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When ‘Esteem’ Doesn’t Mean Anything

The overriding mindset drowning America as surely as Noah’s flood is cynicism. Everybody is out for themselves. To quote the fictional Gordon Gekko, an archetype of Donald Trump and some of his cronies like Carl Icahn, “greed is good.”

What does the Bible say about greed?

Pssalm 10:2-4 says about the wicked man “He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.” A person like that, according to the Psalmist “in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”

Proverbs 15:27: “The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.”

Proverbs 29:4: “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy, for bribes tear it down.”

Matthew 23:25: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Words of Jesus.)

Mark 7:21-23 “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Words of Jesus.)

Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (The Apostle Paul.)

2 Peter 2:13-15 “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.” (Peter, speaking of false prophets.)

There’s plenty more, but the idea is clear: greed is not good.

The value of greed is understanding that unregenerated (meaning without God) human nature tends toward greed. It bends the mind and the will toward getting, having, experiencing, acquiring more. Greed is the number one corrupting influence in the world, and it acts on humans from the moment we’re born.

One corollary of “greed is good” is that cynicism is proper. Cynicism is nothing but the recognition that everyone is greedy, and all things are done for self-interest. America has arrived at that place, and it’s really, really ugly.

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Both Clinton and Trump deserve this cynicism, because they are both out for themselves. Clinton sells access and favors to the highest bidder–and has done this for decades. She pretends to care about progressive issues, and in fact might really believe in her solutions, but they miss the problem entirely, defy human nature, and encourage chaos.

Trump redefined the word “esteem” (which means “respect, admiration, honor, reverence”) into nothingness with his forced endorsement of Speaker Paul Ryan and Sens. Kelly Ayotte and John McCain.

Of McCain, he said, “I hold in the highest esteem Sen. John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and in public office, and I fully support and endorse his reelection.”

Last summer Trump questioned whether McCain, a former Navy pilot who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was a war hero. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said then. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Nobody believes Trump actually esteems McCain, or Ayotte (who he mercilessly attacked) or Ryan. Everyone believes Trump acts for his own self-interest.

This is pure cynicism. Cynicism is simply greed masquerading as anger.

It’s not good for the soul. It’s not good for the country. The Bible denounces it as sin, an evil desire.

There’s no fixing Clinton and Trump, other than a miraculous saving act of God, but God can do it. Every salvation and regeneration of the human spirit into the righteousness of Christ is miraculous, in that we can’t do it ourselves.

We can’t fix our politicians, but we can fix ourselves, by reserving cynicism for sinners and esteem for God. We’ve all been guilty of the opposite for far too long.

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