Stretching expectations through honor
Side by SideAlmost 10 years ago, the 21st century dawned with fear and expectancy. Warned of computer shutdowns when the clocked ticked to 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000, some stockpiled emergency supplies in case the world needed rebooting. We were laughing at ourselves by noon, but mirth ended Sept. 11, 2001.
Published: November 6, 2009
Published: November 6, 2009
As the U.S.A. continues to battle the chaos of confusion, its citizens not only wonder what voices to heed but also are in danger of losing national and personal vision. What is needed to stretch expectations rather than shrink hope? The answer is: honor.
Also in 2000, a self-help book of less than a hundred pages, "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson, hit the best-seller list. Based on two biblical verses about a man whose name means "born in pain," Wilkinson built premises on Jabez' plea to God: "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain" (1 Chronicles 4:10 NIV). It's a prayer that ended well: "And God granted his request." However, we dare pray it only if we take note of its background: "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers" (v. 9).
Bluntly stating that America cannot fix all the world's problems, President Obama challenged the United Nations in September 2009 to enter an "era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect." Seeing eye-to-eye in those ways requires Honor's twin, Honesty, who is much in demand but rarely seen: "Ay, sir; to be honest, as the world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand" (Shakespeare's "Hamlet").
Those duped by Charles Owens III of Clearwater and his CSO Industries' scheme wish he were that one man. Hindsight reveals Owens' arrogance in promising more than he can or intended to deliver. His investors include fellow church members, like 81-year-old Shirley Broderick and her $220,000 in life's savings, who signed the Countryside Christian Center's pledge not to sue other church members.
Shysters often wear humility's garb. Haven't we all known at least one lying preacher described by his blinded followers as the "most humble man"? Haven't we all been disappointed by places like Revealing Truth Ministries in Tampa who got rid of staff member Carolyn Jackson because she could no longer tithe her 10 percent?
Both examples were recent front-page Tampa Tribune stories (9/12 and 9/25/09) illustrating Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation: "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." Fake church, fake government and fake individuals merit exposure. Every now and then it brings forth "true" repentance and restitution.
Zacchaeus, a much despised, first century tax collector, had no doubt engaged in many shady deals. Seeing himself in the Jesus' mirror, he illustrates real conversion: "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8 NIV). As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., said: "Sometimes a person's mind is stretched by a new idea and never does go back to its old dimensions." If that happens, Jabez' prayer can work for us.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com