Lies That Separate Us From God

[ 13 ] Comments

by Stephen R. Marsh

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57There are many lies that can keep us away from God.  Most commonly, lies keep us from God by turning us deaf to the Spirit.  I thought I’d write about two of them that are usually embraced by two completely different groups of people. As one would expect, they are very different from each other, and by no means are they the only cause of distance between God and man.

First, the lie that leads us to believe that God can not and will not love and accept the real person that someone is.

Second, is the lie that sins, especially exploitative sins, are acceptable to God.

The First Lie causes us not to hear God.  It causes people to believe that not only can they not repent, but that inherent qualities render them forever severed from God.  That belief causes people to be blinded to the love of God.

The great truth is that God so loved the world, and God so loves you, that he gave everything, including his only begotten son, to save the authentic you.  It does not matter if you are poor, or blind or deaf or afflicted. The belief that God can not or will not love someone can form a barrier between them and God.

The Second Lie was addressed by Brigham Young when he despaired over those who would cheat a widow out of her cow and then go home, drop to their knees, and thank God for such a great blessing. Before I read that part of his sermon I thought of such people as those who believe that they do not need to make a choice between God and Mammon.  Worship God and he will deliver Mammon.

For such people, you worship God so that he will reward you by giving you the opportunity to exploit and cheat others. Those who fall prey to that lie, that exploitative sin is not only acceptable, but a gift from God, are substituting listening to their own lusts over listening to God.  They may hear something, but it is not the Holy One.

The first lie causes us not to hear God because it blinds us to the message of the love of God. The second lie causes us not to hear God because we hear our own voices instead. Together they seem to take the opposite ends of a spectrum, one one that cuts us off from the truth either way.

  • Do you ever struggle to accept that God really loves you?
  • When you isolate yourself from other people, does that isolate you from yourself?  From God?
  • Do you think God ever rewards us by allowing us to take advantage of other people?
  • How do we work and do business in a world that is focused on taking advantage of each other, where we work with others whose focus is exactly that?
photo by: Ed Yourdon

13 Responses to Lies That Separate Us From God

  1. Sarah says:

    Is there any way you can expand on the second lie with modern-day examples? I’m struggling to think of any, and I’m feeling confused.

    • Liz says:

      One that comes to mind happened when I bought my house. I went with a “Christian” home inspector. His card even came with a Bible verse on it. He did shoddy work and missed things that I was told should have been easy to see. His “generosity” to be a Christian and work for a lower price than his competitors cost me thousands of dollars and countless hours of “sweat equity” to repair my home.

    • Sarah — the person who starts up a multi-level chain in their ward and short changes the people involved is a good example. Or the person who buys out a widow with a self financed buy-out of property — they flip it if it goes up in value, they default on the widow if it doesn’t. But they talk about how God has blessed them with the ability to make money from real estate.

      I can think of lots of examples. Basically, people who engage in excessively sharp or fraudulent practice, and thank God for the money they make are good examples of this.

  2. Bonnie says:

    We deal with this all the time and probably don’t realize it. I can think of very controversial examples of both kinds of lies.

    For instance, we have a belief, even as members of the Church, that some people can never repent, that some sins are so scarlet the person should always wear the red A. We have lists, publicly accessible, for people who have committed sex crimes, with which that person is forever required to register so that their address will show up on a neighborhood map with a nice little red X. I understand from my own experience that people frequently, almost never, change after having committed many of these crimes, and that our system in the US has ceased to attempt rehabilitation and focuses instead on punishment. It’s because as a people we don’t believe sinners can change and we don’t preach repentance.

    In business, it is common practice to fall back on whatever the general code of conduct is rather than exercise our integrity. I live in a primarily LDS community where the city building inspector was instructed to “look the other way” during construction of multi-million dollar public facilities, where the debt/revenue ratios are climbing alarmingly in the past few short years, where public officials go to church with each other but who are engaging in poor public oversight and who justify it because “we have to do things that way.” I work with LDS people in the community who behave like slum lords and then sit on high councils. The Lord has repeatedly condemned usury (the charging of interest for loans of any amount) yet we expect it as common practice.

    We may not be able to change the world, but we can think and act with greater integrity when we are confronted with anger because there are welfare recipients out there without jobs who receive food while we work. We can drive with a sense of compassion and collaboration on the freeway. We can toss someone’s sins behind us rather than gossip. We can begin asking questions about the prison system and the welfare system, with the intent that people can change. We can think differently about “getting a good deal” and consider whether we have just taken advantage of someone weaker.

    It’s amazing to me to look at my own life, to comb it with a fine-toothed comb, and to find lies tangled in there that I have accepted merely because they’re common. I’m so glad I can change.

    • Brittany says:

      You bring up some good points. My thoughts on usury, and the same viewpoint is reflected in the definition of the word in the bible dictionary, is that counsel from The Lord is sometimes tailored to the time period. Charging interest was condemned in the OT, while the NT is a little less clear. Latterday revelation has not said anything on the morality of charging interest, though we are encouraged to avoid going into unnecessary debt and to live within our means. It is possible that it was culturally unacceptable in OT times, and that is why the law of Moses condemns it (there is really a lot of weird stuff in the Mosaic Law, much of which I think must be tailored to the time period), but today it is seen, culturally, as a payment, agreed upon in advance, in exchange for the time the money is borrowed and not an unfair fee that takes advantage of someone who owes you money.

      Those who criticize capitalism do so in the grounds that everyone who achieves success does so at the expense of the less fortunate. Capitalism is an imperfect system, as are all systems but the United Order, set up by the Lord and entered into by a righteous and generous Zion people. How do we reconcile the values of hard work and providing for your family with the concern that income in your profession may, simply because of the system and not intentional dishonesty on our part, be contributing to the misfortune of others?

      • jendoop says:

        Brittany, I’m afraid you took my comment much more seriously than it was intended. I’m not anti-capitalism, just thinking. Obviously you can’t control the choices that others make. But if I make a decision not to charge my sister interest when she borrows money from me I don’t see why that would be seen as trying to create a new world order. Me and my house, that’s all.

        • Brittany says:

          Thanks for the clarification, Jen. We have loaned money to friends and I would not have even thought to charge them interest. In fact, we have even forgiven debt a few times.

          The anti-capitalism stuff was me bringing my own issues into it. I recently read a book called Radical Homemaking, and while there was a lot if cultural stuff in it I really agreed with (the importance of home, family, self-reliance through raising and preserving your own food and other such skills) the economic and social stuff left me a bit confused. In general, I reject the “Occupy Wall Street” ideology, but I guess I understand why people feel the way they do about it (I have a gift for seeing multiple points of view, but it can be unsettling for me sometimes). I am also conflicted because I have a father and husband in healthcare administration, which is highly controversial, and because of my interest in improving maternity care, I read a lot of opinions on how people disagree with the system and think hospital executives are a big part of the problem. I need to find peace with all of that.

          • jendoop says:

            Brittany, I definitely understand, my husband’s job is product development for life insurance- his job is dependent on the investments his company is able to make and a portion of that is from interest. The economy is a complex system and I’m not smart enough to figure it all out, nor do I think that making drastic changes would be helpful. It is interesting to think about how the kingdom of God on earth will be run, so much differently than the nations of man. This idea of not charging interest is also interesting when you think of it in spiritual terms – God doesn’t charge us interest when we apply the atonement to our sins. The debt is forgiven when we meet his terms which are the same for everyone, for every sin. Repent, forsake, and go our way in obedience.

    • Brittany says:

      And I accidentally replied to the wrong comment. I was responding to Jenn, sorry for the confusion.

    • Sex offender recidivism rates are actually lower than you would expect.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_offender

      “A 2002 study by the United States Department of Justice indicated that recidivism rates among sex offenders was 5.3 percent; that is, about 1 in 19 of released sex offenders were later arrested for another sex crime. The same study mentioned that 68 percent of released non-sex offenders were rearrested for any crime (both sex and non-sex offenses), while 43 percent of the released sex offenders were rearrested for any crime (and 24 percent re-convicted).[3]”

      But you make excellent examples.

      • Bonnie says:

        I KNOW! That’s what makes me so crazy. We culturally believe that it’s an incorrigible sin, BUT IT’S NOT! Changing people’s minds is so much harder than changing sinners’ hearts. Thanks for being a second witness, Stephen.

  3. jendoop says:

    Bonnie, You bring up things that have troubled me but I thought that maybe I was looking beyond the mark, being over zealous – like usury and getting a good deal. These are practices that prey on the weakness of others and goes against the natural law of reaping what we sow. Yet, we justify it because everyone else does it and it’s ingrained in our culture. What if we stopped ignoring the things we accept as cultural practice and instead instituted our beliefs in every area of life?

    I appreciate Stephen’s post because there are people that I love dearly who can’t find the strength to turn from a life that is desperate because they believe that God can’t forgive sins as great as theirs. It is believing just enough to make ourselves miserable, a condition Satan surely enjoys seeing us in.

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