Sweetness or Substance?
We had been in Honduras for six days and during that time we had been fed a basic nutritious Honduran diet. All of this happened at Monte Carmelo the retreat center for the Christian Commission for Development. Then we traveled to Copan and stayed in a hotel. Eating at the restaurant I discovered that they had ice cream. It was from a real cow. It was pasturized. It was homogenized. It was healthy, it was civilized and it was good. There are some things that we have difficulty in giving up.
Millions of years ago, God’s creative evolutionary process, gave us the craving for sweetness. Built deep within us is a desire for things that are sweet. Our craving for sweetness drove us to look for sweet fruits and berries which contained valuable nutrients. But something happened in this process that changed everything. We learned how to refine sugar.
Our craving for sweetness became a liability because we could get the sweetness anytime we wanted it. You know the results. Obesity, rotted teeth, etc. And we prefer it over good food, that is better for us. All because it became “too easy.”
We are able immediately, without effort, and far too easily to fulfill too many of our cravings. In many places today there is a huge explosion of gambling. Casinos are built, state lotteries take in billions. What is this except a public seeking to feed upon the sweet sugar of instant gratification without any long-term effort? We want something for nothing.
During the last century, the United States planned, financed, and built the Panama Canal. The Canal work began in 1904 and was completed in 1914. That meant there were many legislators in the House of Representatives who voted for the expenditure of funds (10 million), but were not in office when the canal was completed. It took five congressional terms to complete the project. Can we imagine politicians today taking such a long view, risking their careers on a project on which they would never reap the benefits?
I looked around at the many problems facing the Honduran people. Sewage running out into the city streets. Housing that is far less than substandard. Crime that is so bad that most places have hired security guards with machine guns. Poor medical care, poor education, poor transportation, etc. Where does one start?
In pushing for funds for elementary education in the state of Mississippi, the governor of Mississippi told a story about his father who was 80. Recently, his father planted about 1,000 trees on his farm. The trees will take about 40 years to grow. Of course, the father will never live to see those trees grow to maturity, and yet the trees were planted.
We want instant, immediate gratification. We want a payoff for our efforts now.
We want the sugar without the substance. We elect politicians who lie to us, telling us that we can have national health care plan or retirement without a huge additional expenditure of our taxes. Corporations seek instant payoffs through mergers and acquisitions, rather than investing in research and product development. Corporations seek short-term gain, gain achieved without great effort. Choosing the sugar over the substance.
Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Anything worth doing takes time, effort, long-term commitment, struggle, correction, steadfastness.
This we know. Do we also know that about the Christian faith?
Perhaps we know this, we are all here. You are not lounging in front of the television this Sunday, hoping to get this faith through osmosis. You have made the effort. This may be your Sunday to gain clarity and surety in your faith. It may not. Things take time here. You have forsaken the world of the quick fix, the sweetness without substance, and have come to ponder. Some things take time.