The soldiers are bribed to lie.

While the women were returning to the disciples, the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb reported what had happened to the chief priests. The priests met with the elders to decide what to do. They gave the soldiers a lot of money and told them “Say ‘His disciples stole his body while we were sleeping.’ If Pilate hears about this we will handle it and cover for you.” The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. This story has been repeated among the Jews to this very day.

MT 28:11-15

Fair wages

In the third chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, we read about John the Baptist chastising some people who came to be baptized by him. He felt that they weren’t repentant – that they were not turning away from their lives of self-serving behavior. They were selfish and self-centered – they didn’t care about other people or about God. He felt that they shouldn’t be baptized because to them it was just something that everybody else was doing. Essentially, they wanted to get baptized by him because it was fashionable, like the latest dress style.

He said in Luke 3:8 that they needed to “…produce fruit consistent with repentance.”

What does this mean? If you are truly repentant, if you’ve really changed your ways, your actions change as well. You don’t continue to live in a selfish and self-serving way. Not being repentant is like an alcoholic saying that he’s going to get clean, and right after he goes to his first AA meeting, he goes to the liquor store. This is a sure sign he isn’t changing his ways – he just says he is. John wants people to really change. He won’t go through the motions of baptizing them unless they really are ready to live in a changed manner.

Some of them were startled, and asked him what he recommended them to do. This is in Luke 3:10-14 –

“10 “What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him. 11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.” 14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”

Ok, so the first part is easy – share what you have. If you have extra, share it with someone who has nothing. But then the next two kinds of people who ask, what do with do with that? How does their situation apply to us?

Sure, you’re probably not a tax collector or a soldier, but notice that both of these replies are about money. Only take what you are expected to take – nothing more, whether it is money you are collecting for someone else (in the case of the tax collector) or money you are collecting for yourself (in the case of the soldier.)

Probably the most easily understood example is with the soldier. Say you are at a job where you feel that you are doing all the work and the manager is getting away with doing nothing. You get paid less than she does, but she gets to sit in her office all day and play games on the internet and works on her book she’s writing. You might be mad about this. Maybe you’ve thought about reporting her to upper management. Maybe you’ve thought about sneaking in some of your personal chores while on the clock. She does it – why not you?

The difference is that you can’t fight fire with fire, and because of the covenant you have made with God, you shouldn’t act like this. You have to act better than she does. Goofing off on the clock isn’t the right thing to do – and even though she is doing it, that doesn’t mean you should. Reporting her will only make you look like a snitch, and might get you in trouble. But more importantly, it isn’t in line with what God expects of you.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-48 –

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We aren’t expected to mirror the world – we are expected to be better than it. When bad things happen to us, we aren’t to be lowered by them, but to rise above them.

Poem – “Fighting for our Freedom”

We tell our children to trust us
And then we send them off to war.

We tell them that they are “fighting for our freedom”
but really we are sending them to die.

They fight for oil. They fight for glory.

They fight for nothing more
than to prove that the American Way
is the only way.

We’ve become the hall monitors
the snitches
the bullies
of the world.
What we say goes.

We are the ones who go and tell countries to stop
doing things their way
and to start doing things
our way.

Because our way is best,
you see?

Rampant obesity, depression, anxiety
in children and adults.
People stocking up canned goods
and dried milk
and ammunition
enough for years
enough for an outbreak of
zombies
or talk show hosts.

Same thing.

Our way is best.
Be like us.

With one in four children
going to bed hungry,
with people graduating high school
who still don’t know how to read
or think
for themselves,

our way is best, you see?

America, heal thyself.
Then,
if you have any money left over
after every child is fully fed
and fully educated
and every person has
a job
and a home
then maybe
you can think
about sending out your citizens
as ambassadors of this new
American Way
instead.

What about we “fight for freedom”
with love
instead of bullets?

What if we teach and train
instead of terrorize?

Oh, no, they say,
we aren’t the terrorists.
The terrorists are our enemies.

But how are we different
when we impose our will
on another nation,
another culture
by force
at the point of a gun?

Let’s invade them with water wells
and textbooks
and fresh food
and self esteem
and peace
instead.

But first, let’s practice here
to make sure we’ve got it right.

V F W

We have meeting halls for veterans of foreign wars. But I’m a little weird – I hear the opposite sometimes. Why are there no halls for veterans of local wars? And why are there no meeting halls to honor peacemakers? Surely those people who have dedicated their time to ensure peace are important. Surely they need places to meet to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Civil War memorial sites. There were huge obelisks dedicated to the dead, mostly young boys. There was a park just up the street from where I lived in Chattanooga. I played there often, climbing on the monuments and sitting on the cannons. Those marble soldiers were my companions.

The glorification of war has never made sense to me.

Sign up to be a soldier and we will pay for your education and give you discounts on home loans and at the hardware store. Sign up to fight and we will pay for your healthcare for life. Sign right here on the dotted line and everything will be fine.

Except it isn’t.

Soldiers die. If they don’t die in battle at the wrong end of an enemy weapon, they die from “friendly fire.” They die at their own hands from suicide. If they don’t die they are wounded so badly that they are disabled or disfigured irreparably.

If they make it back home in one piece they live a half life, haunted by demons in the night, nightmares and fears of being hunted. Depression, stress, and dysfunction follow them like feral wolves, ready to tear them to pieces.

We glorify war because it isn’t glorious. We sell this dream of honor to our children not because we love them, but because we need them. We need them to do our dirty work. We need them to go into danger and risk their lives, their bodies, their minds because we haven’t come up with a good alternative.

And we’ll keep building meeting halls and monuments for them. We’ll keep coming up with discounts and promotions to sweeten the deal.

We’ll keep dangling the carrot of free education and special holidays just for them, and they will keep reaching for that carrot, only to realize too late that it is booby trapped.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any alternatives. If we quit training soldiers, we will still have enemies. We will still have countries that hate us so much that the only way they know how to express their hatred is to harm us. I can’t see that dropping our guard will do us any good.

But I do think it is time to rethink America’s role in the world. I think it is time for us to stop acting like we are the policemen or the hall monitors of the world. I think that our incessant interfering in the internal affairs of other countries is what causes them to hate us so much, and is what causes them to target us.

Until we teach peace more than we teach war, we’ll continue to build meeting halls for the wounded and monuments for the dead.

I think we owe our children more.