Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dispatches From the Edge: A Moral Dilemma Observed

In this entry Jason takes a long hard look at morality, throws up his hands and says, "What's the point?" But then he thinks better of it.

The other day I went shoe shopping. Normally I would go to Target, drop $20 to $30 and move on with my sordid affairs. But remember, life is different on the wrong side of employment. My current laze-about sneakers smell like week old garbage, so my need is dire.

I sucked it up, held my head high, and trudged into the Goodwill. I go to secondhand stores all the time, but it is a much different feeling when you're going there out of need instead of want. I have never bought sneakers secondhand, figured they wouldn't have a good selection, and of course I wasn't wrong. Their collection was weak sauce, but after a few minute's spelunking I happened on a real prospect. They were cool looking and brand name (American Eagle) and so naturally I feared the worst: that they would make me pay through the nose. Secondhand stores know when they've got a good thing, and they were charging $15 for these way decent sneakers.

I swore at the Goodwill (I'm not sure how low that is, to swear at an organization that exists to help the poor and needy, but I know it's pretty far down there). I cursed them for making my life difficult. There was no way I was going to issue that kind of jack from my wallet for used shoes when I could pay a few dollars more for brand new kicks.

Presently the devious machinations began to flow.

My first thought wasn't bad; I checked to see if the red tags were half off. No go, it was green this week. My next thought was that I could simply put these shoes on and walk out of the place.

Look, I know it's bad. I know it's ugly. I felt sullied and dirty as I felt my mind creeping into the sewer, but my powers of self-justification run so very deep. And I proceeded. I didn't want to wholesale rip them off because I didn't want to have to feel guilty about that later. Then I thought, well, hell, I could just switch the tags with a correctly priced pair of shoes. C'mon! This $15 nonsense is just not reasonable, I'm unemployed, won't someone hear my cry!?

I mulled over my options. I was feeling guilty, a leader in a church selecting how it is he's going to sin against a charity. Then I thought, "Well, I should at least try them on." Way too tight.

Crisis averted.

Now, would I really have done any of these bad things? From the bottom of my heart, no, I don't think I would have. But I'm not any prettier for it. That doesn't get me any points. I had already ripped them off in my heart. My only real motivators for not committing a simple, low-risk shoplifting operation were shame and guilt. The analogy would be that I don't want the things that keep me from cheating on my wife to be shame and guilt. I want my love for her to be my overarching motivator. If I'm ever doing a cost-benefit analysis as to whether I should do something behind my wife's back, then I'll know that I'm already in trouble, even before the first shot is fired.

(By the way, yes, your suspicions are correct: This blog just turned the corner and went preachy on your ass. Well, you know, I hope not, but obviously kinda that's what happened.)

But what's the connection? Was my love for the Goodwill supposed to sustain me through temptation? Hardly. C'mon, I'm a Christian who is trying to mean it, don't you see where this is going? It would be my love for Jesus that would hopefully be my prime motivator. The truth is that I can't really see a good reason not to slip on a pair of shoes that I happen to need that happened to be donated to a charitable organization. But God can, and last time I checked he's smarter than me. And he asked me not to do such things. The dude has done a lot for me, he always seems to be right, and I should trust him.

That's biblically based morality in a nutshell.

1 comment:

Jessica DesLongchamp said...

Wow, way to be too honest Pastor Jason --- haha, just kidding baby. Really though your story (confession?) is a great picture for why He does it all and we don't do any of it.

- JMD

p.s. glad to hear of your motivators for being faithful to me. ;)