Carrot and Stick

It’s not all that uncommon for me to realize after I’ve posted something new on my blog, to realize there was more to be said on the latest subject. Then on reflection I generally conclude to leave well enough alone. However this time is different.

In my last post, I cracked an egg that needs to go directly into the frying pan to be basted sunny side up. Near the end of the piece I quote from Mark 10:14-15 (NLT) with emphasis on verse 15. “I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their (the children’s) kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.”

A friend, who is himself a blogger as well as a former minister/pastor, responded to me with very thoughtful and interesting comments which prompted me to reflect on a few thoughts which have periodically given me pause to examine a very basic element of Christian faith. In fact, that element, as my blogger friend points out, is very basic to virtually every faith of religious nature adhered to by mankind. That element is a benefit to the believer, and in most cases involves a promise of eternal life in one form or another, be it with angels, virgins or whatever carrot you have an eternal appetite for.
Naturally there is the stick. In Christianity that stick is eternity in hell, which of course is still a form of eternal life, isn’t it? That brings us to motive. What are our real motives in what we do in this life? A question that Dr. Wayne Dyer asks on occasion is, “If there was no such thing as money, how would you spend the waking hours of your life?” Interesting question isn’t it? So, let’s ask ourselves a similar question. If there was no such thing as the potential of eternity for us, how would we spend the time in this life? Oh come on, you mean to tell me that thought never occurred to you? Sure it has; every time you are tempted to engage in some guilty pleasure forbidden by your faith that indulgence in would draw you nearer to the dismal abyss.

On the flip side of that thought is the notion that eternal punishment is the result of misbehavior. Maybe you’re less inhibited by the thought of losing eternal pleasure than you are by the thought of earning eternal punishment. Either way the key element is eternity isn’t it. So, back to the original question: what if there was no possibility of eternity either way, and you had either a firm belief, or actual knowledge of that fact? Would there be a point to your life? Would there be a moral basis for your relationships with other people?

That question becomes more significant if you are, as I am, a devout Christian. With all the promises, carrots if you wish, in the bible of life eternal, IF you adhere to the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the son of God, then your belief also tells you that you will live forever … guaranteed; done deal. I ask this question then: “Is the belief that God exists and Jesus of Nazareth was his only begotten son incompatible with a belief that eternity is for them alone? That for us, the Sadducees were right, this is all there is, there ain’t no more?”

If you are trying to wrap your mind around all of this and having difficulty with the concept of morality without reward in your faith, and neglect the ingredient of love then you need to pause and add that ingredient. When you do add it, make sure you are adding love which goes out from you to God and the people in your life. Now ask yourself the question, do you love your God enough to live your life as if eternity IS ahead even if it ISN’T? Or, are you committed to your faith, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever, only because of the promise of life eternal if you mind your P’s and Q’s? Is your love of the God you know and worship powerful enough, deep enough, to sustain your faith even if you discover the Sadducees were correct, that this life is all there is?

What is the purpose to your life if there is neither carrot nor stick? Is your faith in the purpose to your life the kind of childlike faith that doesn’t require knowledge of anything beyond this day, this hour, this moment?

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