Finding the Art in Everything

24 July, 2008

Not Worth It

"Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare."

~Isaiah 55:2

I was reading Isaiah this morning, again, and I found some questions that seem to have been present in the conversations I've had this week.

I have been reading about Robert Coles, prolific author, Harvard professor, and one of the most prominent psychologists of our era. He says, "We have categories for every person on earth, but who can explain just one person? ... Some reviewers criticize me for saying the same old things about the nature of human beings: that we are a mixture of good and evil, of light and darkness, of potentiality toward destruction on redemption. they wand some new theory, I suppose. But my research merely verifies what the bible has said all along about human beings." He has abandoned modern psychology to explain human behavior, and has looked to the literary wisdom of the ages.

As I read this passage this morning, I felt like I had found it. This passage from Isaiah explains one of the distinct human paradoxes: Why do we spend ourselves on what will not meet our needs? Why do we strive for things that bring us no peace and comfort--or worse--destruction?

I have been talking with a friend who is in a place where the inauthenticity of it overwhelms her. She is watching those who have the highest freedom possible still build their own little prisons with expectations and "supposed to's". For the first time in their lives, people could do whatever they please and be whomever they please, and they choose to live behind masks and chase meaningless things. Why are they laboring on what does not satisfy?

I had another conversation with a friend who learned from her doctor that an estimated 8 out of 10 people is carrying some kind of virus for a sexually transmitted infection. The most horrifying part is that many people don't know they are infected because the body fights it like most other infections for a while. We found that statistic staggering, and we marveled at this horrifying and fallacious notion of "sexual freedom." What is free about being bound to medication for life because of an incurable disease? What is free about the heartache that comes from extricating oneself from that kind of intimacy? What is free about having a physical ailment to represent the loss of self that occurred in fleeting moments of pleasure? Who on earth wants to make the call, "I'm sorry, but you might want to get yourself tested?" Why do we spend money on what is not bread, but in fact, poison? How do we not know this is not worth it?

It is significant that the Bible pinpoints this paradoxical human tendency so precisely, because it gives credibility to the second half of the verse: We see that God offers an alternative to the pattern of self-destruction: "Listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fares." Elsewhere in the Bible, we find abundant explanation for the Fare and its richness. We then have the power to measure cost, benefit, and the risk against a Love we can trust is not jeopardized by inauthenticity or its own inclination toward self-destruction. If we look enough at the Alternative, then what isn't food doesn't even appeal to us.

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