Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Struggle

Sin is not a generous boss.

I read that somewhere, and it's stuck with me. I always find that the more I give myself over to empty things the more they seem to control me. The more I ignore my conscience and do the wrong thing the more discontent I become. The symptoms that follow are anxiety, fear, frustration and disillusionment, a feeling of emptiness, of my soul being in a state of unrest. I know why I feel this way, because I have become enslaved to empty things, sinful things, and the satisfaction they promise is never as generous as I would hope. In fact, the more life I give to sin, the more life it takes from me, so it rings true when I hear the statement that "sin is not a generous boss."

Have you ever been faced with the reality of wrong and right? A religious person would call it sin and righteousness. Has it ever hit you that although we are grey creatures, there is an ultimate black and an ultimate white? Good and evil? I'm from the school of thought that believes that everyone starts out pretty innocent. We all want to do good, but naturally evil creeps in and entices us to follow it. We are faced with choices every day to either do the right thing, or give ourselves over to the wrong thing. The evil thing. The thing that promises us freedom and success and satisfaction but never provides it. That thing is sin, and sin is a liar.

Let's face it though, we all sin daily. We might not actively seek them out, but these sins probably appear some place in our lives: Anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, lust, gossip, envy, selfishness, greed, indulgence. Why do we allow these things to hang around? They give us a quick thrill don't they? A thrill that promises deeper satisfaction but never seems to come through for us. 

Take bitterness, for example. Sitting around brooding about someone makes you feel justified. Your adrenaline pumps, your opiate receptors are drinking it up, and in that moment you feel good. But you hang on long enough and your bitterness will consume you. It will turn into depression. It will be all you think about. Your life will become joyless and ridden with anxiety. We've seen it over and over in the lives of our families and friends. Bitterness is not a generous boss. So why do we choose to serve it?

Have you ever forgiven someone who has wronged you? Have you ever felt the freedom of letting your bitterness go? The weight lifts, it feels good. It feels right. Your happiness comes back and you're no longer a victim, no longer a slave to negativity. Righteousness is a generous boss, because it gives you piece. When you do the right thing, you receive good things, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

In Christianity, those "good things" are called the "Fruits of the Spirit." People who are truly following Jesus are supposed to be characterized by those things. Unfortunately, more often than not "Christians" are defined by the bad things, especially in Western Culture. I would venture to say that the stereotype is based on truth. It is probably not the case that Christians in Western Culture are oppressed or misinterpreted. The stereotype is probably there because a vast majority of Western Christians have let hidden sin creep in, and sin is not a generous boss. I am not exempt. We can become enslaved by our judgmental spirit, and our legalistic attitude breeds bitterness, exclusivity, gossip and selfishness. The more you give yourself over to those things, the more enslaved you become.

Even if you aren't a Christian, or a Jew, or a religious person at all, you probably still want to be a good person. You want to be defined as good, and you believe you know what "good" looks like. You still do wrong, but you try to do good. Why is it such a struggle to do it then? We watch movies and root for the good guy. We try to model ourselves after good people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln and Jesus, but why is it so hard to step out and actually do good? Is it the sacrifice? Maybe it's because the right thing doesn't provide any sort of instant gratification. It's usually difficult to do and it takes a measurable amount of courage. That's sort of how I decipher if what my conscience is telling me is in fact good advice. If what it is asking me to do is uncomfortable and requires sacrifice, thats usually a good indication that it's the right thing to do. I don't know why it is this way, but when I make the sacrifice to do the right thing, those "good things," those "Fruits of the Spirit," always follow.

What defines an evil person then? If a truly good person is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, is a truly evil person defined by the opposite? In the Bible, Galatians 5:19 (NIV) says, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." Does struggling with any of those things make you evil though? I'm pretty sure if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit we struggle with some parts of that definition of "sin nature." However, we would like to believe we're still pretty good, right? What I find interesting is that the Bible says the acts of sinful nature are "obvious." As in, when we do them we know they're wrong. We feel guilty post facto. So why do we get enslaved to them? The more we feed them, the more we suffer, so why do we feed them? I think it's partially because humans are lazy. The right thing is temporarily difficult but pays off later on, and the wrong thing is temporarily exciting but ruins us later on. We live so in the moment that the wrong thing seems like a good choice. We seek such instant gratification that the right thing seems almost like a waste of time. 

I think most peoples' definition of an "evil" person would be someone who has made conscious decisions time and again to do the wrong thing, but not only the wrong thing but hurtful, spiteful things that effect others in drastically negative ways . We all sin (unconsciously most of the time and with minimal guilt later), but in those big moments which define character I'd like to believe that everyone reading this would do the right thing. You would save a life if given the chance, and you wouldn't take your neighbors life because they angered you. You wouldn't purposely and continuously hurt people for your own gain, right? I only assume this about you because I think most evil people wouldn't care to read the introspective blog of an obscure musician. Maybe I'm wrong. 

The point I'm doing a poor job of making is that I think evil people are just like you and me. They probably started out wanting to do good, but slowly, choice by choice, situation by situation, they fed sin in their lives until they became enslaved to it. They made the choice so many times to do the wrong thing, it's almost as if they don't have a choice anymore. Sin nature has consumed them. They are defined by anger and resentment as opposed to love and joy. 

The Struggle between good and evil is the struggle of our lives. The Struggle defines us. When we look back at the lives of those who have passed away we always try to illuminate the positive. We want to believe that good won out, even when it's obviously to everyone that it didn't. I'm a pretty terrible sinner, but I haven't given in completely to that sin nature yet. I'm still fighting, like most people. I live in The Struggle. Most importantly I've accepted grace and forgiveness for my shortcomings so I know I've got a VIP table waiting at the party when I die, but that fact alone doesn't take away the nagging importance of how I choose live my life. Do I embrace The Struggle? Fight the current? The temptations and the instant gratification? Or do I give up and float downstream. I've floated my fair share I think, and I'll float some more soon I'm sure, but for now I think I need to bust out my flippers and struggle for good.

Speaking of that, check out recent updates from my friend Tom in Haiti here:

Give to a good cause and experience good things by clicking the "Donate button" here:

Also, I'll be writing soon about videos we will be releasing and how pre-orders for our new record will go to raise money for earthquake relief in Haiti.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Whoa. I feel like the topic of a "good person" has been swarming in my life all week. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Although I would certainly agree that "sin is not a generous boss," I'm not as sure about the essentially good nature of human beings. I would argue that man in an essentially selfish creature. (There's a reason Pride is called the root of all sin.) People (in the broadest of terms) may seem instinctually 'good' because that's the way our society works, and fitting in with society is normally what seems best to the individual. I'll pull out tabula rasa and say that to a *certain degree*, what individuals deem 'best' for themselves is due to what society teaches them. (I’m not arguing relative morality.) Most of the people reading this blog aren't evil people in your- our- eyes because we would tend to have the same moral/social standards. We all tend to do our best to fit into the same society. And our society has been so heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian morals that the average person trying to fit in with what society has deemed "good" tends to fit in pretty well with the Christian perception of right/wrong.

    I would argue that people are rational creatures. We continually struggle between rationality and emotion... [but that's a whole different story :)] I believe the rational aspect opperates something like this: man desires expediency, meaning ease, happiness, simplicity, convenience; and Man desires acceptance. It’s a battle between these two things and whatever external truth, Truth, if you will, one may believe in (because however influential Christian morals are in our culture, it’s obvious that they’re not exactly everywhere- it's inevitable that societal norms would differ from moral ideals). I would argue that because of this, the reason most of us would save a life if given the chance is, if not because we believe in a Truth that compels us to for some reason or another, because it is either 1. expedient or 2. will gain us greater acceptance. *Not* because we are inherently good. People have a sinful nature [Romans 7:14=20]. The reason we don’t take our neighbors’ lives because we’re mad at them is because it *isn't* expedient, it *wouldn’t* gain us acceptance, AND it challenges the standards of Truth I think most of us believe in. We don’t continually hurt people for our own gain for the same three reasons: normally, human rationality functions properly.

    The Struggle is a hard one, though, the Struggle to actually choose that Truth. We both eventually come to the same conclusion. Do we choose expediancy/acecptance? Or do we choose Truth despite the desire to do otherwise?

    Thank you so much for doing what you plan to in Haiti. It's certainly an enormous need that needs to be met... I have yet to grasp the extent of its enormity...

    And thanks to you for writing. :)


  3. Marie,

    Dang you really chew before you swallow. I like that. :)

    I agree with you in that we're born flawed and innately selfish, and that its a constant struggle to break those natural habits. However I also believe, like I said, that we're born "pretty innocent," in that we haven't made the choice to give ourselves over to "bad things" yet, to truly be enslaved habitually to them. I think we can all agree an infant is "pretty innocent," even though when it starts talking one of its first words will most likely be "MINE!" Which would confirm our suspicions that man is innately selfish. :)

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. So an infant is neutral, amoral, because it has yet to make a decision, and once it makes its first decisions they will most likely be selfish. We've reached a point of consensus, then? :D

    I've found that's generally the best way. I don't like having problems with indigestion.

    Thanks for your reply.


  5. Thank you for bloggging Matt, I love incorporating your ideas into my life.... today was one of the worst days of my life and i felt all those symptoms of anxiety, fear, discontent, guilt, and shame for things I don't even know. I prayed to god for an answer to what I'm going through and I doubt your blog about this topic, for me at least, was coincidence. I must subconsciously do things to myself then feel the effects that plague me after. I tell myself I'm gonna stop but high school is a hell of an enviroment to grow anything good. Anyway, your blogs and TCC lyrics really connect with me and take the blinders away that let me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Can't wait for the new record! You guys are terribly underrated

  6. Thanks for posting this, really have a way with words... :) I definitely's just like Paul...

    I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    Sin...alas, oh, how it grips us! =(