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David Hegg: Dead Sea teaches vital life lessons

Ethically Speaking

Posted: June 5, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

I recently traveled to Israel and took the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea. No one swims in the Sea because the water is so salty that ingesting a cup full can be deadly. So, you just wade in, lean back and float. It is relaxing and special if only because it is one of the most unique places in the world.

If you don’t know, the Dead Sea is dead simply because nothing except a recently discovered microorganism can live in it.

The sea lies at the bottom of the Jordan river valley, and is the final resting place for all the minerals the waters of the Jordan drag along with them as they journey down from Mt. Hermon, through the fresh water Sea of Galilee, and then south to the Dead Sea.

And there they stay. With no outlet, the Dead Sea waters and the minerals they carry have no place to go. And as the water evaporates, the minerals and salts are left behind, year after year, century after century. With a salt level almost 10 times that of the ocean, the Dead Sea is unable to support life. Water flows in, but nothing flows out.

As I floated in the sea, I reflected on the fact that the lack of an outlet had turned this great body of water into a somber vacuum in which there is no life. And I was struck with the corresponding fact that what was true of the sea is all too often true of our lives. When we take in the good things but never give back, we’re on our way to a kind of death even in the midst of life.

But there is a natural, and growing tendency in our world to be all about ourselves, dedicated to taking as much as we can get and using it on ourselves, for ourselves. We too often have become the object of our desire, and end up measuring life by how good we feel, and how much we have.

We grow voracious appetites to get and have and consume even as we are vigilant lest someone grabs what we think should be our share.

As Francis Schaeffer characterized our society a few years ago, “We get all we can; can all we get; and then sit on top of the can, scared to death someone will try to take it away from us.” More and more we are becoming a society of souls that have an inflow, but no overflow.

But there is hope.

From where I sit, it appears that many in the emerging generation are much more concerned about justice and equity among their neighbors than about stuff. They are interested more in overflow than accumulation.

I’m watching as they are forsaking many of the goals their parents set to head off to Third World countries in search of ways to help others attain the basic necessities of life. They believe that their lives were meant to be agents of change and improvement rather than collection sites for the latest and greatest products. And I applaud them.

In our church setting, we often talk about not being the “end users” of the blessings God grants us. By this, we mean that we can never become so arrogant as to think that the things God has give us — life, talents, time, resources, relationships, etc. — were meant by him to be used up completely in satisfying and benefiting ourselves. To do so would be to become like the Dead Sea: filled up with good things, but never allowing them to channel through us to those in our world.

And along the way, we’re finding something both exciting and counterintuitive: You gain more by giving than by hoarding.

To have a loose grip on the things of this life so that others might be helped by your generosity and compassion isn’t really a new concept. In fact, it has been the basis of real joy since the beginning of human history.

And nowhere is it better seen than in the willing personal sacrifice Jesus Christ made in bearing the wrath of God for the sins of the world. He didn’t come to hoard, but to give.

Now I’m praying that those of us who claim to be his followers will be committed to the radical nature of his generosity and not allow our natural self-centeredness to turn our souls into dead seas.

He makes so much good flow into us. It’s our privilege to make sure that good keeps flowing out to a world in need.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.

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