Monthly Archives: February 2017

Magic Pill vs. the Fruit of Wisdom

Our society is set up to believe in magic pills.

I think that’s because we don’t have very much wisdom operating, and because we just can’t handle the whims of fate.

Wisdom will tell you that fresh air, exercise, and a sensible diet are healthful.  Logic will tell you that if you make healthful choices, you are more likely to be healthy.  An understanding of life and fate will tell you that you can’t offset everything.

Magic Pill thinking says that there is one absolutely perfect diet, and that if you find the absolutely perfect diet, all of your aches and pains will go away, you’ll be transported on clouds of ease to your perfect weight and muscle tone, and you’ll never know a day’s illness.

Because we have so many fools in our society, who have no interest in wise living, when one of those fools starts eating well, the change can be almost magical.  I have a friend like this – every time she stopped drinking soda,she’d lose gobs of weight, nearly overnight.  Then she’d start drinking soda again… well, that’s on her.  But I haven’t had a soda in over a decade, and I haven’t been a regular drinker ever.  Why do I struggle with weight? If I surrender to Magic Pill thinking, I’ll get mad and depressed.  “It didn’t work for me!”

We do this with pregnancy.  We do it with child raising.  We do it with where in the country you should live.  We do it with the details of family life.  We do it with marketing your business.  We do it with the mating dance.  And on.  And on. And on.

Magic Pill thinking is destructive, because although wise choices bring better results than foolish choices, they’re not magical.  Wise choices aren’t a guarantee.  But our society has lost nearly all of its ability to differentiate.

We see the foolish people, we see the wise people, and we want what the latter has… and we don’t want to wait for the fruit of wisdom, we don’t understand that fate has its hand in the mix, and we want a simple solution to complex problems.  And most of all, we want to put our faith in something of the flesh, something much easier than, “Thy will be done, Lord.  I’m going to get in the game, I’m going to do things as well as I can, and then the results are up to You”.

Magic Pills don’t exist.  God does.

Noblesse Oblige vs. Comparing Oppressions

I feel a lot of guilt for the gifts that I’ve been given in this life.  Family, finances, eye color, love…

Today, I’m daring myself to confront that guilt, and talk a bit about how our mutual guilt might be tempting us to indulge in comparative oppression, whereas Christianity urges instead, noblesse oblige.

Noblesse Oblige:  In French, “noblesse oblige” means literally “nobility obligates.” French speakers transformed the phrase into a noun, which English speakers picked up in the 19th century. Then, as now, “noblesse oblige” referred to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. Later, by extension, it also came to refer to the obligation of anyone who is in a better position than others – due, for example, to high office or celebrity – to act respectably and responsibly. (Merriam Webster online, emphasis mine)

The first sentence of this essay contains a key word to slay my guilt, and that word is, “given”.

In the truest sense of the word, none of us “earn” anything – God gives all.  But in my case, much of what I enjoy has nothing whatsoever to do with me.   I have been blessed.

My reaction has been gratitude, certainly – but not unmixed with a substantial portion of shame.  I know myself undeserving, and because one of my spiritual gifts is Counsel, I hear a lot of horror stories.   Who am I, to be given so much?

I am not alone.   Many of us in the West are extraordinarily blessed, whether or not we look that truth in the face.  It is hard to simply be given things, so a temptation is to reduce the size of the gift by emphasizing the size of the challenges that we have had (or continue to have) to face in our lives.   By becoming oppressed, we transform ourselves into someone deserving of blessing while simultaneously reducing the amount of gratitude we owe our Maker.

And then, because we our oppression, our challenge, is the reason that we are not crushed under the weight of gratitude, we identify ourselves forever with that oppression.   This shackles us to it, never allowing us to overcome our challenges.  It is a terrible state.

Instead, could we not embark on a life of noblesse oblige?

  • *I* know that my family is loving and I have a warm chest to cry on if I need it… so can I not extend an ear to someone who’s had a bad time of it?
  • *I* am not in any need, so is there really a reason to withhold forgiveness from the person who stole (yet another) solar light from my front yard?
  • *My* days are generally fairly pleasant, can I not extend grace to someone who is rude to me?

I can never pay back the amount of blessing that I have received, but can I not look eagerly for opportunities to bless others?  Can I not steward my time, energy, and finances to make the lives of those around me a bit better?  Can I not make choices that benefit not just me and mine, but those around me?  People I don’t know?

That is step one, and it’s hard enough.

1 Timothy 6: 17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

The second step, humble acceptance, is harder.  I’ll not try to pretend that I’ve achieved this, but I’m confronting it, because not stepping up is getting in the way of God’s call for my life.

The second step is saying goodbye to the guilt, forever.  It is the sweet acceptance of a child.   It is a simple “Thank You” to God, and a decision to become the vessel to show forth His kindness, goodness, and grace.

I don’t deserve my life, and making God smaller, my problems bigger, or pressing my face into the dirt won’t change that.   Thanking God, wearing the gifts that He has given me and sharing them as I am able is what He has instructed me to do.  That road, however contradictory it might seem, is the path of humility, for it is but dust we are – whatever else you see is all the hand of God.