W. C. Fields, the great comic actor, was on his death bed. Some friends came to visit him and were surprised to find him reading the Bible. Fields was a well-known cynic and to find him reading the Bible was puzzling. When they asked him “Why?” he answered, “I’m looking for a loop hole.”
Fields is like most people who live their lives without much thought of ultimate issues until they have no other choice.
Like cramming for a final exam, they hope they stumble on the right answers for whatever questions are asked and what might be required.
Several years ago, USA Today published a survey in which they asked, “If you could ask God one question, what would you ask”? The runaway number one question was, “Why am I here?”
Today’s culture tells you that you should decide for yourself, Find a reason to live and live it passionately. It’s your choice; it’s your life.
Before you start singing, “It’s my life! And it’s now or never . . . ,” let me quote some lines delivered by the same Jon Bon Jovi to the graduating class of Monmouth College: “Nothing is more important as [sic] passion. No matter what you do in life, be passionate.”
In some ways that is true. But this approach assumes that everyone has a free choice and no choices are wrong. Some choose wisely, work hard and opportunities come their way for worldly success. We see it in the corporate world, on the playing fields and courts; from Bill Gates to Oprah to LeBron James.
Passion is important, but it can be destructive. Passion that is untethered from truth often destroys. On a big scale, we can think of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao. We have learned again and again that some choices made by just a few people can lead to lives of emptiness, despair and destruction. Think 9/11, Sandy Hook, Boston Marathon – at one time innocuous descriptive words that now elicit images of violence, death and evil.
We are the sum total of all the choices we have made. Much has happened to us that you did not ask for but how we have chosen to respond has made us who we are today. So, take responsibility for our choices; don’t blame others, esp. God, – that is an emotional and spiritual black hole. There is no guarantee you will be successful in the worldly sense but you will choose who you become. No one can make you unethical, unkind, or uncaring. You will choose this path. You will not become a good wife, husband, dad, mom by default. You will choose.
When Joshua stood with the nation after all the great victories in Canaan, his one challenge was for them to choose whom they would serve. He even gave them options. If you don’t want to serve the Lord, he said, fine, here are some alternatives. If they needed any help with their decision, he went on record and told them that he and his family were going to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).
But he made them choose. Because not to choose, is to choose.
All of us, every day, are choosing what we are becoming. Every day we affirm or deny the commitments we say we have made.
There are no loopholes.