Affluenza and Injustice

Posted on December 13, 2013 | 16 comments

When I saw the term on the TV today, I thought it was some sort of typo. Then, after it was repeated, I thought is was some sort of joke.


According to Wikipedia, affluenza is a term used to describe the feeling of worthlessness that the wealthy feel as they pursue more. Recently, affluenza (not a recognized disorder) was used in the defense of a teenager who stole a couple of cases of beer, drove drunk, and killed four people.

The defense went something like this – because of the sense of entitlement and proneness to irresponsible behavior associated with affluenza, this teen did not have a sense that what he was doing was wrong. Rather than jail, the teen got probation. And a year in a California rehab facility. The response to the ruling has been overwhelming outrage.

Why are we outraged?

God is just. God does not show favoritism.

We were created in the image of God. (see Created in God’s Image)

Even though the image we bear is broken, the injustice of this decision resonates within us. We may express it poorly or violently or angrily (that is our brokenness taking over), but we know that the absence of meaningful consequence is wrong.

The halls of justice are supposed to be blind, aware of the intrinsic worth of all people.

But it seems that in this case, the halls of justice showed favoritism – grace based on the financial status of the accused.

People have worth because they bear the image of their Creator. They are loved by their Creator. Regardless of wealth, status, or power.

Our outrage is caused by the overt declaration that one person be afforded more value based on wealth.

Why are we surprised?

While this example is more in our face because it is so overt, the fact that so many in our culture are surprised by this seems curious.

Ascribing worth based on status, wealth, or what you produce is an ingrained part of our broken culture.

Consider Hollywood. The people who act for us and get paid a lot of money to do it. When ‘stars’ speak, we allow them to shape our political thoughts, spiritual direction, or where we spend our time and money. They have been given this status as influencers because of their wealth.

Consider athletes. We could go through news item after news item of professional athletes that break laws and get leniency because they are ascribes special status due to their wealth and prominence.

Consider churches. Followers of Christ do this with our pastors. We establish kingdoms of personality rather than establish the kingdom of heaven. Think about who you download on iTunes and then think about why.

We are a culture that corresponds the worth of the person to how much they have or produce.

James called showing favoritism in the Church based on wealth evil; allowing ourselves to be exploited by intentionally diminishing our significance because of what another has. James 2:1 – 7…

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”  have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

The affluenza defense is an example of the standards of the world being unjust.

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  1. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Visiting today from Spiritual Sundays Link-up. About your post…yes, we’ve reached a new low. For sure. However, things like that don’t happen in Texas. Just sayin’.

  3. Amen. So glad I found you at Rich Faith Rising. I love reading writing where Fatih is joined to social justice. I agree, “We are a culture that corresponds the worth of the person to how much they have or produce.” We are broken, and desperately need Christ to fill in all the broken places.
    Peace and good to you in this Advent season.

    • I am really glad you stopped by. Hope to hear from you again!

  4. What an upside world we live in where a teen can be excused for driving drunk and resulting in the death of four people??? !!! This case will be one that others will state to prove their accused is also innocent.

    I am so glad tht Jesus took my sins and covered them with His blood and declared me Righteous.

    Thank you for sharing your interesting post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

  5. great interesting post.. thanks for sharing!

  6. Our rampaging materialism is goes unchallenged in the middle class but it looks to me like the upper class have provided an example of what happens because greed is idolatry!

  7. I’ve never heard of this, Scott! How ridiculous and sad that a judge swallowed that prejudiced reasoning. But you’re also right that we as a culture accept and give special honor to those with money, and I might add–youth/beauty as well. Even though this outrages me, I’m sure I’m also guilty of this kind of biased perspective at times. So, as usual, you’ve brought illumination to that which is false and wayward in my heart–a challenge that I welcome. Merry Christmas, my friend!

  8. Reading through the prophets for a book I’m currently writing, and this is a constant, recurring theme. Affluenza is certainly something that God considers to be Injustice, and He feels strongly about it. Great post!

  9. You’re right. Our culture does perceive and treat some people are more worthwhile than others based on different criteria. Wealth is one of those criteria, but perhaps the most prevalent criterion used is development. We ignore the God-given rights of the unborn because they are weaker, more helpless, and less developed. The most common argument given for abortion is that the unborn aren’t persons – as if personhood and worth was something that had to be attained by doing something or having some ability rather than simply being a characteristic of all human beings. When we ascribe worth to a human being based on what they can do in one instance, why does it surprise us when we see other instances of some people being treated as more valuable than others?

  10. I agree with you that we are a culture that corresponds the worth of the person to how much they have or produce. Very sad, but very true. Thanks for sharing your post!

  11. I have little faith in our “justice” system most days. It can go the oppisite way too. I have a friend who is being charged with a crime and made a mockery of because of who he is. When if someone else did the same thing nothing would happen. All by a prosecutor who let’s his buddies who commit crimes go free. And yes it can be proved. So sad. I am not excusing my friends crime by the way. Thank goodness my Church loves everyone regardless of dress or money. If it took money to be liked at Church or accepted by Jesus, I would be in trouble.

  12. I am connecting to you from Pour Your Heart Out. I must have missed this in the news. It is totally wrong, but we can trust in the Lord to intercede at some point. My thought is that if someone uses affluenza as their legal defense, then their parents should have to go on trial.

  13. That whole thing about value related to what we produce? Yeah, that. I’ve been known to bow down at the feet of the Production Idol.

    Thoughtful post here, as always. Grateful for your linking up with #TellHisStory.

  14. Very interesting post! I learned something! Thank you so much for sharing on Whatever Wednesday! Hope to see you again this week! Happy New Year!

  15. So thankful that God saw worth in me through the saving work of his son, Jesus!!

    Thanks for linking this to Think Tank Thursday. I hope to see you again today.

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