IVP - Strangely Dim - Because We Can-Can

July 2, 2004

Because We Can-Can

By David A. Zimmerman

Recently, President Clinton released his memoirs and reflected on his affair with a White House intern: “I think I did something for the worst possible reason, just because I could. I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything, when do you something just because you could.”

He’s right, I think. “Because I can” is a miserable justification for anything, particularly anything morally wrong. Even the Bible makes apparent concession for some sin based on the spirit behind the act: King David and his cohorts ate bread already devoted to the Lord because they were hungry and desperate, and a man will steal bread to feed his family. The circumstances mitigated the offense.

Not so with the near-unpardonable sin of “because we can.” The same King David committed adultery and murder because he could, and it stained his legacy throughout history. St. Augustine stole pears from a private orchard even though wild pears were growing right down the road; he stole them because he could, and only years later would he recognize the gravity of that decision.

There’s a corollary to this sin of commission which is a sin of omission: “Because I don’t have to.” Not to belittle the concept, but another president declared this sentiment toward the end of his presidency about, of all things, broccoli. “I don’t like it, and I don’t have to eat it!” whined President George H. W. Bush, in what may be the only words people born between 1985 and 1989 remember from him.

I recently heard a pastor say that in our culture, having more than we need is considered admirable; by extension, having less than you need is considered shameful. We are encouraged to keep more than we need on hand at all times, “because we can,” without reflecting on the fact that countless people the world over have less than they need at all times, “because we don’t have to.” The sad state of our culture is that we have made admirable what is shameful, and shameful what is admirable. God help us all.

No one can make us do what we don’t want to do, and no one can keep us from doing what we want to do. And yet many things we don’t want to do need doing, and why shouldn’t we lend our hand? Many things we want to do are hurtful and shameful; why shouldn’t we be kept from doing them? Such a change of mindset is almost beyond the capacity of mere humans to make, which makes our future seem pretty dim. God help us all, indeed.

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Visit The Hunger Site; one click helps hungry people get food.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at July 2, 2004 8:12 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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