GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 570• October 14, 2020
TRADING YOUR SOUL FOR A BOWL OF BEANS
I have been criticized and some are no longer willing to read what I write or listen to what I preach – some do not believe I tell the truth, others think anything remotely political is outside the purview of a Christian such as I claim to be. “Why not just be content to write and speak about the gospel?” they ask.
I know the gospel (many of my critics do not). I am not swayed by politics. That doesn’t mean politics or culture, or the wishes of society, or the state itself are unimportant or irrelevant. Church and state are not the same institution and are, in that sense, separate. But the state should be guided by the constitution and covenant of God with the church as set forth in the New Testament of the Bible. The state, society, and culture church should not control the church. Political matters must not control or take precedence over spiritual matters — politics must be guided and controlled by principles of God’s word. I don’t, for example, ask my physician to declare and defend his political positions before I allow him to prescribe treatment for my medical condition and needs. Nor do I expect my governor or president to dictate what I can believe and do religiously.
I would hesitate to accept spiritual or religious advice or teaching on biblical matters from certain professed “Christian,” Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, or Atheist politicians who now hold high public office and some others now seeking election to high and higher public office. It bothers me when one says he or she disagrees religiously with some things in the public square but “will not insert my religious views and personal faith into my politics” – yes, that statement has been made. I refuse to support or even vote for someone who claims to believe in God, Christ, and the Bible but will promise anything required and do whatever it takes – including things contrary to the Bible and thus inimical to God and Christ – to get elected to the position of power they seek. I think the common term for such a person is hypocrite. What reasoning person would trust a known hypocrite in any capacity, public or private. A hypocritical Christian is, first and foremost, a hypocrite – Christianity is secondary, not primary. A hypocritical Christian should probably not be called a Christian at all. If you can’t trust him or her in one thing how could you trust them in any other thing? I can’t avoid being accused of a lack of charity/love or accused of not telling the truth, but I were convicted of those things by reliable evidence (not by slander and falsehood of opponents and detractors but by valid objective truth) I would make the needed changes. I want to be right, not just accepted and successful in a particular venture. I hope you feel the same.
Now let’s get to the important point hinted at in the announced title of this essay.
ESAU REPENTED HIS CHOICE BUT COULDN’T GET THE RESULTS CHANGED. (Read Genesis 25:29–34, Hebrews 12:12–17).
Esau, the first-born of twin sons of Isaac and Rebekkah, came in from a field trip tired and hungry and found his twin, the second-born, brother Jacob had cooked up a pottage of lentils (a dried vegetable like peas or beans). Esau dramatically overdid the “I’m dying of hunger” bit and begged to be served a bowl of stew. Jacob the conniving “heel-catcher” (the meaning of his name), seeing a chance to get the birthright of the first-born, agreed to feed Esau but only if he sold the birthright to him. The drama-queen said, “What good is a birthright to me if I am dead from unrequited hunger?” So he sold his birthright to Jacob and sealed it with an irrevocable oath. It was later, after Jacob, guided, abetted, and joined in culpability by his prejudiced-in-his-favor mother deceived their father into giving him the paternal blessing for the first-born which should have gone to Esau. When he realized what had happened Esau repented with tears and pleaded with for a reversal of the arrangement but was not successful. We know all this was foreseen and foreknown by God, which is not the same as saying it was directed or was caused to happen by God. What was done was done and could not be changed; it was accepted by God. It would not be over-dramatic to say that, at this point, Esau had sold himself (his soul) for a bowl of beans, something of no real or lasting value to him. Jacob has also sold himself (his soul) to get by slight and deception something that satisfied his pride and evidenced his willingness to hold others back, actually to steal from others, in order to achieve a personal goal, to get a position and privilege that was not rightfully his. God was not complicit in the dirty deal, though He did manage to resolve the situation handed to Him by the two antagonists in the unsavory business.
Jesus asks each of us to think about and then declare what price we would set upon our own soul (Matthew 16:24-26). Properly phrased the question would look something like this: “If you had to pay for the redemption and salvation of your soul, how much would you be willing to give?” What could and would you offer to pay if you had to buy back (redeem) your own lost soul? Would you trade your soul for a bowl of beans, a momentary pleasure and satisfaction, some fleeting transitory treasure that others could and would steal and take away from you?
You won’t be president forever. You won’t be a loved and admired preacher/teacher/theologian forever. You won’t be married to that handsome hunk/hulk or that gorgeous desirable female forever, and she won’t be physically attractive forever – there will be no hugs and kisses and more in either hell or heaven. The history books, fan magazines, and social platforms that lionize you now will be gone and replaced by and with other icons and idols, long before you get used to seeing your name in print and your face and figure and voice on screen or video or in the concert hall. History will largely forget you. When you get past Washington and Lincoln how many presidents and their notable contributions to the nation can you name? When you get past Biden how many vice presidents and their accomplishments can you name? How many political figures can you name who gave up fortune, family, future and reputation in the scramble for political office and did not win, but could not recover their losses? I can assure you their number is legion. How many preachers do you know or know about who compromised their faith, accepted what God does not accept and minimized or discounted or refused what God requires? I know of several (but I will not name them to you – some are struggling, by repentance and restitution, to regain the approval and blessings of God; I hope they succeed).
OK, so you are not a politician or a position seeker. You are not a preacher or teacher or theologian and nobody asks you to explain the Bible or assist them in finding the way to heaven. Maybe you aren’t even a Christian – maybe you don’t believe or care that existence doesn’t end with the death of the body and that there is a real eternal heaven and a real eternal hell, only those two alternative destinies and no other and you will be in one or the other. I am not speaking here about those who are not interested in hearing. I also am not speaking here of those who have not heard the gospel, the unevangelized and untaught, or those who have been mistaught – that’s a different study for another day. But what about those who profess to be Christians, including particularly preachers, elders, and other policy-setters for the church, who are faced with frequent requests to lighten up, soften up, be more comforting and considerate, more lenient and less rigid about social and cultural matters the church and its members must face? What about Christian parents who “cut their kids some slack” and tolerate some things they don’t really approve? What about children who “push the envelope” to get more liberty from their parents and who blackmail them by averring that other kids do it and their parents are Christians too, or maybe they pout and mope and rebel and claim they are not allowed to become who they really are or want to be, then blame the parents for the deprivation and depression they experience? What about those who simply don’t want to give up the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25), trusting instead that a loving, merciful, gracious God will not allow them to be lost but will find some way to save them despite their deficiencies, defections, and demerits? What about those who, like yourself, admit to being less than perfect but are looking for a path to acceptability without difficult changes?
Let me be direct and blunt. What kind of beans and how big a bowl would it take to draw you away from the straight and narrow path that God prescribes (Matthew 7:13-14)? Would a multitude of followers and friends on social media tempt you out of the path and make you a comfortable outsider? An enviable place on Facebook, leading a flock in the Twitter-verse, or being the chief glam on Instagram or a star You-Tuber won’t get you to heaven but might make it difficult bordering on impossible to get there. Preachers: being chief pastor and CEO of a 40,000 member cult church or being titular Father and head of a billion member apostasy will not open a gate of heaven for you. A seven or eight figure income will not buy an insurance policy against the fire of hell. To those attracted by or addicted to the mysteries and fantasies of the occult I ask, “Would you hire Satan and trust him to be your defense attorney when the Christ of God is the Judge?” That would be as foolish as trading your soul for a bowl of beans. <><>