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People don’t know they are corrupt

News headlines these days are full of cries of graft and corruption. For weeks now we have been hearing about the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice. I didn’t keep tabs on all the details but noted plenty of indignant denunciations by local citizens.

News from the neighboring country is also usually full of this or that government or business person being accused of graft, corruption etc. The president recently  made the comment that perhaps many people do not know that they are corrupt. Although ridiculed by pundits, I actually think he is on to something.

You say, how can you possibly not know you are corrupt? Well, for one thing it seems that most people assume corruption and fraud can only involve enormous amounts of money.  We usually do not consider that things we ourselves do might also qualify.

For example, in  my former residence it is expected that you have to pay unlisted “expediting fees” for government services in addition to what is already posted. Only the crazy  foreigners think this is something aberrant. Teachers and other civil servants are often at the mercy of higher level government officials who can delay promotions, pocketing the extra salary for months or even years. They can decide that everyone’s salary will be docked to support a Quran-chanting contest, or, in the past, to support the official political party in power. The governor has an annual dinner for prominent businessmen in the city at which they are informed what their “contribution” will be for the next year. (Don’t pay it and just watch  how fast your permits won’t be processed!)  The central government can earmark money or a vehicle for a certain orphanage or school  but a local official may just “decide” that it should go to someone completely different. At the village level, livelihood projects such as donated tractors, rice mills, etc which are intended for a community, all too often become the property of the village head or his relatives.

For years a committee was collecting funds to build a mosque and they never seemed to be able to start building (because they kept “borrowing” the money.) After several years the governor got mad at them and asked if he needed to assign a Christian to be the treasurer. But Christians aren’t always exempt either. There are plenty of cases of people “borrowing” church funds or otherwise profiting. I personally know of a committee that went to town to buy plastic chairs for their church and came back with receipts that were inflated by 25%. Guess who pocketed the difference? Indeed this seems to be a common practice everywhere – when I ask for a receipt shopkeepers in turn often ask  how  much they should write down on it.

When natural disasters hit a few years ago, no one seemed to think anything of it when those collecting relief supplies helped themselves to some before sending them on to the ship. The drivers also took their share. So did the dock workers, the ship’s crew and those who unloaded at the other end. Everybody along the way took their share. You can’t help but wonder how much ever actually ended up being given to the victims. Even on site, victims complained that they were given one small box of food  per family while the military got one box per family member– and most of them didn’t even have their families with them. (What did they do with the extra? They sold it to to shop keepers for cash who then resold it to the people.)

And in my home country where people have long prided themselves on their clean system, people have been vilifying bankers and politicians for graft and corruption for the last three years. A few weeks ago I read very interesting article called “Psychology of Fraud: Why Good People Do Bad Things”  which presentes a case history of a “good” guy who ended up jailed for fraud

How many of us see that what we do is the exact same thing, even though on a much lower monetary scale? When people pilfer from their employer (even just pens, paper, TP, food, whatever) who thinks of themselves as being corrupt? No, no, that’s those other folk over there who have stashed millions or billions in banks somewhere.

What do all these people have in common? They are all experts in justification.

Jane Doe can rip TP off her employer – she rationalizes that they have lots and it’ll save her  a nickel. The military guy figures he’s on hardship duty, he can use the extra cash to send home to the wife and kids.   The truck drivers, dockworkers, ship’s crew after all don’t earn much and since they had to handle all this shouldn’t they be entitled to some too? The same for the mosque and church committes – don’t they deserve some perks for their hard work after all? And the village head feels he should be able to divert a tractor so his son will have a livelihood. And if I can sell slightly smaller “liters” of rice or kerosene or whatever, I can make extra profit. There is no end to mankind’s excuses and justification. We howl and complain when others get away with it, but when we do it we just don’t see it.

I really do think that president is on to something.

Every man’s way is right in his own eyes. (Proverbs 21:2a)

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God’s immense and unfailing grace

Here is a wonderful story of God’s immense and unfailing grace as He takes one born cursed and makes them blessed.

Ruth the Moabitess

Anton Bosch

The history of the Moabites is filled with immorality, seduction, lust and incest.

The nation was born out of the incestuous relationship between Lot’s oldest daughter and himself after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Lot’s descendants would not be known by his name, but as the Moabites and the Ammonites. These two nations had a similar birth and history and are often mentioned together as the cause of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord.

It was Balak, king of Moab, who hired Balaam to curse the people of God. And when that did not work, Balaam instructed the Moabite women to seduce the men of Israel, lead them to worship their idols and so bring God’s judgment on the people of Israel (Revelation 2:14). Because of this, twenty-four thousand Israelites were killed by the plague (Numbers 25:9) and the Moabites were forever banned from the assembly of the Lord’s people.

A few hundred years later Solomon would marry, amongst others, Moabite women (1Kings 11:2). Once again, these women would seduce Solomon to worship their false gods and to erect high places for them (1Kings 11:7). Solomon’s relationship with the descendants of Lot and his subsequent worship of their idols would lead directly to the division of the Kingdom into the northern (Israel) and the southern (Judah) tribes (1Kings 11.32-34).

Once again a liaison with the descendants of Lot would prove to be the downfall of Israel. And once again Moab would use the same seduction of Lot’s daughters and Balaam to lead Israel to worship idols and to incur the wrath of God. No wonder the Lord banned them from the congregation for ever.

In the book of Nehemiah we come across Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 2:10). A Horonite is a native of Horoniam, a city of Moab (Jeremiah 48:3-4). Yet again, the Moabites and the Ammonites would seek the downfall of the people of Israel. Sanballat used every trick in the book to discourage Nehemiah in his work and when mocking, attacks and blackmail did not work they resorted to their old and proven trickery.

Sanballat tried to lure Nehemiah into an unholy alliance, just as Moab had done on previous occasions (Nehemiah 6:2). Fortunately, Nehemiah saw through his scheme and would not even meet with the enemy. When this did not work the Moabites tried to tempt Nehemiah to sin by entering the Temple (Nehemiah 6:13), in the hope that the Lord would judge Nehemiah, as he had the people of Israel. This too did not work.

But just when it appeared that Moab would fail in his seduction, we read that quite a few Israelites had married Moabites and Ammonites (Nehemiah 13:3, 23). Once again this mixed multitude would degrade the values of the Lord’s people so that many of their children could not speak the language of Judah but had adopted the language and customs of the infiltrators (Nehemiah 13:24).

Even worse, the High Priest’s son married Sanballat’s (the Moabite) daughter. Over and over, Moab would find every opportunity to infiltrate the people of God and to draw them away from serving Yahweh. Fortunately, Nehemiah was ever alert and dealt appropriately with each occurrence of the corruption: “So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. “Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?” (Nehemiah 13:25-27).

However, when Nehemiah turned his back, the High Priest went as far as to vacate a room in the temple for Tobiah the Ammonite. The High Priest had brought one of the leaders of Ammon and an enemy of Israel right into the temple when they were not even allowed amongst the Lord’s people, let alone live in the Lord’s house! (Nehemiah 13:4-9).

Can you see how the flesh and the enemy will find every opportunity to infiltrate the church and the life of the believer? We cannot allow these things the least opportunity to get a foothold in our lives – they only have one agenda – the destruction of the people of God.

The history of Moab seeking the destruction of Israel and Judah spans the entire history of Israel in the Land, from the exodus, to Israel’s zenith, and finally to the return from captivity. The seduction, schemes and infiltration is unceasing.

But right in the middle of the story we find this woman “Ruth the Moabitess” (Ruth 2:2). Not only does she come to live in Israel, but she marries a prominent Hebrew. And as if that is not enough, she becomes the great-grandmother of David the King and an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). Why did God allow this when He Himself banished all Moabites from the congregation? Surely Ruth posed the same danger to the welfare of the People as every other Moabite and surely she should have been condemned with the rest of them?ruth-glean

No. Once again we have an illustration of God’s immense and unfailing grace. Ruth had forsaken her people and her gods and had unconditionally clung to the Lord and His people (Ruth 2:16,17). Once Ruth turned to the Lord, He graciously received her, forgave her past and removed the curse that had hung over her. Not only did the Lord accept her, but He included her and used her as though she had always been an Israelite. It was as though her past and ancestry did not exist.

In the same way the Lord still receives each one who genuinely turns to him and who turns their backs on their idols and their past. He receives us unreservedly, wipes away our past and removes the curse that hung over us. Just like Ruth, He not only allows us to participate in the blessings of His people, but He even uses us and incorporates us fully in His work and His plan. He treats us as though we were always His children and as though there never was a time when we were His enemies and banished from His presence.

Oh what marvelous grace! Ruth is no longer the Moabitess, but she is the ancestor of the Lord Jesus! Likewise you need no longer be known as the sinner, addict, abuser, or whatever you were before, and you can bear His name – Christian.

From: http://www.antonbosch.com/Articles/English%202008Ruth%20the%20Moabitess.html

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Glossing over our debt

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness but sometimes it’s easy to just gloss over what it is saying without it really sinking into our hearts.

A good example is the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35. To recap, a man who owed 10,000 talents was brought before the king. He was unable to pay it and begged for mercy. The king had mercy and forgave the debt, that is he cancelled it. Though the debt was forgiven, the man went out to collect from another man who owed him 100 silver coins. That man too begged for mercy but he did not have mercy, instead he had him thrown into prison. Though he had been forgiven much, he had no mercy on those who owed him.

What usually escapes us is the enormity of the first man’s debt.

How much is ten thousand talents? One silver talent is the amount needed to pay a day’s wage to 6,000 people. So for 10,000 talents you could hire 60 million people for a day. Or, you could hire more than 164,000 people for a whole year, or 656,000 people for 3 months. (Ands if these were gold talents, multiply all of the above by 30.)

How much is 100 silver coins? A day’s wage for 100 people.

That man’s ENORMOUS debt was forgiven, canceled. And he was worried about a measly 3 months wage for only one person????

That is a picture of us. God has forgiven us of a debt of offense we could never pay. So how then can we dare hold ANY grudge against ANYBODY?

Think about that the next time you start feeling offended!

Matthew 18:23-35 (NET-Rosa’s modified version)
23  “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24  As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed [money equivalent to a day’s wage for 60 million people] was brought to him. 25  Because he was not able to repay it, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. 26  Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ 27  The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt. 28  After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him [money equivalent to a day’s wage for 100 people]. So he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ 29  Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ 30  But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt. 31  When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place. 32  Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! 33  Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ 34  And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. 35  So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.”

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