The press is abuzz with a verdict that was handed down in Texas earlier this week regarding the case of a teenager who killed four pedestrians and injured two others while he was intoxicated and behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Reports seem to bear out that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit and prosecutors were hoping for a conviction that would result in 20 years behind bars.
Instead, the young man was given ten years probation and will not apparently serve any jail time. The defense called a psychologist who said that the teen suffered from “affluenza” and therefore was not aware that life actions carried consequences, among other things. Now affluenza is not a recognized disease, but it has become popular for what it has come to mean and even as I write this evening, the definition of the word is evolving.
Originally, it had to do with being overly materialistic and trying to keep up with the “Joneses”. It included acquiring debt and overspending and all the other things that we warn people not to do. But more recently, the word has taken on a little different meaning. It is now recognized as defining somebody who believes in entitlement and that he/she doesn’t have to follow the rules – primarily because they have never been taught that there are any consequences for poor behavior, usually but not always because they have grown up with extreme wealth and privilege.
In the particular case we are highlighting this evening, the defense tried to state that the teen was never taught these seemingly basic tenets of social responsibility. Furthermore, the defense stated that the accused had been used as a pawn between the parents, who fought with one another and focused on their child for leverage. The judge in the case agreed that the teen needed counseling and used this idea to avoid a jail sentence for the accused.
Since the verdict, I have been thinking about this idea of entitlement and lack of consequence. And I am sure that you may agree that this issue permeates our society – I have seen it in our own family! During the snow yesterday morning, I finished shoveling our own driveway and then headed over to our daughter’s home to start there. Our three grandchildren were nowhere to be found, yet it was mid morning. I ended up doing the drive and sidewalk alone, even though there were three young boys who could have helped out had they been up and ready.
After I went to the store to get additional ice melt and several other items for the snow, I noticed our daughter’s neighbor out attempting to shovel his driveway. I immediately got out of the car and helped finished his drive and sidewalk. The man, an elderly foreign gentleman, was most grateful and took off his glove to shake my hand. I could tell how much he appreciated my help. But the part that really intrigued me was that Kristin’s neighbor is 92 years old – that’s right – 92! And he was out there with the best of them doing his own driveway. What is it that I find so refreshing about our eldest generation? They still seem to really have a solid work ethic and take care of themselves without asking for much help.
Admittedly, some of us think that he shouldn’t be out there at 92 doing his driveway. And I can’t even imagine that I will still be doing snow shoveling when I am in my nineties. But he really earned my respect – and I couldn’t wait to help him. That’s the difference with so many people today – not only do they not reach out to others – they expect a ton of help for anything they are doing. I have grave concerns that we are losing our way in teaching our youngsters how to be responsible, God fearing, contributing members of society. Without a sense of affluenza. I can’t even imagine a defense like this being mounted fifty years ago in a courtroom.
The verse for this evening is one you have seen before. We are told in “Prov. 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This means that we have to be diligent and make sure that we teach our children to be self sufficient and socially responsible. My encouragement this evening is that as parents and grandparents we have a tremendous responsibility to make sure we bring up our children in the right way. My prayer is that we can all be proud of our families, their work ethics and their commitment to the Lord. Hopefully, we can eradicate affluenza from the face of the earth. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…