Many of us suffer from a widespread but little known affliction called “Goodstuffitis”. How do you know if you have it? Its primary symptoms are forgetfulness and boasting but the early warning signs that we are getting it are when we say things like “I deserve this, I earned that, life would be unfair if I did not have it.”
The Bible speaks of a people in danger of coming down with a bad case of goodstuffitis in Deuteronomy. God’s people are ready to enter the promised land and God, through Moses, is preparing them. But the danger they face in the future is not just from the danger of battle, but also what waits for them beyond the battle:
12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.” Deuteronomy 8:12-18 (NRSV emphasis mine)
Affluence is the danger that lay ahead of God’s people. Note the twin dangers that lurk in a good life; forgetting God and exalting oneself. A lot has been written on the sobering statistics of the Christian faith in Canada. Some blame church music, some blame boring preaching, and some blame stuck-in-the-mud ethics for the shift away from faith. Meanwhile those of an atheistic bent would have us believe that we can thank better education. But perhaps what we are experiencing are the symptoms of a bad case of goodstuffitis. Things are going good for the typical Canadian. Opportunities abound. Houses are being built. Fancy cars, fancy cottages, and fancy coffees are being bought. People are doing well. And God is all but forgotten. Self, on the other hand, is exalted.
What are we to do? The cure for goodstuffitis is gratitude. God’s people are told to “remember the Lord your God” (verse 18). They are, of course, not just to remember that God exists, but rather to remember that everything good that they have and experience, would not have happened if it were not for the Lord’s goodness to them. Likewise, we can remember the Lord in all the good that we have and experience.
However, we may push back and say “I have this because I earned it, I am entitled to it.” We might consider the words of Paul here: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:7b (NRSV). Yes, we may have worked hard in school to get good grades, but did you create your own brain? Yes, you may work hard to earn money, but did you create the earth with its resources, routines, and seasons so necessary for your work to be carried out? At some point or other, everything that we can point to as good in our lives has its source in God.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17 NASB)
And the greatest example of all is our salvation. How people so badly want to earn it! How people so assuredly think they are entitled to it. We can not, and we are not. Salvation, in all the fullness of what that means, is a gift! There is no greater good that we could have or experience, but gratitude must be applied to keep us from developing goodstuffitis even in this: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Corinthians 9:15 (NRSV).
We have been considering how God through His Holy Spirit is creating within us the character trait of generosity. We have considered also that we may at times stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. A bad case of goodstuffitis with its symptoms of boasting and a sense of entitlement can kill generosity. It’s not hard to see how this can kill our hopes of becoming generous people; “I worked for it and you didn’t, I deserve it, and you don’t.” But thankfully there is a cure, and that cure is gratitude. Lord, may I not feel entitled to, nor boast about, the good that I have and experience, but may I be grateful to your for it, and knowing it is from your hand, help me share it with others.