The Sin of Security – Missing the Point

“So King Solomon became richer and wiser than any other king on earth…Solomon built up a huge force of chariots and horses. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He stationed some of them in the chariot cities and some near him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone.” 1 Kings 10:23

“If someone demands your coat, offer to them your shirt also.” ––Jesus

I can’t help feeling like we’ve gotten it mostly wrong. If I seek to persuade anyone with the thoughts I’m about to share––if I’m out to win people over––I pray the first to accede is me.
I am a woefully selfish person. I am not rich, at least not by American standards, but I do own a few things that are precious to me. I bristle at the idea of people messing with those precious things of mine––those things I’ve worked hard to earn the money to acquire––those things I deserve!

But those precious things I own, they mean as much to me as a barrel of defective McDonalds Happy Meal toys compared to my family. The thought of anything bad ever happening to one of them feels like an end to life itself. If I were forced to choose between the life of one of them and the life of any other person in the world, myself included, I would not hesitate to kill or give up my own life for the sake of theirs. (At least I hope I wouldn’t.)

I don’t own a gun, but I’ve considered acquiring one many times. I used to say that I trusted God to protect me and mine and thus did not need a gun. I’ll admit now that this is bullshit. I’m not all that good at trusting God, and even if I were, history is full of accounts of bad things happening to innocent people, and I have to figure at least some of those innocents had the trust God thing down. Does God violate this trust when he allows bad things to happen? Sometimes I think he does. But maybe a person who really trusts God is trusting in something bigger, something more. Perhaps a person who truly trusts God is interested in more than safety from harm or freedom from suffering.

I’ll tell you the real reason I don’t own a gun. The truth is, I’ve always sort of disliked them. I’ve fired rifles a few times, and though I manage to enjoy the challenge of trying to hit a target at the shooting range, I’ve been nagged with the realization that, when I hold a firearm, I hold a killing machine. I am carrying something capable of ending many lives in mere moments, and to do it would require so little. Just slight pressure on the trigger. I don’t know if humankind’s devised a faster, more efficient way to stop a pulse.

I heard a statistic recently that estimates there are nearly enough guns in the U.S. to arm every man, woman, and child in the nation. If you set aside from that number all the firearms that are used for hunting and all the rare collectible guns that enthusiasts geek out over but don’t actually intend to use and those carried by law enforcement or military, you’re left with a large number of guns that are owned for the purpose of personal security.

Security. You can’t put too high a value on security, can you? Many Americans would put security at the top of their list of priorities. What do we want from our government? To be kept safe. What sort of neighborhood do we want to live in? A safe neighborhood––someplace we’re not likely to have our houses broken into or our stuff messed with. No, you can’t put too high a value on security.

But what if our obsession with security is rooted in fear? What if we’re so fixated on keeping ourselves and our loved ones and our belongings safe, we’re missing the point of life? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, ever since the crap storm started over whether or not to allow Syrian refugees into the country, and I really do feel like most of us are missing the point of life. Even those of us who consider ourselves Christian––we’re missing the point of life.

And what is the point, exactly? Is it to work hard, carve out my own piece of the Promised Land, and enjoy a happy little life for myself? I’ve done it. Mission accomplished. I’ve certainly not accumulated the riches of Solomon, but I’m pretty rich from a worldly perspective, and I have to say that it can feel pretty empty sometimes. Unless…

Unless I give it away. Only as much as I give it away, give myself away. Maybe that’s why Solomon lived his final years in a nihilistic spiral. He’d lived a life most could only envy. He was richer, more blessed than almost any human in history, and what did he do with all that blessing? He guarded it. He kept it secure behind a team of chariots. Exactly as you and I are prone to do, making it all so “meaningless“.

I really feel like we’re missing the point of it all.

11 replies »

  1. This is wonderful! I’m just in the process of writing my Christmas letter that turned into a kind of rant.. and reading yours helped me move on with mine and I will post it in my blog as well. I am so much in agreement about many things you say… your honesty is refreshing. I have always hated guns and am afraid of them…period. I hate killing of any kind, but sometimes want to kill certain politicians or other big-shots in the news! If I owned one, I’m afraid I would kill someone in a fit of rage ! (True confessions!) Thanks again.

  2. Im sorry, read your story twice, venturing for a third read with pen and paper by my side. From my first two reads, I didn’t see a concise point. Maybe that was your intention. To share the confusing perspectives of your heart mind and soul.
    Should I or shouldn’t I?
    Do I or do I not?
    We’re missing the point of it all?
    What’s the point, it’s meaningless unless we give it away?

    I think of NFL stars, some make 20,000 per game and some make more than 1,000,000 per game. Whatever their salary, there are those who create foundations named after themselves caring for widows and orphans of fallen soldiers , and some keep it all and buy cars and real-estate and throw big parties with plenty of sex drugs and rocknroll.

    I went to the goodwill to buy some windows for my shed, and the guy there helped me load them in my truck. I asked how late he was open, he said, “oh, I don’t work here, but I’ll ask for you” he didn’t make 20,000 per game, yet he still gave his time to me.

    I agree when you say “I would give it all away to protect my family” so is that the heart of the point. Maybe our hearts should be to give it all to our families in the first place, and if there is extra, enjoy what you’ve earned.

    Convict Jean velJean (sp) les miserables steal’s the priests silver and knocks him out as he escapes. The chief inspector captures him and takes him to the priest to return the silver. The priest rejoices and thanks the inspector, tells his wife to go back into the house to fetch the silver candle sticks to add the Jean cache. He whispers in Jean’s ear, “the Lord has paid for your soul”

    I don’t think that I have the same heart as the priest, if a thief was in my house I would show him the business end of my shotgun, and then let him hear the bone chilling sound of loading a shell. That should be enough to scare the shit out of him, and he would probably leave promptly on his own. If he was motivated to charge me or my family, I’d probably be cleaning more than just his shit off of my floor.

    One of my favorite t-shirt of the 90s

    He who dies with the most toys, still dies.

    • As always, thanks so much for reading and sharing, Brandon.
      Yes, this is one of those subjects where I find concision elusive.
      This was born out of bewilderment over the obsession of so many in our country with guns. I admit to feeling that there are far too many guns in our country. That said, while I’m certainly for more nuanced regulations on the sale of guns, I’m certainly not for banning them. As always is the case with me these days, my concern is for what’s going on behind all of it, at a heart level.

      A friend of mine is going to be spending some time down in Oregon, and he’s lamenting the more stringent gun laws they have down there. Though he has a concealed weapons permit, he’s not (legally) allowed to carry concealed while in Oregon. Moreover, if he does carry, his weapon is supposed to remain unloaded. He’s very concerned over this. Most likely, he’ll decide not to carry at all. He said something along the lines of, “I guess I’ll just risk becoming another statistic that the liberals will use to argue for stricter gun control!”
      Really? You’re going to go somewhere you can’t carry your gun for a few days and you really think you’re at significantly higher risk? I just don’t get it. Most of us walk around every day with that same higher risk, and crazy enough, the vast vast vast majority of the time, nothing bad happens. Of course, it’s Fear that’s behind this sort of thinking. And Fear is not rational.

      Juxtapose the above situation against the mythic account of what took place in a European village, between the army of a ruthless invader and a monk. The ruthless invader, on the heels of slaying dozens in the village, entered the place of worship to find the monk meditating peacefully.
      Approaching the monk, the invader said, “Don’t you know who I am? I could cut you through the middle, and it would mean nothing to me.”
      The monk replied, “Don’t you know who I am? You could cut me through the middle, and it would mean nothing to me.”

      Was that monk’s life meaningless? I don’t think so. I think he found meaning beyond physical possessions, even beyond his own heartbeat. I think that monk, and others like him, find meaning and freedom in letting go.
      This is what I’ve been working toward: letting go. I’ve done a lot of wind-chasing in my life, and it’s damn exhausting. I wonder how many fewer guns would be floating about if more of us realized how empty are the treasures we’re obsessed with defending.

      • Then you should cancel your health insurance, your car insurance, your homeowners or renters insurance. Don’t worry about your money being insured in a bank backed by FDIC insurance and definitely don’t get pet insurance. Aren’t you protecting and defending things you treasure by having various insurance? To me, owning a firearm is simply another form of insurance, a means to protect yourself, those you care about and your possessions. If you trust God so much, you should have no need for ANY kind of insurance, right? God will provide. I personally don’t think that insurance, the regular kind or the kind you get by owning a gun. Are mutually exclusive.

        I am appalled at the people suggesting we change the constitution and saying get rid of the second amendment. If you could talk to people who have survived gun grabbing regimes (Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Amin) I am certain they would have am entirely different perspective. The second amendment is there to prevent the takeover of the country through tyranny. What is wrong with you people who are willing to throw your hands up and give that right away? As you want to go do far as to ban them and make the rest of us sitting ducks. If you don’t want a gun, are scared of guns, don’t buy one. It’s that simple. And if you think that banning guns will stop people from having them, you are unbelievably naive. That last people who will be in line to turn in a gun will be a criminal.

        You equate a gun with a killing a machine. How about your car? You can kill a bunch of people at once in a car. Do you feel weird about driving a killing machine? I guess I just don’t understand that kind of mindset. I love God and I have faith in God, but I don’t feel like God wants us to be sitting ducks cowering in a politically correct corner. I think people need to be less worried about the actual gun and more concerned about the PERSON holding it.

      • Hi Stacey. Thanks so much for taking time to read and engage in the conversation.
        I probably did disservice to my main point by talking so extensively about guns. To be clear, I’m not intent on banning guns or interested in seeing them taken away from responsible citizens. I do feel like our gun laws are far from perfect and there are loop holes in the system that could use shoring up, but either way, I couldn’t agree more with your final point: It isn’t about the gun, but the person behind it. That’s what it always comes down to, isn’t it? What’s going on inside the human heart. That’s the real point I’m attempting to get to here.
        As I grow older, I develop a mounting aversion to extremes of all sorts. Whenever I look at the gun issue, it’s hard to ignore the extremes so many people tend to take. Many want guns taken away, which ignores the root of the problem of violence, and many others feel that the answer is to arm more people. I can’t help but wonder what lurks behind these extremes–what motivates all the visceral reactions in people.
        I really believe a huge motivation is Fear on both sides. Those on the liberal side of the issue fear mass shootings and armed extremist militia groups, and those on the conservative side fear an overreaching government and terrorists or criminals who would threaten their way of life, and it seems to me that folks on either of these extremes are much more alike than not.

        I didn’t mean to give the impression that my faith and trust in God are so strong that I don’t feel a need to worry about my own safety. I’m terribly mistrustful–both of people and of God, and I worry all the time about all sorts of things–big and little–but I certainly wish to do better. Personally, I find freedom from worry and anxiety the more I allow myself to let go of the things I work so hard to obtain and then feel compelled to defend. I find freedom on those rare occasions I’m able to let my defenses down and open my heart in generosity towards people I might normally be repelled by. During my time in urban missions, I allowed myself into some relatively dangerous places at times, around people who may easily have done me harm, and maybe I was stupid not to carry that insurance you talk about. Perhaps one day it will come to bite me in the rear, but if it comes by my willingness to remain open, to take a risk for the sake of unbinding a human heart, I believe it would be worth it. My life–this short, vaporous existence–is really quite small in comparison to the spirit and flow of the eternal.

        Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you found room here to do so. Many blessings.

  3. I feel similarly about guns. Second amendment rights be damned. Amend the constitution. Usually Solomon is known for his wisdom. I didn’t know he liked horses.

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