There used to be a popular television game show called Truth or Consequences.  If a contestant was caught telling an “untruth,”  there would be consequences for him, usually funny ones.    The show “worked” because society understood that consequences are real, not just a product of an “unjust society.”

After all my travels, I came home to quite a lively news cycle:  wars and unrest, plagues, and natural disasters all over.


There was an unusual amount of rain dumped on various locations as a storm front crossed several states.   When it came over Detroit, the heavy rains produced up to six inches of rain in a very short time, flooding all major roads and interstates that went through Detroit, because the drainage system was old and overwhelmed. 

At least that’s what we were told at first.

As the days went on, a very small follow-up was reported.  Yes, it was a lot of rain in a short time.   Yes,  the drains were overwhelmed.   But the root cause of the flooding turned out to be plain old-fashioned human sin.


Sin, as in Thou Shalt Not Steal and people steal anyway.    These sinners,  these thieves, are called “scrappers” because they steal metal out of things we need, like street lights,  power lines,  transformers,  air conditioners — and in this case,  out of the pumping stations that would have cleared the water from Detroit streets and avoided much of the flood damage.

Sure, we have laws against stealing.  Sometimes the thieves are caught.  Sometimes they are even prosecuted and occasionally punished.   But laws will not stop the thieving because taking something that isn’t yours – or even wanting to do it and planning how to do it (Thou Shalt Not Covet) –  is not a matter of law, it’s a matter of the character of a man’s soul.

Civil law will not protect society (or us who live in society). 

I thought about this during the sermon this morning.  


The sermon was about the familiar story of the man who was telling God how good he had been and  how he had avoided doing bad things;  he knew how to be a pretty good person.   Jesus, who was there watching this, also pointed out that there was another man, over there in the corner, who seemed aware of his shortcomings and who kept beating his breast and saying quietly:  “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Somehow the first man had lost sight of the reality of sin, but the second man understood it very well.

The sermon proceeded on to humility.   It takes a humble man to confront his shortcomings, and to acknowledge his sins and faults before God.   It would take a humble society, person by person, to acknowledge that sin is at the root of our difficulties.

The truth is, if we don’t address this root cause,  there will be consequences to pay.   The whole “game” was set up this way by the Game Master.   There is no other “game.”



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