I was reading Cane Caldo’s most recent post this week, and I immediately thought of this passage from First Timothy:
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
(1 Timothy 1:8-11)
The unfortunate truth is that society needs both criminal laws, as well as social sanction, to keep people in line. Those who are rebellious will not be motivated by virtue, therefore to restrain them you must appeal to their self-interest. That means using the laws of society to keep them in place.
As much as we would rather not have laws in place, or social sanctions, or whatever the particular instrument in question is, they are absolutely necessary. We are witnessing now the price that is paid when society gives those things up.
Also, I think I have found a corollary, of sorts, to the old engineer adage:
Cheap. Fast. Good…. pick two.
I suppose one could call it a social engineer’s adage:
Virtue. Freedom. Wealth/Comfort… pick two.
The obvious scripture passage to back this up involves a certain gate:
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
The more wealth there is, the more care needs to be taken to limit freedom (if only in a self-imposed way). Otherwise virtue will be pushed to the back-burner.
Finally, this passage from St. James’s letter appealed to me today:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
Well, maybe not appealed to me. Rather, convicted me. Envy is one of my long running problems, one that has been very difficult to stamp out. I’ve made progress in a lot of other areas, but this one still eludes me. All the more reason for me not to boast, and to remember that I too depend utterly on the mercy of God.