A Penny for Your Thoughts

There is an old saying, “A penny for your thoughts,” which was usually uttered to somebody who was in deep contemplation.  It might be “a hundred dollars for your thoughts” today.  Typically, our thoughts are kept to ourselves since they are not meant for public scrutiny.  Some thoughts may be so mysterious, provocative, and controversial that we would not reveal these thoughts for anything less than a million dollars.

I never had significant control over my thoughts.  I can remember when I wanted to beat others up.  I can remember when I wanted to have sex with beautiful women that I saw.  I can remember when my thoughts were outrageous, but fortunately I never acted on many of my thoughts.  I felt that I was better than others who lost control and committed murders, rapes, assaults, burglaries, and other deranged acts.  However, I really was not better than anybody else, because I had given in to deranged thoughts.

In the Beatitudes found in Chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus emphasized that we must have clean thoughts.  I always believed that if I believed in God and did not, in fact, commit adultery or other bad acts, I was a good person, who would be eligible for God’s kingdom.  But Jesus said that lusting for a woman is committing adultery in your heart.  This goes beyond being saved by believing in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for our sins.  This goes beyond being saved by doing good deeds during our lives.  It reaches into a completely new zone where only a small percentage will tread.  Jesus instructed us in Matthew 7:14 that only a few of us will find this narrow path to Heaven.  Only those few with clean thoughts will pass through the gate.

I would guess that all of us have allowed our emotions to invade our thoughts.  We all have been angry at some point during our lives.  I know that I have been, especially when I have to scream “representative” a hundred times in order to talk to a person on the phone.  But Jesus said that anger could place us in jeopardy of not reaching the kingdom.  Jesus appears to be telling us that our thoughts will be our primary activity after we die.  Our thoughts may be the pathway to everything that happens to us from our death through eternity.

So, let’s stop and think about what Jesus may have been trying to say.  We know that when we die, we will either be thinking or not thinking.  Jesus appears to be saying that all of us will continue thinking whether we believe in God or not.  Those of us who are thinking bad thoughts will be judged accordingly.  Probably there will be just a few of us who will be thinking good thoughts, and these will have a better chance to pass through Heaven’s gates.

It actually makes sense if you think about it.  If you are still thinking at death, your thoughts will be what take you in whichever path you follow.  If your thoughts are clean, then you will take the high road; but if your thinking is faulty, then you will be on the low road.  And the scary thing is that your good thoughts could turn into bad thoughts at any time during the process.  By linking and unifying with God, you will have the best chance to stay on the right path.

Saint or Sinner?

Does our species, Homo sapiens, lean more toward being a saint or a sinner?

Well, the answer probably depends on the circumstances.  For example, if a man loses his job and has to feed his family, he may resort to robbery or even murder to satisfy this need.  Drug addicts certainly or more likely to commit crimes in order to obtain drugs.  But what about those God-fearing citizens who smile at you at work and in your neighborhood?  Are they saints or sinners?

One of the problems in answering this question is that most people consider themselves in the best light possible – using excuses, rationalizations, self-delusions, transference, and other self-serving devices to avoid personal blame.  In other words, most people consider themselves as saints, but the rest of the world may well be sinners.  Unfortunately, the truth is that we are all, each and every one of us, sinners.  There is nobody on the face of the earth who is not a sinner, even if the sin is pride.  You don’t have to commit a crime in order to be a sinner.

One of my pet projects was to establish an Excel sheet with a listing of virtues that I would track every day.  The idea was to analyze my attempts to improve myself over the course of a year.  I gave myself a checkmark for each virtue that I achieved that day.  For instance, if I meditated, prayed, had no anger, told the truth, had an act of kindness, practiced humility, exercised patience, showed love, had joy, or served society, I would give myself a point.

The results were very disappointing.  It was like going on a diet.  I did very well the first month, but as the novelty wore off, I found myself becoming complacent and less interested in self-improvement.  I discovered that I generally was focused on myself and my needs rather than on the needs of others.  Even though I had always considered myself much less selfish than others, I was awakened by the daily chart, which showed that I served myself first and foremost.  And even after attempting to become a better person, I was reminded by the spread sheet that I was no nearer to my goal than when I started.

Even when I made temporary improvements, I would backslide.  It was exactly like going on a diet.  You might lose weight for the first six months, but then you might gain it back over the seventh month.  And when you stop eating as much, your metabolism slows down and burns fewer calories.  This makes it increasingly difficult to shed the pounds.  The same goes for trying to be a better person.  You might be a better person for half a year, but then your personal needs and desires which have been suppressed, sometimes return with a vengeance.  You may become an even worse sinner.

In civil law, we examine the evidence and place it on the scales of justice to determine if there is a preponderance of evidence that tilts the scales in one direction or the other.  Unfortunately, this is a manmade rule of law.  We would like to argue that our good deeds overshadow our evil actions so that we are primarily saints.  Unfortunately, this is a manmade hope in order to avoid any potential consequences in the afterlife.  Most of us would like to believe that if we work toward being a good person and follow a good moral code, we will land in the safe zone if there is something after death waiting for us.

I don’t think so.  Every poor decision in life carries a consequence if the afterworld has any logical significance.  One of the attractions of Christianity is that it makes Jesus the sacrificial lamb who takes on all your sins, so that there will be no consequences awaiting you.  It is important for Christians to enter the afterworld without feelings of guilt and Jesus helps them do just that, but the Bible also makes it clear that there will be consequences for our bad acts.  Ministers typically avoid this issue like the plague.  Most Christians would rather believe that they can erase all their sins by believing in Jesus.  Few ministers would say otherwise.

But sin is sin.  And bad choices are bad choices.  And consequences will be provided.  It would be absurd to believe otherwise.  Why does our species have free will to make choices and others do not?  If we didn’t have free will, everything would be predetermined and the consequences would also be predetermined.  But freedom to make choices also carries the responsibilities and consequences from those decisions.

When the Creator, for whatever reason, decided to give us this free will, it would have been illogical to let us make decisions if there were no consequences for those choices.  I have no idea why we were given this freedom, but we were.  And since we all will make bad choices, we cannot enter God’s zone of judgment in any afterlife without unifying with God.  It is only by becoming one with the Creator that we have any chance of minimizing the consequences.

Of course, I don’t know what happens after we die.  If nothing happens after death, then Homo sapiens will be the luckiest species of all times and all locations in the universe.  However, if we are still thinking after we die, then having free will would be absurd if we had no consequences for our choices.  Again, I don’t know how Judgment Day will play out, but I do know that we would have a fool for a client if we defended ourselves.  It is only by becoming one with God that you will have a fighting chance.  You cannot do it by yourself.