Daily Proverbial, 20 February 2012

The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures. Proverbs 30, verses 17.

What a Monday verse; eeeww. The vindictive part of me says that this verse should be read to all kindergartners, sixth graders, and graduating seniors. Throw in workplace agitators, rebellious twenty-something’s, and hypocritical church council members. At 7 AM on a Monday morning, the last thing I would primarily choose to think about would be having my eyes plucked out by hungry (angry?) birds.

Yet that’s where today’s verse has me (and now you). You’ve probably detected that these verses in Proverbs 30 are pretty harsh. They’re sobering reminders that life can be pretty hard. Do we need reminding? You and I both know it’s a hard old world. The worst war so far is brewing in the Middle East. People regularly commit heinous crimes in our towns. Our government is growing more and more powerful (and in doing so threatening your very freedom). Husbands beat wives; wives cheat on husbands; kids still disobey with more and more disastrous effects. Most all of us can think of people who have lied, cheated, or stolen from each other and that’s just in church. This particular verse excoriates people who disobey and dishonor their parents. If you think about it, doesn’t every kind of wrongdoing dishonor our parents? The penalty for this is more than just being grounded: it is heinous pain.

On top of that, I HAVE TO go to work to pay my bills, service my debts, and push those papers around. The week ahead promises to be a mid-winter cold snap, and I really hate the cold. My feet hurt because I’m carrying around 20 more pounds than I should. There are never enough hours in any day, and I’m really not where I want to be in my career. Sound familiar, and could it be that some of these complaints aren’t much different from your own? Perhaps there’s a reason for that.

So, I’ll ask again: did we need reminding that the world can be a bad old place? Yes, my friend. I’m afraid we did. Years ago, Daniel Moynihan coined the term “defining deviancy down” to describe society’s acceptance of greater and greater (formerly) unacceptable behavior. The myth of the placid, boring, simple 1950s (or any era before that) is just that: a myth. There were serious problems in the world back then, yet you didn’t see Teen Mom or Kardashian mugs posted all over checkout tabloids. There weren’t TV shows called “Weeds” (a comedy about a suburban mom who can’t make ends meet so decides to become a slimeball drug dealer), “Revenge” (a very well made drama about, well, revenge), and “Mad Men” (about the lives of people who have the world at their feet yet are all starkly despicable); let’s not even discuss anything else on MTV. I like some of these shows, especially if they’re well made; you probably do as well.

In just my own immediate sphere of influence, I can name good people who have cheated on their spouses (in ongoing multiple affairs even), done time in jail, dealt cocaine, committed hit and run drive-by’s, aborted children, stolen from their companies, defrauded the government, held high positions in church while flagrantly breaking the law, crushed their co-workers to get ahead, and even people who have killed others. None of that is justifiable even as some of it is understandable and, sadly, commonplace.

Our world has defined deviancy down. Perhaps now you’ll start to see why I think the verse applies, even on a Monday morning. Eye-ballers watch out: those birds may be flocking.

Man, we really need some hope. Repeat my oft-quoted mantra yet again: the cure for the common sin is Christ. It doesn’t get much harder than that.

No, I won’t go all Pollyanna on you and say how wonderful and rosy your life can be if you’ll only get Jesus. Face it, my friends: believers and un-believers alike both live in the same world, and this side of Heaven that just isn’t going to change. Do you ever wonder why, even when we’re happy, we sometimes get blue? Or why something can come along and try to steal your joy? You know why: it’s because we live in a world where disobedience reigns and there are consequences for that. Sometimes, those consequences mean having our eyes pecked out and dying in the wild where the vultures will rip us apart. It’s just the way things are. Don’t ask me why: I simply accept and share that it is the way it is.

I choose to not live, therefore, as if this is the way it has to be. We were meant for better, designed for more, built for love. Let God transform your thinking and see where it takes you. Instead of dreading the Monday work-week, how about giving thanks to be able to work, to have a job? Instead of talking, how about you and I each listen? Instead of another drink, how about we order a glass of tea instead? Instead of worrying (which, according to a quote I heard over the weekend, is a form of practical atheism), how about we focus on what’s in our control and resolve to simply do our best, plan for what we can? Instead of anger, grudges, hurt, guilt, anguish, and resentment, how about we resort to kindness, gentleness, patience, understanding and love? We have choices to make, and choices can lead to bad things you know.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of letting the birds come for us, how about we change some of our disobedient behaviors and swat the birds away? After all, Angry Birds is just a game. It’s easier to live through faith than you’d think. I find it was harder to give up wheat products than it is to share my faith in Christ with strangers. Be warned, though: it takes work, real work, to make the changes stick. It takes reminding yourself of things, holding your tongue, and walking away from some situations. More than these somewhat self-serving tasks, it takes developing a relationship with God. It takes getting into His Word and contemplating it. It takes talk and prayer and seeking to understand. It takes getting started.

But it’s worth it in the end. Besides, I have a bird feeder in my back yard where the birds can come to get all they want to eat. I don’t need to feed them my eyes or the rest of me just because I’m too stubborn to change my ways.

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