Monday, December 11, 2017

To Gain the World But Lose Your Soul: What Will It Be?

"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" --Matthew 16:26

In the best of all worlds, as a citizen, if you were asked to vote for a person to represent you in the United States Senate, who had been accused by multiple women of sexually preying upon them as teenagers, you'd vote "No". 


In the best of all worlds, if you were a person of deep faith and a voter, you'd definitely reject that candidate, for clear and obvious moral reasons. 


In the best of all worlds, that candidate wouldn't just be shunned by the voters but by his political allies too, from the top leader of the party on down, because who in good conscience could support the candidacy of such a person, even if to do so means one more vote for your side in the Senate. 


But we don't live in the best of all worlds in these strange days, and so this week there is a good chance that voters in Alabama will elect Roy Moore to a six year term to the United States Senate, one of the most powerful deliberative bodies in the free world.

The race is tight and it still might go the other way and yet: it raises a much larger moral question, one as old as the ages, as human life itself. Just how far are we as humans willing to go to get what we want or desire in this life, regardless of the moral costs or implications, regardless of what our faith says is right or wrong, or what society declares is good or bad? 

Or as an ancient scripture writer says more poetically: what does it profit a person to gain the world but lose their soul in the process? To "win", but in winning, to give up or set aside any sense of morality, in order to secure a victory or achievement or goal or profit or power?

It's a classic moral quandary, one each of us faces every single day from the youngest of ages. To cheat on a test and get an "A" or admit you didn't study and just take your well deserved "C"?  To fudge the figures on your income taxes and save a few bucks or just buck it up and pay your legal and right fair share?  To go back into the store when you realize the clerk gave you too much money in change, or just pocket the windfall and walk away?

Countries and institutions face this moral test as well.  What is more important: loyalty to partisan politics and party or a commitment to what is best for the country as a whole, the common good? In business: what is the bottom line? The people who work for a company or the profits that shareholders demand?  In sports: does a team compete fairly and squarely on a level playing field or pop a few pills and secure the gold medals?

In the best of all worlds, humans and those we depend upon for leadership: we will do the right thing, even, especially when the struggle for the soul is greatest. The right thing. The honorable thing. The good thing. The noble thing. The decent thing. We will follow the moral lessons we learned in the faith tradition we grew up in, or around the dinner table in the family we called home, or just listen to that still small moral voice from within.

But we do not live in the best of all worlds. We live in a far too often morally ambiguous world, where unfettered freedom and moral responsibility constantly compete for our loyalty.

And so day by day, year by year, we each face the choice: what are we willing to do, or not do, to "gain the world"? We make those decisions as citizens and neighbors, spouses and parents, folks who believe in God and those who do not, CEOs and workers, all of us.  The collection of all those moral choices finally make us who we are: as individuals and communities and as a country. 

We are the sum of our moral decisions.

What does it profit a person to gain the world but lose their soul?  That is the question.



No comments:

Post a Comment