Ever wonder about the old adage? Ever think that maybe they got it backwards? Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we have the least expectation of those who have been given the most? Don’t they get to spend their days on fancy yachts or lying on white sandy beaches while others see to their every whim? How is that fair?
Or conversely, doesn’t it sometimes feel like those with the least get off easy? Don’t they get to lie around all day collecting assistance while you’re breaking your back at some dead-end job just to make ends meet? How is that fair?
Anyone’s whose lived long enough eventually reaches the inevitable conclusion that life isn’t always fair. Some people take that as a license to fall into a completely narcissistic lifestyle making everything they do, feel, or converse about center solely around themselves. If there’s no justice in the world what’s the point about worrying about anyone else? Why give back? Give back to whom, anyway? No one’s ever given them a dime. They’ve worked for everything that’s come to them and everyone else should do the same.
It’s hard to argue with the latter, but very few of us can claim we’ve never been given anything in life. Let’s start with life itself. Maybe everyone isn’t blessed with a sterling set of parents, but no one can argue that life itself was given them by someone else. And while no one would argue that there is often an imperfect resolution of justice in this world, in the next we are all held accountable for each gift, each talent, each opportunity and every blessing that comes our way.
So rather than bemoaning what everyone else was given it would be a more fruitful use of our time to acknowledge gratefully the blessings that have come our way and examine what we’ve done with them…just as though we will one day be called upon to give an account of ourselves and what we made of our lives in this imperfect world.
It would be a mistake on our part to look around and assume that as long as we’re doing better than the next guy we’re safe from the consequences of our poor choices in the next. Unlike this world that must necessarily rely on applying a certain set of reasonably uniform standards by which to judge its citizens, in the life beyond this one allowances are made for what advantages or disadvantages we were given at the beginning of our own unique race. If you started out with twice as much as your neighbor, you might want to think about why a lifetime later you ended up living next door. He must have either overcome twice as many disadvantages to get to the same level as you, or you must have squandered your own opportunities to have fallen so far.
Although there is an automatic tendency to apply this passage of “to whom much has been given, much will be expected,” to material goods, such an inference is its least consequential application. There is a far greater impact on your starting place in the life beyond this one when this wisdom is applied to spiritual rather than worldly truths.
Back in approximately 400 A.D. a Christian governor, Aurelius Prudentius, wrote an epic poem called Battle for the Soul that proposed 7 heavenly virtues to offset the evils of the 7 deadly sins. Surprisingly enough, human nature hasn’t changed all that much in the past sixteen hundred years, so examining these opposing personality traits is not a bad place to start if we’re wondering where we stand in our own struggles to make a place for ourselves in eternity:
7 Heavenly Virtues vs. 7 Deadly Sins
- Chastity or Purity Lust
- Temperance or Moderation Gluttony
- Charity Avarice (Greed)
- Diligence (Willing to work) Sloth (Laziness)
- Patience Wrath
- Kindness Envy
- Humility Pride
Recognize anyone? Or more likely, don’t we all recognize everyone in the above list, particular our own struggles? Haven’t we all battled the temptations outlined in the list of sins? Don’t we all pat ourselves on the back when we’ve committed a particularly virtuous deed?
It’s so easy to judge, to jump on the bandwagon and condemn whatever or whoever everyone else is condemning. It’s much more difficult to refrain from judgment…to recognize that we’re all on our own unique journey to eternity and we’re far better served working on our own weaknesses than in celebrating the struggles of others.
So just as spring is the eternal symbol of new life and of renewal of what already lives, let us spend these precious days renewing our spirits by casting off old habits, old resentments and old judgments that no longer serve any fruitful purpose within us and instead seek the best in others and in ourselves. Let us devote ourselves to rekindling the circle of life we’ve each been given. Let us work to heal the effects of violence and hatred and distrust that our world has fallen victim to. Let us replace cruelty with kindness, mockery with understanding, and our drive to obtain more and more for ourselves with the understanding that the earth’s gifts belong to all. Let us be less mindful of worldly matters and more open to spiritual truths. Let us each be a beacon of light in the gathering darkness that threatens all.
And when we lay aside this earthly vessel, let us look back on these days of struggle and be able to truthfully conclude…”I have fought the good fight and run the race to the finish.” I did the best I could with what was given me and God forgive me for my failings and remember kindly my successes.