Saturday, December 02, 2006
Salt Pea-Links (with apologies to Dizzy)
Interesting look at economics. From my perspective it's a good analysis, but unease results from the question - can an iPod economy be sustained? Lots of money for little product, demand not value drives the economy. What happens when people lose confidence? Isn't that how crashes develop?
What do you think God will do with Benny Hinn - and his ilk? Never been more tempted to turn over a few tables....
It's Saturday, waste some time.
I knew that...
Mixologists? - Try chemistry student... I could tell some tales.
Honey, This is the best barbequed armadillo ever, crunchy, but delicious.
If the sceintists are puzzled, how do you think the penguins feel?
All I want for Christmas
Can't wait for the lawsuits on this one.
Quick, call Napolean, this is his chance.
So weird you have to watch:
Although, it makes me want to hear a full Metallica cover version (HT: Frater Libertas)
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Now it is somehow endearing that this hails from the very, very early days, the writing of Stan Lee and the art of Steve Ditko. In some ways, Stan was the king of the lamo villian, he sort of used the "shotgun approach" to arch-enemy finding. "If you throw enough of them up there one is bound to stick." Frankly, that's why this series was born.
This guy was so lame, that he really wasn't even the major plot line of the story. This story hails from the early days of the Norman Osborn/Green Goblin lines and the advancement of that major plot is in this book, without costumes ofrpugilistic action; therefore, Stan and Steve came up with what is basically a piece of backdrop to get Peter into costume to do a little web-slinging and punch throwing. Villian as backdrop - maybe that defines lame?
For what it's worth, I think the costume is pretty good, and I could not find an image of the guy doing the patented Steve Ditko two finger salute - which may be a first. But that aside, he's still lame, lame, lame.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Spidey villians, Just A Guy Named Joe
Friday, December 01, 2006
Faith For Grown-Ups
When Jesus spoke of heaven, His main concern was not in telling His people how they could leave this earth for heaven. Rather His main concern was in bringing heaven down to earth for the sake of His people and showing His people how to take the kingdom of heaven throughout the whole earth.Somehow in these posts, I think David has managed to encapsulate most of the problems with the church today and state the entirety of the gospel message, a message we so often only hear part of. I also think he has shown real wisdom in the realization that the teen statistic reveals that we do not evangelize based on the whole of the gospel.
I want to try and summarize David's points in a few bullets
- The gospel as currently presented deals mostly with the inner life and the after-life and is therefore unattractive to adults who are mostly consumed with this life.
- The gospel is; however, very concerned with this immediate outer life and the failure of adults to respond to it is because we fail present that immediate outer concern.
- This means the gospel is not just a gospel of salvation, but a gospel of transformation.
- That transformation is current, immediate
- That transformation is to the individual, the family, the church, and society in general
In the second post David explores the idea that the gospel is transformative of society and defends it in the face of anticipated charges that that is taking things too far. There is so much here that is is difficult to know where to begin, but I want to limit myself to two comments.
First, to argue that the gospel extends only to individuals is a stance I am not sure many take. The question, at least to my mind is not "Is the gospel tranformative to society?", but "HOW is the gospel transformative to society?" David, I think, points this out when he says:
With this I am not advocating any of the common versions of Christian triumphalism which seek to bring the kingdom in through social and political means. The kingdom comes as the gospel spreads. It's just that I think that as the gospel spreads, this gospel of the kingdom will inevitably have many salutary effects in the here and now.I'd state it this way, the gospel must be tranformative of societies as it is tranformative of individuals, or the individuals are not truly transformed. This means our focus is still on the individual, but our vision for them extends beyond mere salvation to genuine transformation, through which society will be itself transformed.
Which brings me to my second point. Why do we sell this less than total gospel? Why is our message so incomplete? There are probably as many answers to that query as there are people enagaged in spreading the gospel. That said, I think we need to adjust our vocabulary a bit and things will begin to fall in line. We are not here to "build up the church" for that may be part of the problem, we are here to spread the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not here to "bring salvation to every man, woman and child" for that may be part of the problem. We are here "to make disciples of all..."
We need to stop asking people to come in the front door and stand in the entry hall, we need to ask them to jump in with both feet. The water's warm, the fellowship lively, the mission wonderful.
Related Tags: transformation, totality, gospel, adult, youth, conversion, salvation
On The Good Link Lillipop
I was going to stay away from "The War On Christmas" this year, but this is just too much. Santa is a religious symbol? Please, he is so divorced from St. Nicholas that only orthodix scholars know the connection.
This is amazing. Long story I won't bore you with, but I have a personal connection to Rockwell's work and have seen many of his originals. When you grow up with something, you never think...
It takes intellegence to be ritualistic? But I thought religious people were anti-intellectual? I'm so confused.
I love urban archeology.
Science should protect its work from political misuse, but by becoming politicians themselves? They are lousy at it.
Our troops are not dumb. Even if they have to set up an unofficial procurement system.
Next time I bowl, I'll close my eyes - it can't get any worse.
It's not prayer in general, its Islamic prayer in Arabic. I think there is a hint there.
Blow the pipes laddie!
Somebody else's Friday humor.
I know washing windows is dull work, but please.
Save the earth - don't pee.
Related Tags: global warming, christmas, Norman Rockwell, religion and science, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Thursday, November 30, 2006
But this is what I really like
Having said all of that, I do think the above can be taken too far. It seems to me that a vital part of apprenticeship to Jesus is learning to be outwardly oriented and evangelistically motivated. The call of Abraham's descendents is a call to be a people who will be a blessing to the whole world. [emphasis mine]In that quote lies the roots of what I think really is the right way to do church. Church is about building Christians - deep, mature Christians - Christians are about making other Christians.
Let me try that another way - the church, as an organization/institution, is about being a community of Christians and helping all Christians grow more so. Part of being that community is to be oriented towards bringing others into that community. Now, I am departing partially from what David was saying in the post here, but I don't think it's that different, because David is also agreeing with Willard that the church has to do a much better job not of conversion, but apprenticing.
The church expresses its mission not in what it does, but in who it produces. Think about this for a minute. The church is absolutely called to evangelism, but the church accomplishes it not by holding a tent crusade, but by making, through apprenticeship, evangelists. The church is called to social action, but the church accomplishes this not by organizing politically, but by making, through appreticeship, politicians.
The church is community and incubator, a place of nurture, not just new birth nursing, but nurture to maturity, producing people that answer every call God has placed on the church.
The practical question is, of course, how do we best use the resources of the church? That's what this always boils down to. My answer is supporting the memebers of the congregation with their ministry. In other words, when it comes to setting budget priorities, etc. - those that make those decisions do so not by setting the agenda but responding to it. The job of the ruling board becomes twofold - helping the people in the church know what they are called to, and then supporting them in that call.
Think about it, and then think about what a radical differnce it will make in how we do church.
Related Tags: church, priority, agenda, mission
The Linkin' Bedroom
Here is the transcript of yesterday's SCOTUS global warming orals. Here is the take-away. In light of such arguement, only judges with agenda, not reason, as their guide can decide this one the wrong way.
Nice, but the wrong reason to go to church.
Consider the utter moral confusion in this story. Start with the fact that it treats a pet as something with independent rights instead of a piece of property and then consider what they classify as "suffering." What's sad is, if you could dig deep enough, you;d find someone not so much interested in the dog as THE MONEY!...
...this is worse. I wonder if it dawned on these imbeciles that the possibility, and only possibility, of 24-hours of food-poisoning discomfort was preferabe to, you know, actually starving to death.
Have to be honest, this is working a bit too hard to reconcile science and religion. (HT: Justin Taylor) The problem is really one of determinism and the fact that modern physics is not strictly deterministic. But the human experience is physically determinant. I think that quite reflective of a God that is both rational and spiritual, without getting so stretchingly detailed.
Stradiveri was a chemist. And you thought we were unartistic nerds.
I had no idea the Sun had acne - or that it took a probe to see it.
Another communist regime discovers the glory of litigation. However, not knowing how to use a toilet in China is a distinct possibility - I've been there, you'll have to trust me on this.
The church takes another hit.
Upscale Spam? (The eating kind, not the email kind) Why bother? - I thought it was upscale already.
Blowing up stuff with golf balls. Simply because I'm a guy.
Speaking of guys, what we all want for Christmas.
My wife claims I can do this with sound too - the sound of gas escaping from, well, you know....
Related Tags: hatred, genocide, global warming, SCOTUS, science, litigation, determinism, guys, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
On Church Structure
My experience in autonomous churches was that they may have interpreted their autonomy as self-sufficiency. What I mean by that is that they did not think they needed help -- that they could handle their own problems just fine, thank you. And the doctrine of autonomy actually created structures of cooperation that were so informal and loose that they meant very little in practice, especially in times of distress.I think he is right on about the blind spots and the need for other viewpoints. But when he talks about decline, that applies as much, even more to the highly structured denominations. There is more to the question than just having the structures in place to provide for the new viewpoint. I think he finds it in his penultimate paragraph
Here is where autonomy fails; the local church -- isolated, by itself, sufficient for all problems it faces, sufficient to diagnose all diseases of sin and apply all appropriate Gospel remedies -- that local church does not exist. Not only is sin deceitful in individuals, it is deceitful in groups. The doctrine of sin leads me to think that when redeemed sinners, with indwelling sin at work in them all, get together -- they come up with universal blind spots -- they agree to cover certain sin -- they agree to turn a blind eye to certain problems -- they agree to a basic mis-emphasis. And they agree without talking -- usually by NOT talking, not questioning, not confronting. It is a sort of "I will let you get away with that if you let me get away with that."
Look around folks -- there are churches in long term decline, with members drifting away in disillusionment, with splits and angry departures -- and their problems are diagnosable and treatable in the good of the Gospel. They do not need new structures -- they need external Gospel eyes -- objective eyes to look at their situation.
This is no silver bullet. I do not wish to be simplistic. There are differing philosophies of ministry. Structures and counsel may not be in place in other settings -- but leaders can lead and nurture people in humility, in the value of seeking evaluation and correction, and some churches may experience the Gospel and its work in ways that will renew their life. If you believe in the autonomy of the local church, also value humility and the need for outside counsel. Look for self-sufficiency.I know that my own failing, but highly structured denomination is failing not because of a lack of outside counsel, but because of a lack of humility and many other fruits of the Spirit.
I wish I could defend my Presbyterianism on the basis of "It's working...," but right now it's not, at least not in the PC(USA) - it is, by the way, working better in some of the other Presbyterian denominations, but at the moment I can only defend on that basis of theory, and Lauterbach has here presented a pretty good theory.
I think, in the end, my point is this - don't throw out the baby with the bath water. The Prebyterian form of church structure is a good thing, it is hard, but it is good. Leaving it behind in the dust is not the way to go in a crisis - doing the hard work is. The hard work means first learning the humility and other fruits on a personal level and then being a person hard at work in the structure, often hard dull boring work, to make it work like it should.
Related Tags: church government, structure, Fruit of the Spirit, faith, church
Oh For Linking Out Loud
Elton John opens his yap again. -- God's reponse? Sometimes I do wish God were that directly punitive.
Church humor. Good points, pretty biting.
Are you a crumudgeonly leader? Find out here.
A reason to mourn. But,
Wearing Superman pajamas and covered with his Batman blanket, comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum died Sunday.If you gotta go, that's the way to do it.
Lawyer makes oodles, judge usurps executive power, mint now forceed to spend billions to retool, little of value accomplished. Blind people figured out how to fold different denominations differently to tell the difference decades, if ot centuries ago - That is until some lawyer told them that was a problem.
I do not think this is what Neil Sedaka had in mind when he wrote "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do."
Miss those cheesy 50's sci-fi and horror movies no more. I know I'll be searching Netflix under Bollywood!
What a smeggin' list.
The dumbest thief in human history.
Dumbest promotional idea ever for the the worst superhero movie ever.
If Doctor Who was real, this is how it would go. Reference material for the SciFi impaired.
Precisely where wouldn't wild boars create havoc?
Related Tags: global warming, SCOTUS, joke, wisecrack, humor, sarcasm
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I'm talking about the tendency of people in AGs [ed: Accountability Groups] to prod each other toward apparent holiness by unbiblical, non-Christian, anti-Gospel methods. These methods are not just unhelpful, they're actually harmful to true holiness.There are two essential questions here. The first is the incursion of pop-psychology into so much of what we do in the church. There is much of value in psychology, but we need to remember that it is a pseudo-science developed form a scientific perspective in that it operates from a distinctly un-Christian worldview. Psychology assumes that we can heal ourselves, it stays strictly natrualistic. Christians hold that we cannot fix ourselves, only the redemptive power of the cross, combined with the minstrations of the Holy Spirit can truly fix us.
For a common example, take an AG that appeals to Pride in order to subdue Lust (Fear of Man being the negative flipside of the Pride Coin). Someone in such an AG would feel pressure not to slip into lustful behavior, so that he wouldn't have to embarass himself in front of the others in the group. If the group meets on a Wednesday night, the only thing keeping him from looking at pornography on Tuesday night is the fear he has of telling his friends the next night. They'd obviously think less of him if he has something to say during confession time, and his Pride being stronger than his Lust, he controls his lustful behavior. [Hasn't this become the very definition of accountability??]
Which brings me to the second important issue in this discussion. When we place ourselves into accountability with the other, the other MUST accept that accountability not in his own name, but in the name of Christ. That person IS NOT the one holding us accountable, rather God is using that person to hold us accountable to Him.
Oh how often is it that the failure is not in placing ourselves into accountability, but in those to whom we entrust that accountability? How tempting to make ourselves lord and master rather than act as agents of the true Lord and Master? But even "agents" misses the mark, we are called to act of our own volition in the name of God, we are called to submit and let God act through us.
Which I think strikes at the true heart of accountability situations - they are a two-way street, and we tend to manage them like a one-way ticket. Let us say I ask you to hold me accountable on my eating habits - to help me not to consume at levels that cause weight gain. Given my life-long struggle with this, it is not enough to simply act as "refrigerator guard" (lord and master). My mother's proclivities towards that role reinforced early in my life food as "forbidden pleasure" something which enhances its power over me. If you are holding me accountable in this unproductive fashion, I need to be able to say to you, "That's not the right way to do this." In other words, I am holding you accountable about holding me accountable. It is, in fact, a two-way street.
This also reflects back to the pop-psychology model, where there is therapist and patient - leader and group. We suffer no such roles in our faith - There is one Lord and a very large group of sinners. Let us remember that and act accordingly.
Related Tags: accountbaility, sanctification, Christian growth, mutuality
Justice Links of America
This is about more than my tiny little alma mater making good in basketball. This is about leaving the hip-hop behind and returning to Hoosiers. "The Butler Way" is old school, but it's good school. No shoe contracts, no NBA scouts, good students...basketball for the Hoosier soul, not just the TV feed.
Richard Dawkins tries to redeem Hitler. And he thinks religion is a boogie man. SHUDDER!
I guess those of us that think God had a role in creation are subversive somehow - I cannot believe the tone of this piece.
Unlike homosexual peadophiles, the church will likely punish this guy. Because it's public, that's why.
Rogan deserves better, much better. He was my congressman, I gave his last campaign more than I have any other, ever. This is the ultimate expression of the politics of personal destruction and it is ugly, very ugly.
It's funny how SCIENCE teachers seem to be a little smarter than the rest of the bunch. Now, if we can convince them about that WWF material they use in elementary school....
Speaking of science and politics - wisdom:
There is no such thing as decisions driven by science. Decisions are always driven by values. How, if, and when we wish to consider science in making those decisions is of course where much of the action lies. But we should not pretend that science makes decisions. People make decisions.Speculative hogwash. You want doomsday scenarios? How about "Your soul will burn in eternal hellfire if you don't accept Jesus"? Oh wait! - that would be irrational.
Personally, I think this says more about bottled water than beer.
I have a lot of Korean neighbors - this is criminal.
This looks like more fun than a human should be allowed to have.
The end is near - a sure sign.
There are "mistakes," and then there is Stuck on Stupid.
Find the inner boy in the evil Darth Vader. I'm beginning to think that Lucas' merchandising people have lost sight of the characters.
Related Tags: basketball, science, policy, religion, creationism, Richard Dawkins, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Monday, November 27, 2006
Men And Confession
Dan contention is that confession is viewed by most men as unmanly somehow.
Is it any wonder then that so many men flameout in spectacular ways? And it's usually the man's man, not the confessional guy, who winds up incinerated. Why the enormous pressure? Are we that performance driven in the man's world that we can't handle a little personal confession?My difference with Dan is but a minute one.
But before I get to it let me spend a few minutes reminding everyone that I think confession is the heart and soul of genuine faith - any call to confession is worth considering and worth hearing and listening to. I have no brook with Dan on that issue.
That said, I do think Dan over-reaches here a bit. The problem men have is not confession - it's the style of confession. There are ways to confess, then there are ways to confess. My point? There are ways to confess, ways to be broken that do not involve the sort of teary-eyed, "girly" kind of confession that Dan is referring to as being ostracized.
Consider Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane - confession so intense, confrontation with the ultimate brokenness - no tears, no wailing, but intensity. Consider Paul's conversation - do we read of implacable depression, uncontrollable weeping?
Look, I do not pretend like there is no such thing as pro-forma confession - confession without repentance or brokenness - I simply contend that there and many ways of expressing that repentance and brokeness, some of which may be conidered more or less "manly."
That said, there is a certain lack of grace in belittling a man whose expressions of repentance and brokeness may be less "manly" than others, for certainly gentleness is a part of manliness, as is grace - but to act like a "manly" confession is not a legitimate confession is troubling to me.
If there is a problem with perceived "manliness" it is a certain self-reliance, the desire to make ourselves better, rather than let God make us better. We Christians "shake it off" very differently than would your average football player - it's not a matter of trying harder.
I don't care if you weep, or yell, sit in the corner and shudder, or punch a hole in the wall, what I care is that you understand your essential need for Christ's grace and that you submit to that grace - man, women, child.
Related Tags: men, confession, repentance, manliness, expressions of faith
Back In The Saddle Links
Environmentalism as faux-religion - After all if it is mating determinant. Come to think of it, maybe this is why there is an Evangelical environmental movement - they are trying to fight a spiritual battle - Wrong battleground people! Some one seems to agree
Wiskel says climate change has gone "from a science to a religion"...(HT: Greenie Watch) But then don't things like this pollute religion? Somehow, I don't think global warming was on John Calvin's mind when he wrote The Institutes.
Environmentalism as government power grab:
The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to regulate a large class of consumer items made with microscopic "nanoparticles" of silver, part of a new but increasingly widespread technology that may pose unanticipated environmental risks, a government official said yesterday.Why let a little thing like sceintific evidence stand in the way of a power grab? May?...MAY? How's about we reach the level of DOES before we regulate?
It really is more about power and politics than science, often. Example 1. There is no difference in the project between yesterday and today save for who is Senate Majority leader - politics, not science. Examples 2
While the political debate over global warming continues, top executives at many of the nation's largest energy companies have accepted the scientific consensus about climate change and see federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable.Accept "scientific consensus" - NO - see "inevitablility of federal regulation" - YES. What's the difference? Who controls Congress, the science has not changed a bit in the last several months.
A reason for prayer this week. Also a reason to pay close attention to judicial nominations.
Look actual good science on the environment.
I like it.
Proof: Environmentalists and animal rights activists (they are of a kind you know) are not always the brightest bulbs in the four-pack
Captain Ed comments onthe politics of an England/Scotland split. Despite extraordinary cultural differences, they NEED each other for defense purposes. Sometimes the public just lacks the necessary field-of-vision.
Oh, to heck with the product, just sell something...
Note the unsurprising absence of the item above.
Time-wasting brain-fry. Go ahead I dare you.
Most famous photographs in history? I have actually met the subject of one of them. Correct guess as to whom in the comments will warrant a Stan Lee certified No-Prize.
Stonehenge is cool - all the antiquity, all the mystery. Modern druids on the other hand are just strange.
Top employment opportunity!
Related Tags: environment, global warming, faux-religion, power grabs, UK, interesting, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Hey -It's Sunday of a long weekend, so sue me. Better - Try it yourself.
This is what happens when there is a offical state religion. Not a pretty picture, is it?
Some people will react to the gender question, but I am more concerned about the lack of people entering the clergy. Sure sign of a sick, sick church.
A story of Russian faith. Foreign though it is, having been in the Soviet Union, and witnessed efforts at its supression, I remain impressed with its resilience. There is so much more to our faith than we will ever know. It is undoubtedly a miracle, and yet the theology is so "wrong." I think there is a hint there.
Check the second item here. Then pray for the nation. And to think, you could see the World Trade Center from Staten Island.
And you thought a Hoffa-run union played rough!
Next time you hire a clown for a birthday party - give him something to shoot for.
Related Tags: faith, church, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
HUGH BLACK - Professor of practical theology Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1906-1929; born at Rothesay, Scotland, March 26, 1869; educated at Rothesay Academy; Glasgow University, 1883-87; Free Church College, Glasgow, 1887-91; ordained 1891; minister of Sherwood Church, Paisley, Scotland, 1891-96; St. George's United Free Church, Edinburgh, 1896-1906; came to the United States, 1906; author of "The Dream of Youth," "Friendship," "Culture and Restraint," "Practice of Self-Culture," "Listening to God," "Christ's Service of Love," "The Gift of Influence," etc.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me? - Genesis 25:32.
We can not suppress a natural sympathy with Esau in this scene between the two brothers, He seems as much sinned against as sinning, and in comparison with the cunning, crafty character of Jacob he appears the better of the two. His very faults lean to virtue's side, we think, as we look at his bold, manly, impulsive figure. There is nothing of the cold calculating selfishness, the astute trickery, the determination to get his pound of flesh, which make his brother appear mean beside him. With our swift and random and surface judgments we are inclined to think it unjust that Esau should be set aside in the great history of grace for one who could be guilty of both malice and fraud in advancing his own interests. We are not at present dealing with the character of Jacob or we would see that this hasty judgment, true so far as it goes, is something less even than half the truth, and that though he here and elsewhere sinned and was punished through all his life for his subtlety and selfishness, yet he was not the monster of unbrotherly malice merely which this scene might suggest, and that he had qualities of heart and spirit which made it inevitable that he, and not Esau, should be chosen for the line of God's purpose. Our subject is Esau and his weakness and fall in the presence of his overmastering temptation.
Esau's good qualities are very evident, being of the kind easily recognized and easily popular among men, the typical sportsman who is only a sportsman, bold and frank and free and generous, with no intricacies of character, impulsive and capable of magnanimity, the very opposite of the prudent, dexterous, nimble man of affairs, rather reckless indeed and hot-blooded and passionate. His virtues are already, we see, dangerously near to being vices. Being largely a creature of impulse, he was in a crisis the mere plaything of animal passion, ready to satisfy his desire without thought of consequences. Without self-control, without spiritual insight, without capacity even to know what spiritual issues were, judging things by immediate profit and material advantage, there was not in him depth of nature out of which a really noble character could be cut. This damning lack of self-control comes out in the passage of our text, the transaction of the birthright. Coming from the hunt hungry and faint, he finds Jacob cooking porridge of lentils and asks for it. The sting of ungovernable appetite makes him feel as if he would die if he did not get it. Jacob takes advantage of his brother's appetite and. offers to barter his dish of pottage for Esau's birthright.
There would be some superstition in the minds of both of them as to the value of the birthright. Both of them valued it as a vague advantage, carrying with it a religious worth, but it meant nothing tangible; and here was Esau's temptation, terribly strong to a man of his fiber. He was hungry, and before his fierce desire for the food actually before him such a thing as a prospective right of birth seemed an ethereal thing of no real value. If he thought of any spiritual privilege the birthright might be supposed to confer, it was only to dismiss the thought as not worth considering. Spiritual values had not a high place in his standard of things. He could not be unaware of the material advantages the possession of the birthright would one day mean. He must have known that it was something to be recognized as the eldest son, with special rights of inheritance and precedence and authority after his father's death. These things were real enough to him, even though he might have no notion of a deeper meaning in being the heir of the promise. But in the grip of his appetite even these temporal advantages were too distant to weigh much. In the presence of immediate satisfaction the distant appeared shadowy and unreal and not worth sacrificing present enjoyment for. He feels he is going to die, as a man of his type is always sure he will die if he does not get what he wants when the passion is on him; and supposing he does die, it will be poor consolation that he did not barter this intangible and shadowy blessing of his birthright. "Behold I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me?"
The Bible writers speak of Esau always with a certain contempt, and with all our appreciation of his good natural qualities, his courage and frankness and good humor, we can not help sharing in the contempt. The man who has no self-control, who is swept away by every passion of the moment, whose life is bounded by sense, who has no appreciation of the higher and larger things which call for self-control, that man is, after all, only a superior sort of animal, and not always so very superior at that. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews calls Esau "a profane person who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." "Profane" means not blasphemous but simply secular, a man who is not touched to finer issues, judging things by coarse earthly standards, without spiritual aspiration or insight, feeling every sting of flesh keenly, but with no sting of soul toward God. Bold and manly and generous and with many splendid constitutional virtues he may be, but the man himself lacks susceptibility to the highest motives of life. He is easily bent by every wind of impulse, and is open without defense to animal appetite. He is capable of despising the intangible blessing of such a thing as a birthright, even though he feel it to be a holy thing, because he can not withstand present need. A profane, a secular person as Esau, is the judgment of the New Testament.
The scene where he surrendered his birthright did not settle the destiny of the two brothers - a compact like this could not stand good forever, and in some magical way sub¬stitute Jacob for Esau in the line of God's great religious purpose. But this scene, though it did not settle their destiny in that sense, revealed their character, the one essential thing which was necessary for the spiritual succession to Abraham; and Esau failed here in this test as he would fail anywhere. His question to reassure himself, "What profit shall this birthright do to me?" reveals the bent of his life and explains his failure. True self-control means willingness to resign the small for the sake of the great, the present for the sake of the future, the material for the sake of the spiritual, and that is what faith makes possible. Of course, Esau did not think he was losing the great by grasping at the small. At the moment the birthright, just because it was distant, appeared insignificant. He had no patience to wait, no faith to believe in the real value of anything that was not material, no self-restraint to keep him from instant surrender to the demand for present gratification.
This is the power of all appeal to passion, that it is present, with us now, to be had at once. It is clamant, imperious, insistent, demanding to be satiated with what is actually present. It has no use for a far-off good. It wants immediate profit. This is temptation, alluring to the eye, whispering in the ear, plucking by the elbow, offering satisfaction now. Here and now - not hereafter; this thing, that red pottage there - not an ethereal unsubstantial thing like a birthright! What is the good of it if we die? And we are like to die if we do not get this gratification the senses demand. In the infatuation of appetite all else seems small in comparison; the birthright is a poor thing compared to the red pottage.
It is the distortion of vision which passion produces, the exaggeration of the present which temptation creates, making the small look like the great, and discrediting the value of the thing lost. The vivid lurid description in the Proverbs of the young man void of understanding snared in the street by the strange woman gives both these elements of the effect of passion, the weak surrender to impulse, and the distortion of vision which blinds to the real value of what is given up for the gratification. "He goeth straightway as an ox goeth to the slaughter, till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life."
But it is not merely lack of self-control which Esau displays by the question of our text. It is also lack of appreciation of spiritual values. In a vague way he knew that the birthright meant a religious blessing, and in the grip of his temptation that looked to him as purely a sentiment, not to be seriously considered as on a par with a material advantage. The profane man, the secular man, may not be just a creature of impulse, he may have his impulses in good control, but he has no place for what is unseen. He asks naturally, "What shall it profit?" Men who judge by the eye, by material returns only, who are frankly secular, think themselves great judges of profit, and they too would not make much of a birthright if it meant only something sentimental, as they would call it. The real and not the ideal, the actual and not the visionary, the thing seen and not the thing unseen - they would not hesitate more than Esau over the choice between the pottage and the birthright. They judge by substance, and do not understand about the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
How easy it is for all of us to drift into the class of the profane, the secular persons as Esau; to have our spiritual sensibility blunted; to lose our appreciation of things unseen; to be so taken up with the means of living that we forget life itself and the things that alone give it security and dignity! How easy, when soul wars with sense, to depreciate everything that is beyond sense, and let the whole moral tone be relaxed! There is much cause for the apostle to warn us to "Look diligently lest there be among us any profane person as Esau who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright."
We, too, can despise our birthright by living far below our privileges, and far below our spiritual opportunities. We have our birthright as sons of God, born to an inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ. We belong by essential nature not to the animal kingdom, but to the kingdom of Heaven; and when we forget it and live only with reference to the things of sense and time, we are disinheriting ourselves as Esau did. The secular temptation strikes a weak spot in all of us, suggesting that the spiritual life, God's love and holiness, the kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness, the life of faith and prayer and communion, are dim and shadowy things, as in the land that is very far off. "What profit shall this birthright do to me?"
"What shall it profit?" seems a sane and sensible question, to be considered in a businesslike fashion. It is the right question to ask, but it has a wider scope and another application. What profit the mess of pottage if I lose my birthright? What profit the momentary gratification of even imperious passion if we are resigning our true life, and losing the clear vision and the pure heart? What profit to make only provision for the flesh, if of the flesh we reap but corruption? What profit the easy self-indulgence, if we are bartering peace and love and holiness and joy? "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world (and not merely a contemptible mess of pottage) and lose his own soul?" What profit if in the insistence of appetite men go like an ox to the slaughter, knowing not that it is for their life? "Thus Esau despised his birthright."
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