The Lamp vs. Lamp Post Conundrum
By Al Gray
William Shakespeare described a conundrum very succinctly with the words “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Life is full of conundrums and they grow even more prolific in troubled times such as these. Some are hardly trifling matters, with dangers and even death hanging in the balance. The greatest of these challenges are of an existential nature in this life and the next, even extending to the way one passes from this life to eternity.
Our Bible passages for today are found in Luke 11:33-54 of the New American Standard Bible.
33 “ No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”
Woes upon the Pharisees
37 Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee *asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table.38 When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44 Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
45 One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” 46 But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘ I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”
In Hamlet, Shakespeare continued: “Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.” This day, in the year of our Lord 2012, finds us at such a juncture. The physical world seems in rebellion against the people, with some saying that the disasters are the fruits of mankind. The financial and economic worlds stand on the verge of collapse on the backs of monumental folly, theft, greed and fraud. The political world is a morass of corruption. The spiritual world sees epic waves of immorality unchallenged by churches more attuned to these other worlds than in doing the work of Christ. What man or woman can stand against these things? Isn’t it a lot easier and more comfortable to stay on the sidelines? The trouble with this is that one is, in so doing, hiding his lamp – making it go dark by accepting evil and even engaging it as a friend.
Jesus expanded on his parable by calling out the deeds of the religious zealots of his day, saying they paid heed to religious doctrine alone, while ignoring the hurting of the people.
Even more fitting to our day is the admonition you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Indeed, our financial and political system stands on the brink of an apocalypse because fraudsters and incompetents still hold their positions after their grandiose looting. Worst is that most of them remain among the ranks of the respected despite epic failure.
The death of the American middle class and descent into the impoverished class is touched upon in these words “you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens” The actions of the global financiers are straight from the recipe recommended by the great Communist, V.I. Lenin, who wrote “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” Every time the system nears a state of correcting itself, our leaders use dishonest accounting, currency debasement, and ability of the government to spend unlimited amounts of “money” to keep the deception going a little longer. Using inflation perpetuates their positions of power in the markets. Governments have tried this during and since biblical times with the same result for centuries – the currency collapses, leaving the people destitute.
You have taken away the key of knowledge. This charge may be the most damning of all relative to current events. The very folks who are charged with informing the people of the dangers – the media, the ministers, the accountants, and law enforcement – are actively engaged in selling the soothing notion that all is normal. A veritable wall of censorship exists whereby failed establishment economists, consultants, and educators have kept their positions despite being demonstrably wrong and even deceptive. Ministers are as captive to expectations of a cushy modern life as any other people and are loathe criticizing perceived benefactors in banking or government. Accountants have even gone so far as to destroy their franchise to promote accounting “rules” to cover up outright looting. Law enforcement has ignored criminal offenses in the hundreds of thousands to the point that the rule of law is virtually dead.
Finally Jesus lays out the real conundrum for those who know his Word, the realities of the world about them, the tremendous forces about to become manifest, and the power of evil. ”I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute.” History has shown that those who are brave enough to show the way, to throw off the shackles of entrenched power, and to become shining lamps to the world instead are highly likely to be hung from lamp posts instead. Therein lies the power of the conundrum evident in Hamlet and in Luke 11:33 – the choice is a life considered so precious that one should seek to extend it at all costs versus a glorious life likely to end abruptly consequent to one’s principled actions.
With respect to our doomed financial system, the phrase “extend and pretend” is often used to describe the overwhelming human response. Its power over humans cannot be better demonstrated than by Jesus’ own plea at the prospect of his pain-racked body being nailed to the cross: “let this cup pass from Me.”
The Lord knows what is at stake for those called to his ministry and those called to serve mankind in troubled times like those of today. May He grant those of us with the duty He has prescribed the sort of determination and resolve in words from the birth of our republic.
Give me Liberty or give me Death!
The light of those who choose both Him and the blessings of liberty will become blazing beacons in a brighter future.
To be or not to be, that is the question.