Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not so simple

Growing up in Danville, simple was not a virtue it was a euphemism. If someone was developmentally disabled instead of the all to common R-word, older folks would just say, "He's simple."

Somehow, perhaps in revolt against the speed of life, people have tried to turn being simple into a virtue. The problem is that the world is not simple and human beings have never been simple. Science, philosophy, and religion have been struggling since the beginning of time to help us understand us.

It seems that one of the other things we have been doing since the beginning of time is place blame outside ourselves. Those of us of a certain age remember Flip Wilson's Geraldine, "The devil made me do it." But that line really goes back to the original sin. When caught, Adam blames the woman, the woman blames the snake, the devil.

Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar reminds us all,
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

St. James reminds us:
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

Desire -> Sin -> Death

And notice that St. James makes it clear that each person is tempted by their own desire. It isn't that he is denying the existence of the devil or denying that we can find things outside ourselves tempting, but they are all tempting because they resonate with some desire inside of us.

If we are to avoid sin, the message of this passage seems to be that we need to become keenly aware of what it is we desire and why. We need to get in touch not just with the surface desires but the ones in the deepest recesses of our heart. The second bowl of ice cream is rarely just a desire for ice cream. The mid-life affair is rarely ever just a desire for sex.

When we find ourselves on the verge of sin, can we identify the real desire? When we do sin, can we look back and identify the underlying desire, so as to avoid the sin in the future?

We are God's most complicated creature, and every attempt to make us simple denies the very nature of humanity.