Tenants From Hell

In Canada, July 1 is moving day for huge numbers of people.  It also is our national day.  The reason it is both our national day, and our moving day, is probably obvious: it is far easier to move on a holiday than to have to get time off from your boss.  Because of this, July 1 can be a living hell, anticipation-wise.

Why do I say such a thing?  Simple; you never know who will be moving into your building.  Or, if you’re the one moving, you don’t know who your new neighbors will be.  As a tenant, I’ve gone through both scenarios, and nine times out of ten, it has been bad.  Very bad.  I’ve been a bit more fortunate in the building I now live in, thank God for that, however my neighbors still fall short of considerate at times.  When the last lot moved in this past fall, well, they didn’t make a very good impression.  Fortunately, they did not turn out to be as bad as they first appeared to be, and I can pretty much live with them next door without too many issues cropping up.

I can only imagine how much worse it probably is for the owner of a building!  A tenant might look good on paper, might even have great references, but once they move in… .  Well, you never really know who they really are until it’s too late.  The person themselves might not be the problem; it could be their friends, their family, or even their dog which is causing an uproar and/or doing damage.

I found myself pondering this as I was going about my business today, mainly because something has been bothering me about the Old Testament.  Having stepped back from theology and scripture for several years, when I finally did get back to it, I found that I viewed the whole thing from an entirely new perspective.  The great and mysterious ‘covenant’ that God made with Abraham no longer looked like a divine selection of a chosen people, but a standard rental agreement.  No matter how I now looked at it, it always came back to a series of terms and conditions under which Abraham was given permission to live in the land of Canaan.   There were also plenty of clauses that allowed for eviction should he fail to respect the terms he’d agreed to.

As a tenant, Abraham turned out to be not half-bad.  He respected his neighbors, caused minimal problems, and generally honored the terms of the rental agreement.  It was as his family grew that the problems began.  Like so many renters, his sons stopped seeing the abode as someone else’s property, and started treating it as if it was their own personal possession.  They started fights with the neighbors, did what they pleased, and generally ignored the terms of their lease.  The neighbors complained, and God finally had to throw them out.

There was plenty of back-and-forthing going on throughout all of this, with God telling Abraham’s family that if they would just adhere to the terms of the lease, he’d let them back in, followed by their making endless promises to do so, only to renege again and again, over and over, again and again.  Finally, as all good landlords do, God gave them the boot, once and for all, and rented out their apartment to someone else.

And that is where it was supposed to end.  Unfortunately, they appealed to the rental board, and the rental board allowed them to force their way back in.  The peace of the neighborhood was once more destroyed.  In fact, it became an area and a building that no one in their right mind – except those who are truly desperate – want to live in.

That is the sad story of how all neighbors from hell cause property values to go down, and end up attracting other bad tenants to the building.  On this moving day, let us all remember how one bad tenant can wreck an entire neighborhood.

Advertisements

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani

“My God, my God.  Why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus’ penultimate words on the cross.  But what do they mean, and why would God accuse Himself of forsaking Him?

Makes no sense when you look at it that way.  It is recorded in the New Testament that the people watching believed Jesus was calling on Elijah or Moses.  Theologians have been arguing about it for as long as there has been Christian theology.  No one understands it.

Well, maybe that is because they are looking at it from the wrong angle.   Jesus was being crucified in Jerusalem, by the people who claimed to be His chosen ones.  The people who called him ‘God’.  Bu they had rejected Him when he walked among them.  So now, there he was on the cross being crucified, and he says to them ‘You called me God.  So why have you now forsaken me?”

It was a lament and an accusation.  Think about it.

Cain and Abel

I have spent a lot of time wondering about the story of Cain and Abel.  The question that keeps gnawing away at me is why God would have acted in such a cruel and unfair manner by rejecting Cain’s sacrifice, while accepting Abel’s.  There is no reason given.  None at all.  Was God simply favoring Abel?  Was Cain’s sacrifice somehow flawed?

I don’t think that either was the case.  The problem with the biblical text is that it does not explain the reason sacrifice was being offered in the first place.  Sacrifices were not random things that people did for no reason at all.  Some offerings were tithes, some were thank-offerings, made after divine help was received, and others were pleas for divine assistance.  The mistake I made was in assuming that Cain and Abel were offering up tithe-type offerings, and that Cain had offered something of poor quality.

That is where I believe I was completely wrong.  Tithe-type offerings were not even required at that point in scripture.  In fact, Cain and Abel’s offerings were the very first mentioned in the bible.  So the question people should be asking first, is ‘what was the reason for their offerings?’.  Once we know why the offerings were made, we can better theorize as to what happened, and why God rejected one while accepting the other.

My theory is this: both brothers made their offerings as part of a request for God’s assistance in a matter.  Perhaps both brothers were vying for the same thing, perhaps they were requesting different things.  What happened was that God agreed to provide Abel with whatever he requested, while refusing to provide Cain with his request.  Cain then became angry, first because God had refused him, and then because Abel had gotten what he asked for, when he, Cain had been refused.  The seeming unfairness of it ate away at Cain’s heart until it turned into jealousy and rage.  The next thing he knew, he lost it and killed Abel, probably during an argument of some sort.

I somehow don’t think Cain lay in wait for Abel, then murdered him in cold blood.  God showed him mercy, which I don’t think would have been the case if Cain had turned completely evil.

The burning question that remains is why did God refuse Cain’s request?  It is possible that Cain asked for something that was not beneficial to himself.  It might have been something that would harm him in the long run, but Cain could not see that.  If he and Abel were asking for the same thing, and only one could have it, it may have been that Abel was the one more suited to it.  Again, in the long run, Cain would not have benefited from it.

So God turned down Cain’s request.  That is what a rejected offering signifies: God has heard the request, and decided not to grant it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So, those are my thoughts on a rather vague, but important passage.  It also clarifies a lot of other mumbo-jumbo that we come across later on in the New Testament about why God does not always respond to our prayers.  It even touches on Jesus’ words about a father not giving his son a serpent when the child asks for bread.  If the request is beneficial to the individual, God hears and grants it.  But if it isn’t, He will reject it.  It is not about favoritism, or capriciousness on God’s part, it is about the well-being of the individual.  Like the child in Jesus’ parable, the seeker may not know that the food he is begging for is tainted with poison; but the Father knows, and refuses to give him what is not good for him.

The moral of the story is not to fall into the trap that Cain did, even though God warned him what would happen if he did not put his resentment aside.

Personal Theology: Job From a Different Angle

When you think about the story of Job, what interpretation do you give it?  More than likely the one you will think of is that it is the story of a man’s patience in the face of adversity.  Too an extent, I’d agree with you.  A few days ago, I’d probably have agreed with you one hundred percent.  Then something happened that opened my eyes to what is really going on in the story; something so obvious that nobody bothers to really let the message sink in.

Okay, first the thing that happened.  I watched a video of a lecture given by an admitted Satanist.  I only watched a limited portion of it because it was largely unwatchable, but also because I did not feel like inviting in something I didn’t want to invite in.  At this moment in time, I don’t feel strong enough to to deal with that crap and emerge victorious.  In any event, the bit of the video I did watch had the lecturer mentioning that demons torment people for two reasons.  The first is because people inadvertently invite them in (this is also true for UFO experiences according to my research).  The second is because demons get extra credit for causing a righteous person to succumb and let them in.

Now look at the story of Job again.  The standard opinion at the time the story is set in was that bad things happened because you were guilty of some sin or another.  That is reason one above: the person invited something bad in and therefore something bad happened.  What actually happened, as we are privy to in the conversation between God and Satan, is that reason two as outlined about was the case.  But Job’s friends had never heard of this.  They simply assumed that he had to be guilty of something for everything to suddenly go bad on him.  They were so sure, one of them even began to make up false stories about Job being corrupt.

Does that sound familiar?  We see it a lot among the people with right-wing political/religious leanings.  They see a person living on the street, or on welfare, or food stamps, or simply going through a run of bad luck, and they automatically assume that it is because the person is lazy and doesn’t want to work.  They feel justified in heaping scorn, ridicule and accusations on top of the person’s suffering.  In other words, they behave just like Job’s callow friends.

And, herein lies a second part to today’s lesson.  If a person really is being punished by God for some sort of transgression, is it a all right for other people who consider themselves righteous to kick them when when they’re down?  Genesis 4 gives the answer to that dilemma: Cain has killed Abel, and God has issued his punishment.  Cain will become a wanderer.  Cain is concerned that the people of the land will kill him on sight.  God therefore puts his mark upon Cain and issues the edict that anyone killing Cain will be in big trouble.  Cain’s death will be avenged sevenfold.  So, no, it is not all right to add to a person’s misery even if they are being punished for their own actions.  When you are acting on the mere assumption that the person is guilty of an action that you have pulled out of your own prejudice, then you, yourself, are the guilty one.   You are guilty of bearing false witness against an innocent person, and then, additionally, of imposing punishment on them on your own authority – not an authority that God has given to you.

So, what we can glean from the story of Job is that exceptionally good people are sometimes attacked by evil simply because evil wants to be able to boast about bringing down a big fish.  We can also glean that ninety-nine percent of people who look down and blame people who are suffering through rough times are ignorant and arrogant, and that in adding to that person’s misery, they are committing a grave sin.  You will remember how, after Job was restored, Job was the one who had to pray to God on their behalf.  God was not at all happy with Job’s friends for condemning an innocent man, and increasing his suffering through unfounded allegations.

That is the true message and meaning of the Book of Job.