Monday, March 5, 2012

That Which Makes The World Go 'Round...

It isn't money, which I would assume the vast majority of people would have answered.

Rather, it is faith - and this is the lesson I taught in class today.  The context of the lesson was the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, which begins with the famous classic formulation of faith - the realization of things hoped for, and evidence of things unseen.  The lesson of today was mostly about the comparison and building on the definition of faith from the days of the Old Covenant - that of obedience to God's commandments.  The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the universe is ordered through such faith.  (As per usual in class, I like to use every day scenarios and items to make my point. -- J.L.

It is interesting that almost everything we do is based on some kind of faith - whether it is belief in something unseen, or an implicit trust.  Every time you get into your car, whether as the driver or a passenger, you are operating on faith that the other drivers will stop when they are supposed so, obey the laws of the road, and use the proper tools of driving.  Likewise, you have faith that the steering or the brakes of the car won't just shut down, or that your tires won't cause you to skid off the road.  Every time a person steps out of his home, it is an act of faith.

Likewise, consider money.  Until 1971, we were on a gold standard, which gave some kind of fixed rate of currency in our market.  Since then, we have been on a fiat currency, which makes our money worth only what the government says it is.  All we have is the faith that the five-dollar bill in our pockets will still be able to purchase a similar amount of goods and services tomorrow and next week, and next year.  In this day and age because of most transactions being electronically oriented, it has become even more faith-based.  As anyone who either, a) gets paid via direct deposit or b) has his bills taken directly via wire transfer can attest, our 'money' is just a series of numbers on a website.  It can be a bit unnerving, but such is the world in which we live.  No matter where we go, it is some kind of belief in the unseen that gets us through the days, weeks, months, and years.

Ironically enough, in a world and culture that is becoming more and more Godless, faith is something that more and more people need and use.  The question, as always, is to whom and to what do we direct that faith?  

Looking back to the two definitions of faith - it isn't a matter of either/or, but rather of both obedience and belief; more specifically, why we obey.  It's easy to blindly obey orders and it's easy to have a blind faith, but it isn't quite as easy to blend obedience and understanding. However, that's not for the reason one would think.  It is more difficult because understanding the why of obedience puts the onus responsibility on the individual - which means taking credit for good things and blame for when things go wrong.  

If I were to poll 1,000 people and give them one of the following two options...

a) Total and complete freedom - control of all decisions and one's own destiny.  You own all of your successes and all your failures.

b) All of your material needs are taken care of by someone else.  The trade off is that you must be subservient to them for as long as they take care of your needs.

I would be willing to bet that a sizable minority of people would choose the second option.  It isn't all that surprising, actually.  A look back to the Israelites wandering the desert for forty years showed that they wanted that second option.

Simply put, if there is one aspect of humanity that is totally universal - it's buck-passing.  Just look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  People don't want responsibility if it means they are left holding the bag if and when things turn south.  This was the main issue with the Hebrews (the audience of the epistle in the New Testament) themselves, looking to return to their native Jewish faith where they could just live off a checklist and only worry about obedience without the necessity of having to fully understand, and thus, take responsibility for their lives and destiny as members of the New Covenant.

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