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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Honesty

It’s Easy to Manipulate the Truth – And You Bought the Lie

truth

The last couple of days there was a video going around of a brief clip from the show “Family Feud”

Here’s how I originally saw it:

I saw lots of comments on it. Some people thought it was cute. Some said it was diplomacy at work.

Yes, I thought it was a funny clip. It shows the solidarity of two men refusing to embarrass their wives. Instead, they choose to keep their mouths shut.

But that wasn’t the whole clip.

Here’s the extended version:

You can see from the extended clip that there’s not quite as much solidarity as the short version would have you believe. The Marine would rather control the board and play the game than to keep silent. That’s not a bash on Marines. I think most people wouldn’t even have paused like these men did.

My issue with the clips isn’t about the content of the game show, but with the person who did the editing.

No, there is not big Family Feud conspiracy. In the grand scheme of life this clip is insignificant. But it does highlight to me how easy it is to manipulate the truth. With a quick edit we were given a version that led us to believe that the men stayed silent out of respect and honor for their wives.

We live in a culture where “truth” is at the mercy of whomever is doing the editing. The media shows us only bits and pieces of the news – and only the bits and pieces that will move us in the way they want us moved. A great example of this is to look at a single news story covered by CNN, FoxNews, and The Daily Show. While covering the SAME piece, each outlet will put its own spin on the story.

We have fully entered the world of Orwell’s 1984. Before too long we’ll even have a Ministry of Truth. Perhaps Orwell was a prophet more than he was a novelist.

Truth is an important part of godly character. It is supposed to be part of what we say, what we do, and who we are.

The Psalms and Proverbs are filled with verses imploring people to be truth-tellers and to run from deceit. Jesus himself said:

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

It’s easier to accept things at face value, to believe the “truth” as it is presented to us. People pass around bogus information on social media every day because they never bother to fact check – to pursue the truth.

This is not how it is supposed to be.

As people called to be truth-tellers we should be cautious not to be part of bad information (whether it’s intentionally OR unintentionally misleading).

We can do better.

We must do better.

No more deception. Let’s be people of truth.

Free Food Stamps for Everyone!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of my favorite uses of Google is as a dictionary. I simply type: “define __________ ” and fill in the blank with whatever word I want defined. Today I typed: define integrity. This is what I got:

the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

It’s about honesty. I would add that integrity means that quality of character that acts according to principles even when no one else is watching. Integrity is being consistent in our moral behavior. Just because I can get away with something does not mean that I should do it. Integrity says, “I know that I shouldn’t be doing this, so even though I could, I won’t.”

This week a lot of people had the opportunity to display integrity. Many failed. It seems that there was a system glitch that oversaw the EBT debit cards (food stamps) in Louisiana. For a brief time the cards had no limit—none. When people found out many flooded Wal-Mart and other supermarkets. Some people went to check out with multiple shopping carts filled to overflowing with groceries!

Free Food Stamps Glitch

Let’s be honest – the people who took advantage of the glitch did nothing legally wrong. They were using the cards that had been given them. The glitch was not their doing (in a funny sidenote, Wal-Mart is blaming Xerox and Xerox turned around and is blaming Wal-Mart!).

While there was nothing illegal going on there was most certainly an issue of honesty and integrity. Just because a glitch allows you to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Every one of those people knew better. But when the restraints were removed there was no personal integrity to say, “Wow, what a funny glitch! I’m not gonna be a free-rider and take advantage of this.”

The Bible talks about integrity:

The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! (Psalm 7:7-9)

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs 28:6)

This post is not at all about poverty or social justice. I’m not opposed to the “haves” making sure that the “have nots” receive help. But this story does illustrate a human problem – when we think we can get away with something we will often do things we KNOW to be wrong.

Our issues may not be with food stamps. But we have other hidden issues that we wrestle with when we think no one is watching, when we feel like we can do it without consequence or repercussion.

Instead, let’s strive to be people of integrity. Let us live up to a quality of character that acts according to God’s principles even when no one else is watching.

Integrity.

Live it.

Confessions from a Pastor: The Real Me

You know those little 4×6 cards the city sends you to remind you to pay your water bill? It’s a pretty good idea not to set it aside “intending” to take care of it and then forget about it. Then one day you come home with three tired and hungry children and, when you go to begin lunch prep, realize that you have no running water coming into your home. Then you can’t use the bathroom or wash your hands either. And the kids are still tired and hungry and becoming more cranky by the millisecond.

Yup – that was me. My wife handed me the card some time ago and I said I would take care of it. Epic fail. Called the city and paid the bill and the water was back on a couple hours later. In an attempt at solidarity with the world around me (or maybe merely an attempt to feel better about myself?) I asked on social media what other absent-minded things people had done or had not done. I got some interesting feedback.

One mom said: “I put the milk away in the cabinet under the sink”

A teacher remembered: “I took my students to Disneyland for a band trip and got to the gate to pick up our tickets and realized I had left the check sitting on my desk.”

Someone else told me: “I requested drive up/pick up for my groceries and then drove home without them.

Finally one person wrote: “I forgot to put the car in park…rushed into the house…the car rushed into the garage door!”

So it seems I’m not the only one that does bone-headed, absent-minded things from time to time. I’m glad I’m in good company. Here’s the reason I’m telling you this: after the event happened I was embarrassed. I’ve never had my water shut off before for failure to pay the bill. The money was in the bank – I simply forgot. Still, I felt this big (imagine me holding my fingers close together, because I didn’t feel very big at all).

Because I was embarrassed (and spent a good amount of time apologizing to my wife for dropping the ball) I considered whether or not I was going to tell people about my goof or if I was going to conceal it instead. Since I’m writing this post I think it’s clear which route I decided to take.

But it really got me thinking: How much do/should we share with others and how much do/should we keep locked away from all but a few? Because I was embarrassed I naturally wanted to conceal my flub. But I live in a rural Midwest community. It’s not too far a stretch of imagination to think of someone at the desk at city hall recognizing my name and mentioning to someone else: “Hey, did you hear that the pastor at Central Community Church didn’t pay his bill and got his water shut off?” The way this town talks I really can see that happening (if you live here with me, let’s agree to help change the atmosphere of gossip and slander, ok?!?). I figured it’s always better to get out in front of stuff like this. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, just stupid, so I can swallow my pride and tell on myself.

But then it REALLY got me thinking about what the Bible says in regards to situations like this. The Bible tells us to carry each other’s burdens. The Apostle Paul also says that we are to treat each other with humility, and patience, accepting one another in love.

The people who are part of my spiritual family are supposed to help me carry the things that weigh me down. I’m also supposed to be able to count on this family to treat me with humility, patience, and acceptance. That means I can be free to be me and you can be free to be you.

In our contemporary, social media crazy world, we have a false sense of “knowing” and of “being known.” I might have 900 friends on Facebook but how many REALLY know me? They only see the pieces of me that I allow them to see.

Going through seminary I heard professors and students wrestle with the idea of how self-revealing a pastor SHOULD be versus how much he (or she, I’m pro-female ordination – but that’s a post for another day) should play it close to the vest. I guess it comes down to personal choice and conscience. Some pastors only post things that are very professional. Some post any ol’ thing that pops into their heads. I’ve struggled with the idea of how I come across through what I say, do, tweet, post, whatever.

I always come back to those passages. Christian community is supposed to be a place where we share life together. Where we laugh together. Where we cry together. Where we are real together. It’s supposed to be different from the world around us. All around us people look out for #1. We do things to get a leg up on the competition. We fight to beat everyone else down. That’s not the church that Jesus instituted.

His church is a place for care. His church is a place where we put others first. His church is a place where we can hear about the bone-headed things others do and, instead of criticizing and condemning, we say, “Yup, I’ve done stuff like that, too! God loves us anyway.” So I’ve decided that I’m going to share my life with people, warts and all. I’m not going to hide the imperfections. I’m not perfect. I struggle with my humanity just like everyone else (I even got a ticket last year). And Jesus loves me anyway. I do realize that there are people out there who will criticize, judge, and condemn those of us who reveal our flaws. Some people try to use our weaknesses as ammunition against us. But God doesn’t care. The Apostle Paul learned that being weak meant leaning on the strength of Jesus. He’ll provide support when we can’t carry on under our own power.

**Please note that God still expects us to be moving forward, to be growing in our spiritual maturity and attempting to be more like Christ every day (it’s called sanctification).**

But still, I think you know what I mean…

How about you? What bone-headed, absent-minded things have you done? No matter what – Jesus still loves you. And I’m gonna do my best to embrace you, help you carry your load, and treat you with humility, patience, and acceptance – just as I hope you will with me.

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