Sunday, September 21, 2014

You are what you do

Would you have sex for money?  What if it were only once?  What if it were a clean, healthy and attractive person, and the money was 100 million dollars?  And no one would ever find out about it? 

If you said “no,” then consider how high we might have to raise the price and how much privacy you’d need.  Would you do it for $4 Billion? 

Once you've said yes to this, congratulations: you are a whore. 
Now the only thing left is to negotiate your price. 

It works this way with other things, too.  For instance, if you would normally not steal, but you and your whole family is starving, and you see a chance to steal a million dollars without getting caught – you’re a thief.  Your personal situation and the amount to be stolen are just the price you’re willing to pay to become a thief. 

Consider this from the Greek Philosopher Epictetus:

The other day I had an iron lamp placed beside my household gods. I heard a noise at the door and on hastening down found my lamp carried off. I reflected that the culprit was in no very strange case. "Tomorrow, my friend," I said, "you will find an earthenware lamp; for a man can only lose what he has."

The reason why I lost my lamp was that the thief was superior to me in vigilance.
He paid however this price for the lamp:
In exchange for it he consented to become a thief;
In exchange for it, to become faithless.
(From the Golden Sayings of Epictetus, 1.1.XI - XII)

I read an article about a brain-study on dishonesty.  The author of the article about the study is a young journalist.  Her introduction was interesting:

 “What's the price on your integrity? Tell the truth; everyone has a tipping point. We all want to be honest, but at some point, we'll lie if the benefit is great enough.”

This woman has not only confessed to being a liar (which makes me wonder if I can believe her article) but she believes that everyone else is, too.  What she calls a “tipping point” is the price one is willing to pay to become a liar.  Does everyone have such a tipping point?  I don’t believe so. 

Most of us do have a tipping point, but it’s usually about different things.  I can’t imagine an event that would get me to deny Jesus, but Peter did it, and he had more faith than I’ll ever have.  As for stealing, my tipping point used to be pretty low.  But a man embarrassed me one day, and it changed me.  Stealing is no longer very tempting to me.  But I have other issues now.

This principle presents us with two challenges:

First, we should reflect on ourselves and our own weaknesses. 
What will you sell cheaply?  Are you so prone to loneliness that you’ll do anything that pleases others just to avoid it?  Are you so prone to depression that you seek excuses or comfort or other things to smooth it over?  Maybe your thing is greed, or power or image or physical appearance.  Or maybe it’s pride, arrogance and self-righteousness. 
Examine yourself.  Test yourself.  Find your weaknesses and go to work on them until they are no longer your weakest area … and then go to work on your new weakness. 

Second, we should reflect on others. 
Many people are just like the lying author.  They believe everyone lies, so it’s not that big of a deal.  We expect it of ourselves and others.  If you think about that, you may be tempted to be judgmental.  Or – you may be tempted to be proud of yourself and your successes.  This is where it becomes so vital to understand our Father and His Son.  They are perfect, yet offer both justice and mercy – in just the right measure, and at just the right time. 

Can you be merciful to others who have traded their identity for a price? 
Can you be just with them? 

Most of us tend to be one or the other.  Either we forgive everything or we condemn everything.  But learning to be exactly like Jesus – wow.  That’s a challenge. 

When we are born again, we become new creatures.  But sadly, we often carry a bit of Egypt with us, and eventually we sell our birthright for a bowl of soup. 

This first passage was written to tell a church of its responsibility to one another:

Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and…
Make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Pursue peace with all men [note: when the writer says “all men,” that’s a clue that he intends this to include outsiders, i.e., non-disciples – k.m.], and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one [back to a church-specific command] comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
(Hebrews 12:12–17)

Note here Jesus was speaking specifically to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must:
·         Deny himself, and
·         Take up his cross and
·         Follow me
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
 (Matthew 16:24–26)

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