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God's At War

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PART 1: Section 1; Chapter 1, Idolatry Is The Issue + Chapter 2, It's Not About The Money

This will have both Chapter 1 and 2 since they’re not long enough to have as separate chapters.


Imagine a man who has been coughing constantly. This cough keeps him up half of the night and interrupts any conversation he has that lasts more than a minute or two. The cough is so unrelenting that he goes to the doctor.

The doctor runs his tests.

Lung cancer.

Now, imagine the doctor knows how tough the news will be to handle. So, he doesn’t tell his patient about cancer. Instead, he writes a prescription for some strong cough medicine and tells him that he should be feeling better soon. The man is delighted with this prognosis. And sure enough, he sleeps much better that night. The cough syrup seems to have solved his problem.

Meanwhile, very quietly, the cancer is eating away at his body.
When I talk to people, they point to what they believe is the problem. In their minds, they’ve nailed it. They can’t stop coughing, but, here’s what I’ve discovered: they’re talking about a symptom rather than the true illness-the true issue-which is always, idolatry.

Chapter 2, It’s Not About The Money

When I arrive at the office, I see that he’s already there, sitting outside my door. I bet he’s been there for fifteen minutes. I size him up as the kind of man who’s never been late to an appointment in his life.

His clothing and shoes appear to be above my scale. It occurs to me that I should be the one waiting on him, maybe for some kind of high-level business advice. I smile to myself knowing that he’s probably thinking the same thing. Still, there is something about him that doesn’t match his carefully put-together look. What is it that doesn’t fit?

There. It’s in his eyes. There is a deep worry in them, not the easy confidence of the business achiever.

I show him to a seat in my office. He skips the chitchat and gets right to the subject. It’s easy to see he’s a no-nonsense, get-to-it kind of guy.

“I’m worried about my family,” he says with a deep sigh.

“Your family? Is that why you’re here?”

“Well, no. It’s about me, of course. I just worry about what I’ve done to them. Their future. Our name.”

His story is short and not so sweet. The IRS has caught him cheating on his taxes, on a serious scale. He enumerates the various charges he’s facing, and I don’t even understand all of them. It’s clear that he does, however. And it’s clear that, at the very least, he will devote much of the rest of his life to making good on the financial penalties that are soon to be imposed.

I’m not sure what to tell him. He seems to understand the gravity of his situation. I certainly don’t give legal advice. But I can see that it’s not just about getting caught; it’s more about coming to grips with what he’s done.

We sit without speaking for a moment, and finally, he looks up and says, “The thing I come back to over and over and can’t get an answer to is why.”

“You mean other than financial gain?”

He chuckles dryly. “Financial gain? Kyle, I don’t need the money. I didn’t need a penny of it; I’m a millionaire several times over. I could have gone to my accountants, paid my taxes right down the line, given away plenty more, and still live the same comfortable life and never known the difference. Whatever I really owned the government? I wouldn’t have missed it.”

That’s a world I don’t live in, but I smile and nod, pretending to understand. “Okay. So if not for financial gain, then what’s your best ‘why’ theory?”

His eyes meet mine before wandering to the window, The sun shines on his face, and I can see the slightest hint of wetness in those eyes.

“That’s what I’m saying, Kyle. I don’t know. I really don’t get it. It’s ridiculously stupid, and I don’t do stupid things. Not with money or anything else. And listen-“He darts a quick look at me. “I know I’m a sinner, I get that. I have no problem calling this what it is: sin. Ugly sin. But why this sin? Why a sin so unnecessary?”

We talk about his life, his family, his upbringing, and the things that have influenced him. What I want him to see is that sin doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere. It usually grows where some kind of seed has been planted.

We need to dig beneath the soil a bit.

“You said the money was unnecessary,” I say. “But money, as a rule, has been pretty important for you. Would you agree?”
“Sure, obviously.”

“Important enough that you might describe it as your main motivation, as your master goal?”

He thinks about it. “Yeah, I guess that’s fair.”

“As a god?”

For a moment he doesn’t understand the question. Then he exhales slowly. I see the answer written across his face.

“It wasn’t always like that,” he says.

“No, it never is, in the beginning. Goals can become gods. You start to serve them, live for them, and sacrifice for them. In the beginning, it was about your money serving you. But at some point, do you think you switched roles?”

“I never thought about it like that.”

Word Count: 966

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