Unfair. That’s how it feels. Remember that childhood Christmas when your sister opened the gift you wanted? Or when your brother got a T-bird for graduation and you got stuck with the family Nova? Not fair.
Fast forward to today and ask yourself how it hits you when:
- A coworker gets a raise but you do more work—or perhaps, his work?
- A neighbor decorates her home from an unrestricted budget and you’re gluing the peeling wallpaper back on the wall?
- Your job reduces your salary because of the economy, but another business gives raises and bonuses?
We find ourselves kids again pouting around the Christmas tree.
There’s a reason Scripture has to command us not to covet. It’s in our nature. It’s systemic. If we can’t have more than others, at least we want it equal.
But less than others? Uh, no. That’s not fair.
A man in an Arizona circus used to train animals for the movies. Somebody asked him: “Hey, how do you tie down that 6-ton elephant with the same sized stake you use for a baby elephant?”
“That’s easy,” the trainer answered.
“When they’re babies, we stake them down. They pull and tug thousands of times until they figure out they can’t jerk loose. At that point, the elephant’s great memory kicks in, and they remember for the rest of their lives they can’t pull away. So they quit trying.”
I’ve discovered that you and I think a lot like elephants.
Especially when it comes to sin.
We live in a world where it seems God turns a deaf ear to pain and evil. Children hunger, immorality runs rampant, injustice occurs in the courts, and our loved ones die of cancer. All under the nose of an all-powerful God of love.
(Photo: See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.)
It feels as if He were a God of love and justice and power, He would and could remove all evil. As it is, evil remains. So do our feelings of confusion.
In a forgotten corner of the Hebrew Scriptures we catch a glimpse of this seeming contradiction with the problem of evil.
We also see its resolution.
I went to a movie with a friend, and he gorged on popcorn, cokes, and candy. As the movie was about to end, he leaned over and whispered: “I don’t feel good. I’ll wait for you in the back.” As I walked out, I saw him holding his stomach and twisting his face.
(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)
“You want me to drive?” I offered.
“No, no, I’ll be okay,” he said.
On the way home, he slammed on the brakes, opened his door, and hurled in the street.
“You sure you don’t want me to drive?” I asked again.
“No, no,” he said, breathing heavy. “I—I feel better now.”
We drove another hundred yards, and he slammed the brakes on again! (The seat belt began to hurt my shoulder.)
Later he told me after he got home he spent some time in the bathroom. I can imagine that point in his ordeal—as he leaned over the commode and begin to experience the candy and popcorn for the second time—that he asked himself: Why in the world did I ever eat this?! Talk about regret!
I can think of no better illustration of sin and temptation in our lives than this true story.
In fact, that’s what happened to a man named Lot.
If Jesus told us He had a criticism for us, we’d pull out our checklist and start down it.
- “Should I go on a mission trip, Lord?”
- “Should I pray more?”
- “Maybe memorize the book of Romans?”
“You just name it, Lord, and I’ll do it!”
I have discovered that slips in our relationship with God never start with the big things. They begin with the basics.
We would never consider waffling in our morality or our theology.
And yet, how often we betray a more basic element.
Life gets fueled on dreams. Without big dreams or a purpose, we wither and die. As Christians, we have more to do than get up, work hard, and come home for a few hours of television . . . only to rise and begin again.
If that’s all we do, we will wake up at age 65 and realize life has amounted to a stack of paychecks and a few laughs.
God wants more for us than that.
Ask five people on the street, “How can I find my way to God?” and you’ll likely get five different answers. They may not even believe in God. Or your God.
As I’ve thought about this question, I think it requires we ask another question first.
This one question boils down the issue like nothing else can.
Two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane, provided the settings for two choices that brought opposite results. The Bible wildly contrasts these choices.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam’s choice to commit sin had the potential of bringing condemnation to everyone. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s decision to die for sins provided potential justification to everyone (Romans 5:18).
Adam never would have eaten the fruit had he known the consequences to himself and to his race. But he couldn’t see the results.
All he had was God’s Word and its warning. That’s all we have as well.
Freedom from anything begins by knowing you are free. Juneteenth—a short version of “June 19th”—remains a state holiday in Texas. It remembers the day good news arrived.
(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)
But before this date in 1865, freedom had been a secret for two and a half years.
For many Christians, spiritual freedom is still a secret.
We had no idea what following Jesus would demand when we started out. We thought we knew.
We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, God would bless us, protect us, put us at ease—basically dote on us as His children. To some extent, we still expect that.
But God wants to give us something greater than those things.