Monday, March 21, 2011

IMMIGRANTS & COMMANDMENT TEN: DO NOT COVET


We often fall into the habit of wishing things were not the way they were or are. Particularly, as a dominantly "conservative" church, it is not hard to discover there is much about which we are not happy: particularly the government and ultimately, it seems, the "liberal." Being a Reformed congregation, I think we have an edge, so to speak, on a fair interpretation of past events. When I first moved here to Franklin ten years ago, I found it fascinating that here was a community that encouraged intellectual conversation. Of course, the intellect is not the integration point for man. In my experience, however, it was rare to find such openly supportive communities. 

I have noticed that some people like to use the intellect like a Swiss Army knife: a gadget for everything. What that has sometimes meant is that much intellectualization, much debate, and much chatter happens as a substitute for action. A wife is unfaithful? Quote these verses. A fight ensues between brothers? Read this book. A child has gone wayward? Talk to that person. Talk is easy, especially in matters we find hard to actually resolve.

I worked with a family for years who knew everything I could ever imagine telling them about raising boys. Being much older than I, they tolerated my advice when I strongly insisted upon it. They also liked to counter the advice I gave or "add to" the advice or modify some aspect of the advice I gave as if it were a battle of wits. Over a decade later, their little boy who they raised "in the fear and admonition of the Lord" has been through rehab three times and is still having problems. The cogitations of the brain, though admirable, are not the substitute for, say, actually solving a problem. 

One reason we resort to talk is simply that it is easy to explain away problems, rework evidence, and whitewash an actual happening with words. Also, in very literary environments, the word has its own life apart from reality. The Greek sophists liked to speak in favor of a premise in the morning and against the same premise that evening. It was not until Socrates that philosophers, lovers of wisdom, became a popularly recognized class of orators. What Socrates taught had such an impact on the young men of Athens that the city leaders called for his extermination. That is talk that results in action. 

We should be very careful to speak about only what we know, and further, we should strive to ensure that our words align with reality. Having been at one point in my life almost exclusively visionary, I found myself talking about a non-existent reality most every time I opened my mouth. What I did not realize was that the visionary statement can be another way of casting dispersion on reality. One way I strive to avoid this is by disallowing myself speech in the subjunctive: If I had been present..., If that were me..., Had I enough money..., I would have told him exactly where to go.... 

Can you trace the unfolding of your life last week back to the "first things" of Scripture? If we do not cultivate this practice with some measure of personal success, then I am afraid that we will have trouble making accurate, prophetic determinations about the histories, problems, and solutions of our immigrant friends.  

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