Friday, January 27, 2012

Giving The Devil His Due

15 You and this woman will hate each other; your descendants and hers will always be enemies. One of hers will strike you on the head, and you will strike him on the heel.”   —  Genesis 3:15 (CEV)

If you don't believe in God and the Devil, I wouldn't say you're crazy, but you're intellectually malnourished.  —U.S. author, Norman Mailer (1923–2007)

The little verse in Genesis, quoted above, serves as something of a springboard for the rest of the Bible.  It condenses the conflict between good and evil, between right and wrong, and provides a shot of encouragement that at some point, there would be an answer to it all.

If you are familiar with the fall of man, you’ll recall that it’s about Adam and Eve and their inability to keep a single, simple command.  “Don’t eat of that tree,” God said.  There were plenty of other trees from which to eat, but the one became the tool of the Devil, an instrument of temptation, and the mechanism by which sin entered into the world.  Make no mistake, we’re led to understand that without the Devil, Adam and Eve would likely have been happy to obey.  When the Devil comes onto the scene, bad things happen.

Read the book of Job.  You’ll meet God’s best man, whom God believed could stand up to the Devil’s test.  The first test was taking away all Job’s blessings.  Four messengers came in succession, bringing all the terrible news. In the second messenger’s report, there is something interesting.  He said that the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up sheep and servants.  It seems to me he implied that God did this terrible thing.  But God didn’t do it.  He surely allowed the Devil to act against Job, but he didn’t do it.  So often, we follow suit with this messenger and fail to give the Devil his due.  We blame God, but not Satan.

In fact, over the years, I’ve heard God blamed for more terrible, horrible, painful things that I’ve ever heard the Devil blamed for.  I just don’t hear a lot of people wondering, “Why did the Devil do this to me?”  You will hear, “Why did God do this to me?”  I have to wonder if we’ve got things backwards.

From the fall of man in the garden, right down to today, it is the Devil who is out to destroy us and keep us away from God.  God is the one out to save us, despite our sinful selves, and redeem us fallen creatures.  Life is complicated enough without mixing into it a faulty sort of theology that shifts the entire focus.  The Devil is your enemy, not God.  It is the Devil who will destroy you, not God.  Give the Devil his due.  You’ll run in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Happened Again At Wal-Mart!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   —   Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

It happened again this past Wednesday night.  My wife and I went to Wal-Mart after Bible classes at church.  We spent a leisurely hour or so shopping, looking at things, getting a laugh out of the way some of the folks were dressed, and generally enjoying our shopping time.  Then we lined up at the check out counter.

There was a guy, with his teenage daughter, piling his items onto the counter.  The checkout lady started scanning his purchases and immediately he said something pretty sharp and loud to her.  It caught my attention.  He had coupons!  He had a sale sheet!  He wanted his discounts!  But the checkout lady, doing her job (and doing it well, by the way), had to point out to him that his coupon limited him to six of the frozen dinners he wanted to buy, and he had more than that on the counter.  She just wanted him to know that the coupon would only cover the six allowed.

Well, that was the end of the world!  He blew up!  Turned to me and said, “You folks might as well get in another line because we’re going to fight over every item!”  Of course, that just meant I was going to stick around to see the fight.  I wasn’t about to leave.  But fight he did.  He ranted.  He raved.  He made a point about how stupid it was for the coupon to limit six frozen dinners per customer.  Then, when it was obvious the checkout lady wasn’t going to cooperate with him, he turned on her.  She was stupid, along with all the other people who worked at Wal-Mart.  It went on and on.  No exaggeration.  It was mean.

Occasionally, he would turn and look at me for verification that he was being toyed with by the corporate giant, Wal-Mart, and the stupid people who made manufacturer’s coupons.  At one point, I did think I should say something to get him to see that it wasn’t the checkout lady who was wasting my time (which is what he said), but it was him!  But, I figured it would just make matters worse, so I didn’t say a word.

Finally, a supervisor came over, the guy continuing to rant and rave, and stood by his checkout lady, and upheld her decision to enforce the six-dinner-limit.  The guy finally separated his dinners into two piles and paid for the second batch separately, which is what he should have been prepared to do all along.

Thankfully, he left.  When he walked off, the poor checkout lady literally broke down into tears.  The manager had to take over the cash register to check us out.  My wife went around and put her arms around the checkout lady and consoled her, and I made it a point to make sure that the manager knew that his checkout lady had done nothing wrong.  She had the misfortune of getting a knucklehead customer.

This episode has bothered me for two days now.  The man made no friends.  Does anybody think the folks at Wal-Mart will ever go out of their way to do anything for that guy?  He left with me thinking he’s ridiculous.  I formed the opinion he works in the medical field somewhere, but I won’t tell you why I think that.  Let’s just say I think I’m right.  What if I go for medical help at a doctor’s office, or hospital, or lab, or other place and discover that guy is the one I have to see.  You think I’m going to hang around or see if there’s an alternative?  Wonder what it’s like at his house if he doesn’t get his way?  You see where I’m going with this?  I don’t think the man has a clue how bad he looked, but he probably doesn’t care.

Oh, and do you want to know how much money he saved with all those coupons he was ranting about?  Maybe a couple of dollars.  He was getting 10 cents off each dinner.  This is why I try to be kind to checkout ladies.  They have to deal with the most unlovely people.  And that lady did so with kindness she didn’t get.