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The Seared Conscience

During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, an estimated 1.84 Billion (US) in  merchandise wil have been shoplifted this year, according to The Global Retail Theft Barometer, a survey of retailers worldwide.   The Star / 28.12.2011

Wow! That’s a whole lot of taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you. I can’t imagine there is much joy felt when you’ve given gifts to others that you’ ve swiped, not bought or made. Surely, there is at least a twitch of guilt experienced as you witness your loved ones rip open the wrapping paper and marvel over their gifts. But then again, maybe not – maybe you’ve shoplifted for so long that your conscience has been made insensitive to it all.

Scripture talks about this seared conscience in 1 Timothy 4.2  when Paul spoke of those who were “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” Imagine a hot branding iron touching your skin. First you feel terrible pain, but then numbness. When the wound heals, the scar has no functioning nerve endings to produce feelings.  It’s an interesting analogy.

The thing is that the seared conscience eventually becomes silent when the same wrong doing is committed repeatedly. People justify the act with numerous and creative explanations but let’s face it – all of us learned way back in kindergarten – don’t take something that belongs to someone else. I do think that a conscience seared in one area will eventually be weakened in all areas, if left unchecked – it’s just the way sin works.  The good news is that God can restore and heal a conscience… there is always hope.

I was thinking about all this when our family dug into a very long game of Monopoly with Electronic Banking yesterday. Apparently, Monopoly money is passé – now, all the players have their own debit card and the banker has a hand held machine that she inserts your debit card into to receive or take out money as you make your way around the board. She also charges a lot more for properties now and pays out more (2 million) for passing Go.

I say “she” because my daughter volunteered for the job. It seemed like a conflict of interest to be both the banker and one of the players but when we “razzed” her about it, she quickly said something like, ” don’t worry – I won’t cheat. There’s no satisfaction in winning when you’ve cheated to make it happen.”

It’s true. Winning by cheating just doesn’t provide the same thrill.  (Insert “bragging rights” here – I eventually won this marathon game…and I didn’t cheat!)

It’s all about integrity, isn’t it?

I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating.  Sophocles


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