“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
The High Cost of Sin Management…
There are all kinds of managements these days – time management, wealth management, health management and it goes on and on. The most costly thing to manage is sin and we desperately need help with this. In a moment of weakness, perfectly nice and intelligent people do stupid things. Things like buying something far beyond their means, snorting something up their noses, falsifying records, driving while intoxicated, spend ten seconds doing something rather than thinking about it first and so forth. All of this has costly consequences from losing one’s credit, rearing a child on one’s own, jail sentences, divorce courts to losing an entire, lucrative career as a star or starlet. I am pretty sure that sin management is a trillion-dollar growth industry.
There are always those seven deadly sins with Pride as it’s Prince (“I am above that sort of thing” or “I can handle it”), greed, envy, lust, gluttony, anger and laziness. They lurk in the shadows, just waiting to pounce when the moment is just right.
Peter explained this in his First Epistle. He referred to sin as a roaring lion watching, waiting for the separated one, the weak one, the young one, the wounded or ill one and in a heart beat it is all over. This is why Jesus warns us to be on our guard, always praying and not to faint.
All of this started in the Garden of Eden with Satan’s appeal to Eve, “Come on now,” he hissed, and in a second sin was conceived (born) and it brought forth death (the offspring was separation from God). “Come on now, you CAN have what you cannot have (lust of the eye), do what you cannot do (lust of the flesh) and be what you cannot be (pride of life).”
Ever since that day, all men have a virus. Like the “I Love You” computer virus that began with one fellow in Manila and within five hours had spread all over the world infecting millions of computers. That’s what happened in the Garden and ever since then we have been involved in sin management. You see the basic problem is SIN not sins. Sin is embedded in our very nature right from the beginning and sins are simply an acting out of the very nature of man. It has been said that it is as natural for men to sin as it is for birds to fly or fish to swim. Sin is not something we do it is something we are.
Paul talked about this in Romans, chapter seven when he wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:15-24
Nevertheless, Paul winds up this lament with a remedy when in verse twenty-five he has this bit of good news. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
So then, to Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen I might add a few others here – names like Brittany Spears and, who knows and only time will tell, perhaps Miley Cyrus. There are multiplied millions more but they are not public figures and therefore away from our view and scrutiny. In fact, we could add the entire human race. Since the beginning of time men and women, boys and girls have attempted to manage their sin. This is an expensive exercise and universally unfruitful. We might work at one sin but as soon as we think it is mastered another pops up.
I had a mole.
For thirty, even forty years, it was a rather harmless looking thing and so, for all of those years, I ignored it. It has been described by the dermatologist as positioned on my lower left abdomen. Then one day, after showering, I looked in the mirror and thought, “That looks different. It looks bigger than usual.”
I am a man of Chesterton proportions. (G.K. Chesterton was a rather rotund English apologist that lived into the last century). This put me in a dilemma. Was the mole just getter bigger because I was getting fatter (something I didn’t want to acknowledge) or should I examine this a little closer. I wondered… if I just ignored it, would it go away?
For the better, it appears, I made the call and hustled myself into the doctor’s office. As I am told, it is always better to “be safe than sorry,” or even better, “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this visit. Other doctors had looked at it without batting an eye so I did not expect to be alarmed by the verdict. So it was, the doctor looked it over, asked me what changes I had noticed and then calmly reported that he thought it to be a mole but, “Let’s take a piece of it and send it in to the lab for a biopsy just to be sure.” One minute or less after this sentence he had me on my back with a needle in my stomach. Just to assure you, this was the worst part of the ordeal and it takes but a split second. Upon reflection, I wish I would have taken photographs so you could see how innocent and “noninvasive” this all seems to be. Anyway, I didn’t care to see it, but what he took, when compared to the hole in my belly was the size of a pellet. A piece of gauze and band-aid later, I was on my way home slapping my hands together the way one does when they successfully complete an unappealing task in the garden.
I felt assured that nothing would come of it. I whistled through the next ten days not even hardly thinking of the ordeal except when I changed the dressing on the little pock mark of a wound. I didn’t think about it until the phone rang early on a Wednesday morning and a cute little voice at the other end began using language that I had never heard before. She threw out words like, “nevus, atypical, dysplastic” and “pre-cancerous melanoma.” It was those last two words that I immediately recognized. As calmly as I knew how, I responded by inquiring, “How serious is this?” Her answer was brief, “Could you come in tomorrow?” Stunned and dizzied by the two-minute conversation , I simply asked, “What time?”
First thing, and there I was. Rather than repeat myself because the next two office visits were pretty much the same as the first, I will simply tell you that I now have a hole in my abdomen the size of a silver dollar and about and half an inch deep. This is a bit of serious management. This killer required immediate and radical treatment.
When I asked the doctor if this might have been serious he casually reported to me the following, “This one could have killed you. You saved your life” This isn’t exactly good bedside manner but it beat the alternative, “Your gonna die,” so I left the office rather pleased with his parting words.
Now, what does all of this have to do with movie stars and starlets? Everyone is speculating about Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. There are others as well, but generally they are suggesting that Charlie, in particular “needs to get help.” Some others say he is “on self destruct,” others, “bi-polar” and on and on the speculation goes.
There is a Bible verse that I think describes him and well, me and you.
“…whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men)…”
I am continually amazed at the attention people can give to the comfort and well-being of their bodies and yet give no thought to their inner man. This is baffling to me. For me it is akin to investing an enormous amount of money in a Jaguar XJ sedan, polishing the outside but never lifting the bonnet to check the oil. This is the problem with people, we are distracted by novelty, the trivial and momentary amusement but never lift the hood to take care of what makes it all tick. Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen are not alone.
Since I am an early riser I often see neighbors jogging down my street, in front of the house, in the dark, dressed in special running gear, with special lights mounted on their special hats. I regularly drive by the YMCA at six in the morning. Perhaps I am sneaking by on my way to get a donut at Dunkin’s? Even at that time of the morning the parking lot is jammed and I can see through the windows people pumping up and down on this and that apparatus.
Yet, many of these people take no thought of their souls. They are not rich toward God. When the writer speaks of the heart, this is what he is talking about. Let these same one’s hear of an impending plague caused by birds, pigs or some other thing and they are frantically shoring themselves up against the likely possibility.
A plague is a horrible thing. I have never experienced one and I don’t care to. We’ve read of wars, disasters and plagues where every family has lost loved ones. Historically, there have been all kinds of disastrous epidemics – influenza, cholera, small pox, AIDS, etc.. When there is a possibility of a plague there is worldwide alarm to manage it.
I remember once walking through a graveyard and noticing a large number of headstones where children had succumbed to some sort of plague. Often the same last names of children only a few years apart told me that entire families had lost out to the scourge. I later learned that two plagues befell them at the same time, diphtheria and the Spanish flu (1917-1922).
There is nothing wrong with looking after one’s body. The scripture encourages people to be balanced. John the Apostle writes along these lines when he says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2). You will notice that John emphasizes attending to the soul first and then the rest will follow. This is the implication of the grammar.
I suppose, if people do not hold to the idea of a soul then they can spend all of their time polishing and waxing the outside and give no thought to the inside and what goes on there.
I am acquainted with a man like this. He is always about his work and when he is not, he is busy tending his lawn, bushes, trees and washing his various automobiles, motorcycles, seadoos, boats and so forth in his driveway. All weekend, the only time he seems to have available, he is busy maintaining the appearance of things. For me, this is discouraging as I have lived across the street from him for almost five years and have rarely seen a guest come to his door except a tradesman who has been summoned to fix the downspout or exterminate termites and fire ants. It seems to me that all of this polishing is for no purpose except to look over it once he is finished.
I invited he and his wife to a home Bible study on the person of Jesus to which his wife called to apologize for not taking us up on the invitation. She said that “Bob did not like to make commitments.” Though I didn’t say it at the time, I felt the urge to respond, ” One day he will be committed. In fact, they will stand around lowering his body into the grave and have a committal service. His body will be committed to the cold, dark grave and his soul to everlasting darkness. And then what?