What if the good things you have have nothing to do with you?
What if there are a finite number of possibilities for good things to happen?
What if someone else suffers because of the good things you have?
I find these questions interesting. And they certainly fly-in-the-face of popular social thought that is reward driven. People don’t like to think about limitations. We live in a time when people want to think that there are limitless possibilities for good things to happen. But what if these popular ideas are incorrect?
What started me thinking about this was in my morning Bible reading. I read from (one of my least favorite books):
And when the Lord your God has thrust them from your path, say not your yourselves, “The Lord has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues”; it is rather because of the wickedness of those nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not because of your virtues and your rectitude that you will be able to possess their country; but it is because of their wickedness that the Lord your God is dispossessing those nations before you…. ~ Deuteronomy 9:4,5 (Jewish Publication Society Translation)
So let’s look at this in a broader context. Let’s look beyond the Judeo-centric idea of a “promised land” here. What if this applies to all of us and the good things we have? Now I hear people talk about how proud they are that they’ve worked so hard at this or that and have acquired this or that because of their efforts, their virtues and their goodness. These people are so “works” oriented that they forget that the good things they experience once belonged to someone else. We should be grateful for the good things we experience, however we define “good” and realize it has nothing to do with us. Many churches have fallen into this self praise approach and the whole “prosperity gospel” approach that has taken hold is about as unbalanced as it can get. Sure many Christians give lip-service to God but in their hearts it’s propaganda to show how much their god favors them for their virtues and goodness.
Now it is, admittedly, a little difficult to wrap ones head around the idea that if someone suffers loss it is because of their error but my gain has nothing to do with me. And that’s just one of many beautiful paradoxes in the Bible. Why does my goodness and virtue have nothing to do with the good things I experience? Well I see it like this – virtue and goodness is the norm it is what is natural (so much for the “born into sin” preachers). After all, when the world was created, when humanity was created, God did not create it already in a state of sin. When you were born, you were not born into “sin” or born to be a sinner. When you were born, God said the same thing “He” said when the world was created, “It is good.” You were born into good therefore goodness is what is natural. It takes effort to do wrong. And that’s why wrong-doing has the negative consequences of loss.
So this is why we should NOT look on our own virtue or goodness as something reward worthy. If we are virtuous or good we in our natural state of existence, as God intended.
The other part of this is to understand the displacement of good things. I’ve often said that we all bring our own suffering on ourselves. We are ultimately responsible for the loss we experience and the suffering we undergo. This is another thing that our culture will not want to hear. Why? Because no one wants to be responsible. People don’t want to feel responsible therefore people don’t take responsibility for their actions. They blame others. Ironically these are the same people that will tell you they are “entitled” to have good things. They are “owed” good things. They’re owed because”they’re good people at heart” or “they’re not bad people”. And the verses, quoted above, are the very antithesis of entitlement.
When bad things happen to us a result of our misguided, and/or wrong actions and thinking, others will benefit and have the good things that we previously enjoyed. Others don’t enjoy the good things because of what THEY did.
Now here’s the real clincher. God has so many good things he wants people to experience that even some people may benefit in spite of their wrong doing/thinking. Like the old saying in Matthew 5:45, God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and unjust. Sun and rain are symbols of blessing, enlightenment and spirituality. So if we have and experience good things it has nothing to do with any merit we may think we possess. And if we lose something it is most likely because of what WE did or didn’t do.