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The Progress Paradox

Are you happy? If not, why do you think that is the case?

Proverbs 21.17

Title and some information from, The Progress Paradox, by Gregg Easterbrook

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • January 22, ad 2012

Scripture Reader and Reading: Kadin – Haggai 1.2–7


  1. Your relatives from one hundred years ago have been transported to our time. 
    1. What would they notice?
    2. Cars!
  2. Bring them home and serve them a modern meal. 
    1. You could give them fresh fruit and vegetables in January!
    2. We have so much the poor have weight problems.
  3. What would they think about our medical conditions? 
    1. They would be amazed that many of us are still alive.
    2. When was the last time you heard of someone getting
      1. polio, smallpox, malaria, Elephantiasis, measles, mumps, rubella, et al?
      2. We complain of the cost, but say nothing of the benefit.
  4. What would they think of travel today, and our impatience with it? 
    1. Lucy Randolph traveled from Oklahoma to New Mexico in covered wagon.
    2. Yet, people’s anger that a flight is 10 minutes late.
  5. What would our relatives think of 
    1. our lack of long hard physically taxing hours of work, and
    2. our lack of need to sacrifice?
  6. Yet, what is the general attitude toward America by Americans? 
    1. We complain about the condition of our country.
    2. We are depressed.
      1. We should be having enjoying life.
      2. “In 2001, Americans spent $25 billion, more than the GDP of North Korea, on recreational watercraft…” (Gregg Easterbrook, page 6).
        1. This is not the rich, but average people in America.
        2. Truly, we labor to make sure that no one thinks we are rich.
  7. I read an excerpt of a book, The Progress Paradox, by Gregg Easterbook in Time Magazine, December 15, 2003, and then read the book, in which he spoke of 
    1. The Revolution of Satisfied Expectations, dreaming of what we want, but not being happy when he get it.
    2. Catalog-Induced Anxiety
    3. Collapse Anxiety, the fear that America will collapse any moment.
    4. Abundance Denial
    5. The Unsettled Character of Progress, we solve one problem, only to invent another, such all our medical advances solving countless medical problems, but now we fight about who is going to pay for it.
    6. The Choice Penalty, we have too many choices.
    7. From Material Want to Meaning Want, people have what they want, but their lives still have no meaning.
    8. The Virtue of Gratitude
  8. In, The Way to Wholeness: Lessons from Leviticus, by Ray C. Stedman, 
    1. he speaks of what he calls, Destination Sickness,
    2. “the problem of having everything that you want but not wanting anything you have” (p. 285).
  9. In, The Valley Times, which comes out of Cave Junction, Oregon, in the December 20, 2011 issue there was this article, 
    1. “Gross Domestic Product Up, Happiness Down: From Twitter, Vermont scientists measure mood” (p. 8).
    2. Scientists and mathematicians from the University of Vermont
      1. have researched what people “tweet,” and
      2. have found complaining, discontent, and ingratitude.
  10. However, long before I read any of this material, 
    1. I read the Bible,
    2. I read of Israel’s complaining and discontent in the wilderness,
    3. I read the Book of Ecclesiastes,
    4. I read the Book of Jonah, (and the Book of Haggai), and
    5. I read the New Testament.


  1. The Bible

    17 He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
    He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
    (Pro 21.17)21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
    (Pro 23.21)

    16 Have you found honey?
    Eat only as much as you need,
    Lest you be filled with it and vomit.
    (Pro 25.16)

    15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12.15).

    6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives (1Ti 5.6).

    4 …lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2Ti 3.4).

  2. Israel’s Complaining

    24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Exo 15.24).Leaders and Food:
    2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Exo 16.2).

    Bad News:
    2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! (Num 14.2).

    11 “Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?” (Num 16.11).

    41 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD” (Num 16.41).

  3. The Book of Ecclesiastes

    2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
    “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
    (Ecc 1.2)14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecc 1.14).

    1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity (Ecc 2.1).

    11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
    And on the labor in which I had toiled;
    And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
    There was no profit under the sun.
    (Ecc 2.11).

    16 There was no end of all the people over whom he was made king;
    Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him.
    Surely this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
    (Ecc 4.16)

    7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God (Ecc 5.7).

    10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
    Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
    This also is vanity.
    (Ecc 5.10)

    2 A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction (Ecc 6.2).

    9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire.
    This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
    (Ecc 6.9)

    11 Since there are many things that increase vanity,
    How is man the better?
    (Ecc 6.11)

    5 Do not say,
    “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
    (Ecc 7.10)

    8 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
    “All is vanity.”
    (Ecc 12.8)

  4. The Book of Jonah

    5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” 10 But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4.5–11).
  5. The New Testament

    10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer (1Co 10.10).14 Do all things without complaining and disputing (Phi 2.14).

    16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 16).


  1. God’s Solution 
    1. Know and live the Beatitudes (Matt 5.3–12).
    2. Do not compare yourself with others (2Co 10.12).
    3. Enjoy what God has given you (1Ti 6.17).
    4. Be thankful (Heb 13.15).
      1. The grateful have a better outlook on life;
      2. the complainers have a bleak outlook on life.
        1. The awesome prosperity of modern America shows:
        2. Money cannot buy happiness.
  2. What is it that you want? 
    1. What is the focus of your life?
    2. What is it that if you had it, you would finally be happy?
      1. The answers to those questions are not frivolous,
      2. nor is this a psychological test, but
        1. how you answer
        2. will determine your eternal destiny.
  3. Romans 8 shows how crucial this is. 
    1. Those who follow the flesh will find a bad end, but
    2. those who follow the spirit will find what everyone wants,

      5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8.5–8).
    3. Verse 9 and following shows what I want for you with this message,

      9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom 8.9–11).

      1. You want life to the fullest.
      2. However, the way of the world will not deliver it.
        1. You have to have the mind of the Spirit, and
        2. you have to belong to Christ.
          1. If you belong to Christ,
            1. He will teach you about life now, and
            2. He will take care of the life that is coming.
          2. Are you ready to become one of His?