John Bressler-102711Listen to John Bressler read his column.
I don't know how many of you read the Wall Street Journal, but occasionally there are some good articles to be found. Last week's was a hoot! It seems that two men in the Pittsburgh area stole a 30,000-pound steel bridge to sell for scrap. I used this for a class in critical thinking.
At first, most classes thought this was a pretty original idea. After all, some crooks are stealing all sorts of electrical stuff for the copper and don't seem to get caught. The men were skilled with a blowtorch, had a pickup truck and a trailer. The bridge was rarely used and many would guess it was washed away during the recent flooding.
Had they kept up with the stock market, the first of many mistakes could have been avoided. The price of steel had dropped dramatically! It may have taken them 20 round trips to cart all the pieces to a local recycle center and doing all the work was certainly labor intensive. People do notice when a bridge is missing and the owners discovered fresh torch marks on the leftovers and reported a possible theft to the police.
The two locals were caught and will spend enough time in jail and lose enough income from a regular job to more than surpass what they could have made in honest labor.
The classes all agreed: that was pretty stupid!
If I had shared this same story with some of the prisoners I worked with 40 years ago, most likely I would have had a completely different set of responses. They most likely would have been: This was a great idea, but they were just unlucky. Had they removed most of the evidence of the torch marks, no one would have guessed what happened. If they had taken the steel to another county ... if they had turned right instead of left ... if ... if ... if. Not one would have mentioned honesty or hard work. Several would have said something about any decent lawyer could beat the rap.
I will never forget when one prisoner said to me, "Buddy, the only reason you're not in here with us is that you haven't been caught." It's a very uncomfortable feeling to know that many - if not most - prisoners believe that society is so untrustworthy and dishonest that the ones who are walking free are too rich to arrest, can buy off any jury and are just plain lucky.
I am about to make a huge leap into biblical justice that may cause some to want to step away from me. Please, just give me a moment. In Matthew 20, Jesus presents a saying to his followers, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter heaven. It would be easier to shove a camel through a needle's eye!"
Everyone accepted the fact that wealth and blessing went hand in hand. What Jesus said may make more sense in our life had He said, "It will be hard for a good man to enter heaven." Many of us believe that being good and being blessed are almost one in the same.
"What? Who then can be saved?"
The answer Jesus gives makes us think. "If it were up to us - how honest we are, how good we are, how deserving we are - it would be impossible. But with God, all things are possible because it is up to Him!"
I thank our friend, Paul, who gave us his clear and precise explanation: Romans 5:6, "While we were helpless sinners, God showed His love for us. While we were helpless sinners, Jesus Christ died for us!"
There is hope for those who stole the bridge, for those in prison, for those in doubt, for those who are yet sinners. Christ died for us!
Those who stole the bridge had a choice. Those who are helpless have a choice. Those who are sinners have a choice. Christ died for all. All have a choice. All must choose.