Monday, August 13, 2012

Stupid Tax

I have listened to Dave Ramsey for about 8 years.  He is a radio talk show host who writes and speaks on personal finance, especially becoming and living debt free.  One of my favorite things he talks about is "Stupid Tax."  In his lingo that means you did something financially dumb and now you are going to have to pay for it.  Once in a while, he takes an hour on his radio show to allow callers to explain exactly how much stupid tax they had to pay.  Like not reading the small print on the free online bill pay that says that it could take up to two weeks for the check to arrive and then having to pay late fees on the bills. What?  You haven't ever done anything that dumb?  I have! 

Have you ever paid Stupid Tax on a life choice?  Have you ever done something you just can't live with?  I don't just mean a sin.  I mean the kind of choice that seemed entirely innocent at the outset.  A choice that your girlfriends were behind even if your mom was shaking her head.  There might have been a niggling doubt about the consequences, but it wasn't the kind of choice they make after school specials about!  In the end though James' maxim will hold true.  Our desires lead to sin and our sin leads us to death. (James 1:15)

Sarah paid her fair share. When she first offers Hagar to Abraham, she seems to be imagining one big, happy family.  She intends to take the child to be her own and so suggests that Abraham take Hagar, her servant girl, not just as a concubine, but as a second wife. (Genesis 16:3)    This action stretches our monogamous imaginations but it is the cultural equivalent of our modern fertility treatments or adoptions.  Although Sarah is not criticized for a lack of faith, her decision sets in motion a cascade of misery.

First Hagar acts arrogantly, thumbing her nose at her barren mistress. Livid Sarah has a fight with Abraham, blaming him for the girl's attitude.  When Abraham says in essence, "She's yours, do whatever you want!," Sarah treats Hagar so harshly that she runs away.  Through divine intervention Hagar returns to their family for more than 14 years.  However, Sarah's anger continues to drive her.  Seeing Ishmael and Isaac together at the party celebrating Isaac's weaning, she lays into her husband again.  This time she demands that he send the older boy away permanently.  Abraham's heart is broken; it takes the voice of God to force him to finally send Hagar and Ishmael away.

There are so many things here that Sarah can't accept. She can't accept Ishmael's presence as competition for first place in the family for her young son.   She can't accept Hagar's attitude.  She can't accept her childlessness.  And she can't wait on God; she has to use her own initiative, her own wisdom.  It's Sarah's own unmastered desire that leads her to sin.

I have seen so many girls confidently make choices that they later regret. Student loans for an education that doesn't pay off in a job.  Marriages they want out of.  Children born while their mothers were still children themselves.  Houses bought to impress people they don't even like.  Careers that devour years and energy.  Parents neglected.  Years unredeemed and impossible to call back. Desire still leads to sin and sin still leads to death. (James 1:15)

What if Sarah had been content with Abraham?  What if she had chosen to wait for God to solve her problem instead of sending her handmaiden into her husband's arms?  What if she had thought the problem through and realized that she was not going to be able to be content with a child she didn't bear? What if...what if...

What realities are staring you in the face today?  Are you allowing some unmastered desire to cloud your vision?  Have you wisely considered the possible consequences?  Are there choices you are making that you know deep down are the wrong ones: wrong for your health, wrong for your family, wrong for your integrity, that you go forward with anyway?  Don't be deceived by culture or desire, don't keep your eyes closed to the results, and don't pay anymore Stupid Tax!

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission 

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