Is being practical, practical?

imagesCompromise is practical.

It’s the nice thing to do we’re taught. So we do it, and it’s usually a good thing in a way. We don’t get all of what we want, but we at least get something. Sometimes it works out that we get a smaller portion of exactly what we want, like half a pizza just the way we like it. Other times we get the very thing we want mixed with something we don’t – our favorite toppings on our not-so-favorite crust. Taking turns is another way it works out – “I’ll get the pizza I want exactly like I want it this time or next time.

Compromise, if undertaken with a reasonable and somewhat agreeable person, is practical. And doing what is practical – doing the thing we think will most likely, and most quickly, lead to success – is the way most of us live our lives. It’s the American way grown out of the theory of pragmatism.

Essential ….

From this theory of pragmatism, we Americans have come to believe that

“what works” is the essential thing.
“What works,” the feasible, practical, sensible thing – the thing that has the most satisfying consequence – is essential because success is a most valuable American prize.

Evidence …

“What works” is also evident to most reasonable people, and only the most stubborn among us would disagree with “what works” after it has worked. “What works” is evident because everyone can see that it worked and herein, we say, lays the evidence, and evidence, as we know, points to the truth. Or does it?

Truth …

The thing about evidence is that, when revealed by “what works,” it does seem, at least for awhile, to authenticate the true reality from which it came. Pragmatists like Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey whose ideas dropped on the American mind in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and the modern revivalists of pragmatism that resurfaced in the 1970’s, would point out that reality or

truth
surfaces when an action ends in success. In other words, the evidence of success that depends on “what works” is connected to what is really real.

I’m not disagreeing with this. In fact I think it is rather insightful definition of true reality, or better said, truth that is reality. If we are reasonable, we can usually be agreeable about what works for right now in this moment, but true success and what works to get true success, that is different.

Success …

lotionGenerally speaking, success is the effect of “what works” and the faster the success comes, some say the better “what works” is. When success happens though is a point of disagreement among us. What we call success now, in the end, I’m sure will not be what we think it to be now. This is quite easily understood. How many “sure cures” after awhile have been shown not to be cures after all?

If you take the end of the world as we know it view, I’m sure “what works” will turn out to be something quite different from what we presume it to be right now or from what we thought it to be in the past. What works will be different because, we will have quite a different view of what is real than the one we may have now.

Happiness …

The exact definition of success, is also controversial. Success, after all, depends on how close you come to getting the thing you desire, and that desirable thing seems to vary greatly from person to person. But, maybe there’s not so much different. If we take a closer look at the variety, I think, generally speaking,

all the varieties of desire boils down to happiness.

Think about it, some people want comfort and others power. Some want prestige, sensual pleasure, security, friendship, and love. For others, all would be well if they could only have forgiveness.

Money may buy some of these things or they may be gotten in other ways. And all these things are desirable for the sake of happiness. We want to be happy inside and out. Americans for the most part are not confused about this. The point of American freedom after all is the pursuit of happiness.

For Christians, we know that what will ultimately make us happy are the pleasures found forevermore at the right-hand of Christ. If you belong to Jesus, you have already experienced some of this pleasure. The pleasure of seeing his mercy, love, righteousness, justice, power – his glory – as more beautiful, worth more in-depth scrutiny, life-long study, and praise-giving, than the grandest canyon at sunset, the city of Paris in the soft light of spring, or the best specimen of a human being at his or her peak. God himself is the Christian’s delight; God is the Christian’s exceeding joy (Psalm 43:4).

Ultimate …

When it comes to gaining the

ultimate
pleasure of enjoying the fullness of God’s presence, the Christian knows compromise will not bring ultimate success. If she truly believes God is and that he alone determines what is real – determines what is true – then the Christian cannot compromise.

I cannot say, “Faith or obeying God isn’t working out – it isn’t bringing me the success I expected – so I’ll tweek what God says a little bit and try it my way” because I understand what is really real better than God. If we say this, what we are really saying is that God is false or that the reality he has declared is false and that “what works” is something different. What we are really saying is that God is a liar and you know that liars cannot be trusted. If my logic is correct, this is the unbelief of an unbeliever.

The future …

While Americans are quite content to take the long view when it comes to the age of the earth and the idea that humans evolved from something non-human over millions and millions of years (a reality quite different from what God has said) they are not so tolerate of future success however close or far off it may be. But of course as the behavioral theorists Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner knew rewards (success) given now, can create a false reality – they called it superstition. Scratching your nose, rubbing your eye, and adjusting your hat will make your pitch perfect.

So, money bags that bring pleasure or security now are better than treasure stored up in heaven. Eating, drinking, and being merry now is better than any future pleasure. Living the self-centered life I want now is better than eternal life. Taking steps to save myself is better than believing God will do it. “Get real” is a better motto than believing there is “pie in the sky” to come. Isn’t that what we think? Isn’t this the “practical” way we really live? But, at the end of the life as we know it, this “success” for now will be the most impractical thing we could have done.

The truly practical …

Christians must look to the future that God has promised, for it will not be until God rewards the true Christian with Christ-exalting pleasures forevermore that the Christian will experience the ultimate success of true lasting happiness that comes from “what really works” – faith and the obedience that comes from it. And when this happens, the forever happy Christian will see what others thought to be impractical was truly the most practical thing that could be done.


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