How do we decide? The truth of the matter is that we should have made our decisions from the beginning. We should know what the absolutes are, what the needs are, and what the wants are. But for many of us needs and wants are all tangled together and because of our previous decisions based on some of the world’s pattern, we’ve lost hold of God’s principles. Some of the assumptions that are usually made are as follows:

ASSUMPTION #1: I deserve to have life better than my parents had it.

Starting from the Great Depression, every generation defines success as having more than their parents and giving their children more than they had. One of the fears of our young people today is that they won’t be better off than their parents, and that makes some angry because they believe they are entitled to a better life. Although desiring your children to be better off than you is admirable, assuming you are entitled to be better off then your parents is unbiblical for two reasons. God doesn’t define success by how much you have or how much easier it is for you than the other guy, and God doesn’t say the next generation will be better off than the last. Entitlement isn’t applicable to material gain. Just because God owns ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’ doesn’t entitle you to a few hills worth of cattle to call your own. If your father owns a company, it doesn’t entitle you to write checks on the business account so you can live happy.

Contrary to this easy life idea, one of the main themes running throughout scripture involves sacrifice and denial. In the ‘bling bling’ mentality, you deny yourself nothing; not just in the area of possessions but also in other areas of our life: food, sexuality, service. You earned it, or took it, or deserve it, so why should I have to sacrifice or deny myself anything I can grab. But in God’s truth, we find that Jesus was our example of laying down anything he inherited, giving it up so that he could make it available to us. Certainly he ‘deserved’ worship and honor, God in heaven with angels bowing to Him, but he didn’t keep the trappings and the splendor for Himself, He shared it with us. So drop the entitlement vocabulary and follow Him.

ASSUMPTION #2: I earned it, so I can do what I want with it...(more).