george hancock stefanA friend of mine was talking about a trip that he took recently. It was one of those trips that became more luxurious as the days progressed. As he returned home the expression that came to his mind was regurgitative opulence. In plain English, he felt like throwing up after seeing the riches that people in that particular society enjoyed.

When we travel around the world, we can see palaces like the one at Versailles, or the Romanov palaces, or palaces in Vienna from the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I recently saw a display of the richest airplanes in the world and they are not in the West, but in the Middle East.

Theologians are not always the best economists, but we do have a sense that opulence is sometimes acquired through unethical means and it doesn’t necessarily make life better. For a simple illustration, does your food taste better if one eats with a plastic fork or a golden fork? Does the opulent ambiance benefit the people sitting at the table or is it the people trained to serve the diners that make the difference?

In the day of King Solomon, we are told that silver was as dust. There was so much silver and gold that the king increased his storage and built more palaces. Despite this, there was a revolt against Solomon’s son after he died. The people complained that Solomon ruled harshly over them. In his glory and riches, he became an oppressor. His son was not very wise and told the people that he will be even harsher than his father. His kingdom was quickly reduced from twelves tribes to two.

Our president Donald Trump likes to acquire gold and wealth. In a series of pictures of his home, we could see his bedroom. It has lots of gold. I do not think that the promise of making America great should have that as the standard of achievement. Even if all the gold in the United States was distributed among its citizens, I do not think we would reach the gold bedroom of President Trump.

On the opposite side of regurgitative opulence stands the Apostle Paul. He reminds us that riches are treacherous and we should have a thankful heart. In 1 Timothy 6, he writes, “If we have food and clothing, we will be happy with that. People who want to get rich are tempted. They fall into a trap. They are tripped up by wanting many foolish and harmful things. Those who live like that are dragged down by what they do. They are destroyed and die.”