“For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:16-17. I am writing this blog on October 1st, 2018 in the state of Washington in the nation called the United States with the hope that it will be read in the distant (100 years?) future, and that the United States will still exist at that time. The quote I began with was from a letter that John the Apostle wrote in the Bible. He was not writing to a specific Church like most of the other Biblical letters, but writing to Christians in general. Part of the letter was an explanation of what a true Christian Life should consist of, and that was three parts: brotherly love, obedience to Jesus’ words, and rejection of what he called the “world system”. The world system, which he says is not of God, consists of three things: the “lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
Currently, we are coming to the end of the hearings on the Brett Kavanagh nomination for Supreme Court Justice. These hearings, not too dissimilar to the gladiator battles that both inflamed and pacified the citizens of Rome during the reigns of their most perverse emperors, have brought to our conscious awareness a similar level of lust for power. The Roman Games, which we now call “bread and circuses”, existed to keep the populace from looking too closely at how they were ruled, and gave spectators a false sense of power by allowing them to choose the fate of the losing gladiator. Thumbs up meant life, thumbs down meant death. So too does media coverage and pontificating on both sides of the trial give us a false sense of power, as they and their spectators–us–give our “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to our favored combatants. Everyone seems to want power. But for what purpose? Is power an end in itself–a primary pleasure–or does power lead to primary pleasures? I believe the answer is in John’s epistle, in which he names the three components of the world system. Lust and pride are what power is seeking to satisfy. What is lust? It is more than just a sexual drive. John D Rockefeller, once the world’s richest man, was asked how much he would need to be happy. His answer was “just a little bit more.” That is lust, never being satisfied, always wanting more. What about Pride? Pride, the root of all other sins, is the desire to be glorified above everyone else, the false glory of “king over all.”
I continue to say, when friends ask, who was your favorite President, George Washington. Why? Because he was the only president who didn’t want the job. He was virtually forced by popular acclaim into both the military and political Commander in Chief positions, and many wanted him to become King after his country won the war for independence. He wanted only to return quietly to his farm and family. He was both the first leader of his country, and the last to want acclaim. Would that we had others like him. We have gone downhill since. It seems every politician wants power. Today there are many in the world who believe some secret, monolithic cabal is running the world. For some its communism/socialism, for others it’s multi-national corporations or a clique of super wealthy individuals all in cahoots. Maybe so, maybe not. But the larger question is, “who or what is behind these material manifestations of lust and pride?” Who runs the world system? You, dear readers, each have your own cherished shibboleths, but bear in mind, the ones you choose may have more to do with your own history and inputs than reality. You may pooh-pooh the idea of spiritual warfare, while malevolent unseen foes manipulate your strings. Be not hasty to say “it only exists if I can see or hear or touch it”, while it whispers to you thoughts that are not your own. Clean up your own opinions by being aware of your own pride and lust. “What me, prideful and lustful?” Yes, all of us. If you have to ask such a question, perhaps it already has snared you.