nd the point of the last five commandments is to deal severely with the well developed sense of pride and selfishness all we sinners have. Each of them direct us to abstain from the chief sins that are a result of the pursuit of our personal, Godless agendas.
“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The first murder was done in anger, of course, but we’ve determined already that pride had to do with it. One who is not God-centered in his view of himself and the world will exhibit tendencies to react sinfully, and absolutely selfishly to the impact of his actions and those of others. The impact of Cain’s actions, along with what happened to Abel, grew hatred and jealousy in Cain. I envision Cain stewed in God’s rejection of his sacrifice, hating how his brother was “better than him” and that Abel had done well in God’s sight.
I’m going to chase a rabbit here, but it’s a good one with lots of meat and might be worth coney stew.
Here’s the catch.
We tend to get spun up, jealous, angry and vengeful when we are caught in the wrong and try to defend our actions to ourselves and others. We become defensive and spiteful when we perceive our reputation or character is slighted, especially if we have done wrong. Our status, our pride is our most prized possession. We’ll fight like cornered cats to protect our self image, regardless of the validity of the real or perceived attack.
Children react and move more overtly than adults, but they haven’t developed the incredibly efficient circuitry to really spin up that jealousy whirlwind that so consumes adults. Kids are raw force, where adults are calculating, patient and careful. That being said, the process from jealousy to its fruits is very apparent in kids. Adults tend to bottle everything up, conceal and essentially protect themselves from being “caught on tape” most of the time (though in current society, adults seem to be leaning more toward the childish version).
We can see the process best in school age kids, I think. When one is praised out of a group, that child tends to become ostracized by the others. This is especially true if that one child was the only one doing the right thing or if the praise is repeatedly focused toward that one. The term “teacher’s pet” is used in the adult world today, but without quite the vicious connotation as in elementary school. The teacher’s pet was frequently the nerd, outcast or goody-goody that most kids hated because he was better than they were (or at least perceived to be so). Though superiority wasn’t always the case, often it would be. The pet did things the right way, according to the standards.
I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, and there is a lot of use of this effect for purpose. Ender, the main character, is a 7 year old boy who has been selected to be the greatest military strategist and commander in history. He’s been monitored since he was a baby by the military to see if he had the mental prowess, the moral character and all the other things it would take to be a great general (or admiral, as space stuff is usually considered naval in nature).
On his first day, heading off in a rocket to the military combat school, the first thing his sponsor did was isolate him. Ender was immediately able to grasp the nature of null gravity, and was the only one of all the kids on the rocket to do so. This would’ve been fine and dandy, with no issues, but the commander on the flight noticed it and not only called Ender out in praise for his superiority, but also chided the other children in comparison to Ender. This served to isolate Ender and make all the other kids begin the trip to despising him.
The intent of the commander was very purposeful. Ender, if isolated, would come to rely only on himself for success, and would grow independently from the others. And Ender was exactly the superior mind and spirit that the commander praised on the ship. This public praise and comparison to other kids was repeated a few other times in the battle school while Ender and the other kids were being trained.
All this, both Ender’s excellence and the special treatment from the military directors of the school, served to alienate him from nearly every other kid. He became the best combatant, the best tactical leader and even the best teacher in the entire school, and the jealousy abounded. Especially, the older kids who were around 12 or 13 years old, about to graduate and far more seasoned than Ender, could not abide Ender’s superiority. They hated him. They despised him and were jealous beyond petty rivalry.
Near the end of the Ender’s time at the school, several of the boys, led by one who was in the lowest bracket of intelligence and talent in the school, plotted to ruin Ender. They did the standard bully-in-the-locker-room routine and intended to beat him up real good. They wanted to restore their superiority in their minds and in Ender’s, and make sure everyone knew they were better than Ender.
It didn’t work out. Ender had learned a lot (this was about 3 years into his training), and in his isolation (he’d figured out that the leaders introduced and tolerated this mean stuff on purpose), he had realized that if he could only rely on himself for survival or success, that he needed to become absolute in his dealings with challenge.
So rather than try to run (impossible anyway), Ender coldly calculated the battle with the older boys, manipulated the leader so that it would be a one-on-one fight (usually bullies like the “hold him while I hit him” tactic) and proceeded to savagely defeat his opponent. Ender’s philosophy of this fight was simply to win the fight and then win all the other future fights all at once, right here, because he might never get another chance at a face to face scenario. So he was vicious, ruthless and exacting in his fighting. He ended up killing his opponent, though he didn’t know it.
It’s a very sobering story. It’s also extremely important to consider for many reasons. I recommend reading the whole book.
But let’s start with a little bit on temptation:
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:12-15″
The culture in which we live today is one of murder, or at least one of potential murder. We live in a spiral of death, of annihilation. All things not of God lead to destruction. At some point, every act of murder, adultery, theft, false witness and jealousy boils down to a root of selfishness. Eventually, every product of selfishness boils down to a result called murder. Pride, or selfishness, is the source, for we are all too self-righteous, self-centered and self-promoting to even consider acts of God’s righteousness on our own. And all of those unholy qualities lead to death. We cannot ignore this.
Here’s a truth. I believe in the concept of total depravity. I lean toward Calvinism in my understanding of God (through experience with God, not assent to Calvin, just in case there’s another label-hater reading). All people are depraved. They don’t have a shred of Godliness in them. I do not mean absolute depravity, though, in which each of us is the complete fulfillment of the potential depravity we can reach. That’s silly. God would’ve wiped the slate and done away with us all were we all absolutely depraved. But the fact that we are not absolutely depraved right now does not eliminate the possibility that we could proceed on the course to the depths of our miserable natures. There are plenty of horrid examples of the absolute depraved potential of people in the news and in history.
Here’s what happened to the boys in the battle school. They were left to themselves with no moral guidance. There was no lesson in cohabitation with other people other than the fact that the children were made to live together and work together. The leaders who emerged were either those who had an innate sense of social conduct or were of the old warlord stock, with all the bullying, manipulation and coercive skills needed to make a functional team out of chaos. There was no God, no representative of God (church community, fellowship, pastor, Bible) to bridge the gap between depravity and the concept of Godliness.
When left to its own devices, sin becomes consuming, eventually all-consuming, and devours our potential goodness (that which God finds pliant to His will). Sin, specifically what I believe is the root Sin of selfishness, becomes the center of our lives and eventually leads to destruction. As the unsaved world is heading toward ultimate destruction, individual lives are constantly, by ones and twos and even whole groups, already meeting that destruction, daily.
I sympathize with Ender, of course, as most would who have read the book. Ender was special in that he had an extremely overwhelming gift of intellect and the capability to understand things in his youth that adults have trouble grasping in their age and experience. Ender was a genius and not one of the autistic variety or idiot-savant. He was a fully functional mastermind, even in his youth.
His family was a perfect training ground in moral or social dilemmas. His brother and sister were just as fantastically gifted as he was. The difference between the three was critical, though. Ender’s brother was devoid of moral character (I know this is a fuzzy term, but bear with me). Ender’s sister was immensely sensitive and sympathetic.
The brother was vicious and manipulative. He intuitively knew the weaknesses of people and understood the methods by which he could control people via their characteristics. The sister was just the opposite, able to get what she wanted, motivating people by playing on their sympathies and desires and being able to use collaboration in order to create results that not only satisfied her, but served her subject as well. One sibling was a controller and the other was a builder.
Ender was torn between these two. The brother hated him. The sister adored him. Neither was able to truly manipulate Ender as they could others, since Ender was their mental equivalent. The sister protected Ender from brother, and brother tormented both. This, I think, is Ender’s sole source of any moral “conscience” in the book. In the battle school, he despises the way the military commanders manipulated him into isolation and allowed the crises of bullies and other insanity to build Ender into the warrior they wanted. Ender hated the rivalry that became murder around him, and absolutely hated the conflict between people, the way others related to him and each other in a context of superiority, dominance and reputation. Ender was the best humanistic attempt at Christian character that could be devised without God.
Unfortunately, Ender is a false presentation. A sinner, left to his own devices, like Ender, is not going to get anywhere. Sure, everything may look like cake and ice cream, but hell still awaits, arms wide and appetite unsatisfied. Humanity lauds the self-motivated, self-reliant man. He who can make moral decisions and attain success, be kind, considerate and wise on his own is the ideal man. Ender’s Game supports this idea that independence and excellence are the goal for mankind.
Christians must know that this is a false reality. We cannot depend on ourselves for anything. We cannot trust ourselves as Ender grew to trust himself, or as the other characters in the book trusted Ender (at the end). We have but one trustworthy source of become the ideal man.
So the rabbit trail has petered out (no pun intended).
God is opposed to murder. We are, as a race, agreeing with Him in word, but not in truth. Our selfishness breeds hate, every time. 1st John 3:14-15 puts everything clearly, not as a proclamation, but as a statement of FACT.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
God told us not to murder. We should realize that the Ten Commandments are written as if a classroom rules list for little children. To understand God and His ways, and then understand the world’s mode of operation we should ultimately grasp that, properly, we have no need to adhere specifically to the Ten Commandments. Get this: I am not saying we can ignore them but that we advance from the simple (see spot run) to the real concept behind the Commandments and thereby keep them not as rules but as a comprehensive way of life because of our New Nature In Christ. We should know, must know, that our sin leads to death. Not just our own death, but the death of our relationships, the death of other people, the death of our effects, everything either in one or two aspects or all at once.
Self-righteousness leads to Jealousy leads to anger leads to action leads to destruction leads to guilt leads to Self-righteousness leads to Jealousy leads to anger leads to action leads to destruction.
There are all sorts of variations of this model, but they’re all essentially the same.
- Covet = hatred
- Theft = hatred
- infidelity = hatred
- Hatred = murder
They all boil down to the concentrated base ingredient: selfishness and they all result in the same distilled product: death.
The opposite of this, what Ender needed, what all the other children needed in the book, was Christ. They, We, need the insertion of the only opposing element to our natures. We need God’s nature impressed over our own. God does not act in ungodly ways, is righteous and loving and absolute. We must understand, accept and pursue His nature, replacing our miserable absolutes with His divine absolutes. Only then can we adhere to the spirit of the Ten Commandments. The goal should be to outgrow the simplistic, codified List of do/don’t do items and live in the real, fundamental commands Christ provided for our New Option, abiding in Him.
“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the fist commandment of all?’
“Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:28-31″