A Reverse-Thread kind of Life
Haddon Robinson once shared, “A while ago I was trying to fix our garage door. I came to that one screw I had to get loose, and the more I worked to loosen that screw, the tighter it seemed to get. A neighbor came over and saw my plight. He looked for a moment or two and said, ‘Oh, this has a left-handed thread. It’s a reverse screw. You have to tighten or loosen it going in the opposite direction.’ It took me fifty years to find out how screws work, and now they change the rules!”
Then he commented, “There’s a sense in which all of the Bible is kind of a reverse screw. Everything in the culture that seems right, in the Bible comes out wrong. The way up is the way down.”
Provers 14:12 and 16:25 warn us, “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.”
One of the ways that seems right to many people is the pursuit of happiness by pushing our way ahead of other people. In 1973, Robert J. Ringer published the best-selling book Winning Through Intimidation. Shortly after that, Bob Greene wrote an editorial for the Chicago Sun Times. In it Greene stated, “Briefly, the theory of ‘Winning Through Intimidation’ is this: Life in America—in the business community specifically, but in all other facets of the society—is a brutal jungle that can be mastered only by learning to intimidate others, to bully them, to bluff and push manipulate them and shove them around to your own advantage. Only if you learn how to do these things can you be happy and prosperous….
“Among the tips he gives in ‘Winning Through Intimidation’:
–Life is a poker game, and every person you meet is trying to steal your chips.
–‘Honesty’ is a meaningless term, because ‘a person can only be “honest” or “dishonest” relative to the facts of a given situation.’
–The manner in which you conduct your dealings in life doesn’t matter, because ‘years from now it won’t make any difference anyway. In 50 billion years there won’t be any sun at all. The earth will be nothing but a frozen ice ball…. I could not imagine how anything I was presently involved in could possibly matter 50 billion years from now.’”
Robert Ringer portrayed his approach as “winning through intimidation.” James 3:14 portrays it as “bitter envy and selfish ambition.” James 3:16 stresses that where such envy and selfish ambition live “there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.”
“Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way of death.”
James 3:13 sets before us a reverse screw that calls us to turn our expectations around: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” James 3:17-18 adds, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”
James counsels us that deep and lasting contentment is found not in a life of bitter envy and selfish ambition but in the midst of that which is “peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits.”
Henry Drummond observes, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
Pope Francis adds, “[Mercy] is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”