Would you give back what was stolen?

Recently I’ve spent some time watching debates between Christians and atheists online. I have yet to see one case in which the nonbeliever conceded.  I did however watch one atheist fellow concede a rather substantial point to Tim Keller. He admitted that Keller’s point was strong…by saying, “Yes, you make a very compelling argument here. But I disagree.”  And he tried to move the conversation to another focus.

Listen to the words of Paul:

He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. (2 Thes 2:10 NLT)

A fool is a person invested in his own destruction because he is invested at some level in a lie.  By “invested” I mean that there’s a lot riding on his position.  If I have spent my entire life supporting and enjoying a certain philosophy, position, economy, relationship, belief, etc. I will be hesitant to betray that.  That’s true of all of us – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, and atheist alike.  Jesus confirmed this by saying, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Here’s a parable I was mulling over this morning, that has the potential of bringing some light on this subject:

Let’s say that you are a person who enjoys considerable wealth, privilege, and reputation. Perhaps your advantages were inherited from a long line of very wealthy family members.  Of course, you have shrewdly managed the wealth and made wise investments, increasing the fortune by a substantial amount.

But what if one day while sifting through some ancient family heirlooms you come across a small diary in a dusty drawer of fine piece of antique furniture.  In the journal you read of the private struggle of one of your ancestors with a guilty conscience.  It seems that the lady (a great-grandmother of yours) had somehow learned that the vast estate she had married into was owing to a massive deception and robbery accomplished by her father-in-law. Furthermore, she had learned the name of the person from whom the fortune had been stolen.

Suddenly you are shaken with the conviction that everything you own and enjoy is based upon a deception and is therefore unlawful.  You have been enjoying a fortune that was not yours to consume or control. Never mind how you have used the money – it was never lawfully yours in the first place.

But nobody in the world apparently knows that fact.

You can keep quiet about it and continue to live a life of privilege and luxury.  Or you can come forward to the proper authorities, reveal the truth, and suddenly be without all that you have formerly relied upon to support your lifestyle, identity, and reputation.

What would you do?

I think we should all honestly admit that there would be some real inner struggling.  How much do you love the truth?  Even more than the treasures and privileges of this world?  The longer you have become accustomed to your position of being independently wealthy, the less likely you are to readily come free of any deception that has created it. It is a difficult place to be in.

And this scenario can become even more complicated if you can find some fault with the former (and rightful) owner of the  fortune. If the original owner seems to you to have been unworthy of respect, or stingy, or unyielding, perhaps you will encourage yourself that the control of such wealth is better stewarded by one such as yourself. This is corroborated by the fact that you are such a philanthropist (a reality witnessed to by all the buildings and institutions that bear your name.)

Perhaps you see where this is going? The conclusion will have to wait for the next post.

2 thoughts on “Would you give back what was stolen?

  1. David Wiseman says:

    Dane, for me the guilt of having something that isn’t rightfully mine would drive me nuts. I do not think it matters how the rightful owner acts. If having this great wealth(or anything else) became a wedge between me and God, I would make it right.

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