Ragged Genes

genesSilly me, I thought the Washington Post article, “Cheating May Be in Your Genes” was speaking of unfairly playing a game.  You know, bending the rules to get an advantage; however, the focus is on cheating as in having an affair.  I guess that sounds a little nicer than calling it adultery or breaking one of the 10 Commandments.

According to research done by Brendan Zietsch at the University of Queensland in Australia, “an individual’s genetic makeup in general influences how likely he or she is to cheat.” The researchers at Queensland could have saved themselves a lot of time and money.  The answer to their hypothesis is in the Bible.  Ever since Adam and Eve messed things up in the Garden of Eden, 100% of men and women have been struggling with their desires and emotions.

Whenever a person, like these researchers, overlooks the obvious, I remember my old friend Ted and how he expressed his frustration.  His language in such instances was so razor sharp and electrifying he left the recipient of his diatribe shockingly bewildered.  His language was so colorful, it would make your teeter, totter.

My language won’t be nearly as graphic, but I will state the simple truth:  Your nasty sin nature wants you to wallow in the pig pen of life.  It lies to you, and tells you it’s okay to cheat, swindle, steal, and do whatever you feel like doing.  It’s the author of the bestseller: If It Feels Good, Do It.

Here’s a little secret:  It doesn’t make any difference whether you call it your genetic makeup, your DNA, or your sinful nature, you’re still responsible for your actions; and, there are consequences to your behavior.  Sin will always takes you farther than you want to go; it always promises more than it gives and, it always costs more than you want to pay.

It’s time to dial down the static noise and be emphatic about the truth:

  • When you cheat, you rob yourself of your character.
  • When you lie, you exist in a delusional environment.
  • When you steal, you rob yourself of your integrity.

If you will ask yourself these questions, they will help you temper your temptation:

  • Is 15 minutes of pleasure worth risking an eternity of joy?
  • Is the self-soothing value of false pretense worth losing the value of a good name?
  • Can I find genuine satisfaction and fulfilment in stealing something that belongs to another person?

Fortunately failure is not final, and you can learn this from the example of the Prodigal Son.  He was starving and stuffing “himself with the food the pigs were eating.  When he came to his senses he said, My father’s servants have more food than they can eat and here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go back to my father .’”

When you come to your senses, you can come back to your Father—He still loves you.

The Great Loyal Love of God

Dust-articleInlineOne of the sections of the Psalms that I enjoy is Psalm 103.  The Psalmist describes the Lord as being compassionate, merciful, patient, and demonstrative with His “great loyal love.”

As you read the verses below, notice the ebb and flow as the author builds on the foundation he’s laid:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful; He is patient and demonstrates great loyal love. He does not always accuse, and does not stay angry. He does not deal with us as our sins deserve; He does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve. For as the skies are high above the earth, so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers. As far as the eastern horizon is from the west, so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers. For he knows what we are made of; He realizes we are made of dust.

Because the Lord is compassionate, merciful, patient, and He has a “great loyal love:

  • He does not always accuse.
  • He doesn’t stay angry.
  • He doesn’t deal with us as our sins deserve.
  • He doesn’t repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
  • He removes the guilt of our sin.

Why does God do this?  It’s because it’s His character to do so, but there is another reason:  He knows who you are—a fragile pile of dust.   When you fail, God could sweep you up and toss you aside, but He is compassionate, merciful, patient, and He has a “great loyal love” for you.

On your own; in your frail strength; and in your confused wisdom, the best you can do is to make a mud pie out of your life.  Then, when the storms of life come, you’re just a muddy mess.  You’re like the prodigal son who wallowed in the pig pen of life and ate the swill and hog slop with the rest of the pigs.

But, like the prodigal,  something wonderful can happen that will change your life.  You can remember that the Father is compassionate, merciful, patient, and He has a “great loyal love” for you, and you can go home to the Father’s house:  “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers. For he knows what we are made of; He realizes we are made of dust.”

A Life of Purpose

life-purposeA recent Gallup poll surveyed the happiness levels of Americans and has found that the levels are at a four-year high. Almost 60 percent of Americans say they feel happy, and they do not have a lot of stress or worry.

The Center for Disease Control looked at another aspect of life and found that about 40% of Americans haven’t discovered a satisfying life purpose, and almost 25% of Americans report they do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.

The quest for happiness and the search for meaning have different results. Researchers agree that when a person engages in a single-minded quest for happiness he discovers a pot of dissatisfaction at the end of his rainbow.

This was the sad case of the prodigal son. Victor Frankl showed an understanding of this paradox when he said: “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

Frankl’s understanding of meaning, life’s purpose, and happiness was formed under the harsh conditions of a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl wrote of his experience in the 1946 best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. He had come to the conclusion that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing—meaning. His fellow prisoners who had found meaning in the dire conditions of the death camp were much more resilient than those who had not.

Frankl’s conclusions have been supported by research that shows the value of having purpose and meaning in life:

• It increases overall well-being and life satisfaction
• It improves mental and physical health
• It enhances resiliency, and self-esteem, and it decreases the chances of depression.

The Journal of Positive Psychology reported on research by Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business. Aaker and her colleagues, found that “Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker.”

The Apostle Paul knew a little something about givers and takers: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

How about you? Are you a giver or a taker? When you find the answer to this question, you may find your purpose in life.