Sunday, March 16, 2014

A seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds

The fool says in his heart,
  “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
  there is no one who does good. — Psalm 14:1

During an interview with a famous comedian who is notoriously anti-religious, the interviewer asked the person about her relationship with her sister, a devout believer. In answer, the comedian described a conversation that the two had about God. “I mockingly said, ‘Do you really believe that there is some God in the sky? Like there is a man watching us? That’s ridiculous!’ My sister took it in and softly said, ‘Personally, I like to live my life as though there is one.’”

When the comedian remarked that her sister’s response left her speechless, the interviewer said, “But you kind of do that, too — you’re a good person!” The comedian replied, “Well, yeah – you don’t have to believe in God to be good.”

Really? Is that true?

In Psalm 14, King David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Certainly for the psalmist, there was a connection between belief in God and being good.

A person who doesn’t believe in God can do whatever he or she wants. There is no one and nothing obligating that person to be “good.” And how do we define good anyway without an objective standard? What is considered bad in one society might be accepted as good in the next. So, while there may be plenty of nice people who are not believers, a society of non-believers lacks a moral compass. It’s a slippery slope to a state of total corruption devoid of goodness.

However, there is an important message on the flipside as well. If non-belief can lead to evil, then belief should lead to goodness. For the believer, righteousness and morality must be the guiding light for his or her life. Moreover, it follows that the more we deepen our faith, the more righteous we become. The Sages teach, “Reflect on three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you — a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds recorded in a book.” (1)

You are sinner living in a fallen world. You are going to be hurt, betrayed, frustrated, prideful, annoyed, judgmental, pitiful, and so much more. It’s going to happen. But are you going to be trained as a follower of Jesus Christ to know, almost instinctively, how to respond with the gospel through premeditated prescriptions of specific ways to walk in repentance and faith?

CS Lewis once said, “Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.” How right that is! When the desire for prosperity gets into your heart, it replaces God in so many ways.

The injustice of life causes many people problems, even believers , if we don’t allow God time to set it straight, and sometimes it is not until the afterlife. It is easy to be discouraged. Oppression rules and reigns in our country and throughout the world. I just heard a report on the news yesterday that young girls are being kidnapped from Phillipines and South America to work as prostitutes in other parts of the world—some as young as 12 years old. Business tycoons corrupt politicians and corrupted politicians seek even larger bribes. Government officials, politicians, and pastors sell out. That is the world we live in. This past week, a young man asked me a profound question: “Why do I get madder the more I read the Bible?” The answer is because he is seeing our world from God’s perspective and things aren’t as they are supposed to be. Yet, in these discouraging realities, we need to remember the One who will have the last word. The end of God’s work is even better than its beginning.

Solomon’s proverbs maintain that wicked deeds will invariably lead to divine retribution and punishment during a person’s earthly life. People who slander others will have their tongues cut off, those who are lazy will have failing crops, and undue pride will lead to an individual’s downfall. One way to enjoy the favorable hand of God’s justice is to practice moderation and prudence. According to the proverbs, the moderate person avoids the excesses of the foolish, including excessive drinking, eating, sleeping, gossiping, and rage. A consistent way to demonstrate wise behavior is by choosing words shrewdly and carefully. The proverbs also praise those who prepare in advance, particularly those who build their homes in preparation for later circumstances. The most important sign of wisdom and prudence, however, is obedience and reverence to one’s parents.

This is why Solomon emphasizes patience. Our Western society has lost its taste for the long haul. We want everything NOW. We crave instant coffee, fast food, immediate gratification, and instant entertainment. Our computers and our modems are faster and we chaff at the idea of waiting for anything.“Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.” God is interested in character development so He will test our patience to develop perseverance. He frequently does this because life is a marathon, not a sprint. God is building patience in us so that we will go the distance in our marriage, ministry, and Christian life.

Solomon explains that we cannot understand why God uses adversity and prosperity as He does. God “bends” certain things and there is nothing we can do about it. Affliction is the appointment of God. It is generally futile to try to figure such things out; we can’t straighten what God has made crooked. There are “crooked” things we cannot straighten, and we must learn to believe and say, “God, you are God. You are good and powerful. I trust you. I believe in you. And even though I don’t like some of the things that come from your hand, I think I accept them with joy.” God does not waste sorrow or adversity. He knows the purpose for which we go through tragedy and sorrow. It is for our good, and the good of His kingdom.

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, be patient. Be patient because the same God who made the good times has allowed the bad. Neither situation is outside of His sovereignty and there is no sure way of knowing what’s coming next. Try as we might, we cannot prepare for all contingencies, and while God expects us to be prudent, He does not want us to play God. There are times when you just have to play the cards which you have been dealt. Remember that it is God who is the dealer. What you have has been given by Him. Adversity is better than prosperity.

This week, let’s try to increase our awareness of God. Remember that He is watching and listening and recording – whether we are at work, at home, in the store, anywhere! If we can heighten our awareness, we will inevitably elevate our actions as well. When we know that there is a God, we will live life accordingly.


(1) Know God; Do Good, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Founder and President, Holy Land Moments, Devotions.


Raj Kosaraju

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