The Thinning Veneer of Civilization

One day in sixth grade our teacher quipped, “Locks were made to keep honest people honest.” I don’t recall what sparked his words, or the even the subject we were discussing, but I do remember doubting him.

I didn’t disagree out loud, but I recall thinking how strange that sounded. “That can’t be. The locks keep out the dishonest people, the thieves.” Well, we were both right. Active criminals break the locks, and others just seize the opportunity and become criminals.

That’s what has been happening in our nation over the last few months. True criminals have looted businesses, rioted, and created chaos, while many, no doubt, who never had stolen a thing, helped themselves. A temptation does not create sin, but merely gives it the opportunity. A wicked heart does the rest. James 1:14, 15

Similarly, there are opportunistic politicians who, by their own admission, “never let a crisis go to waste,” and use every possible occasion to blame an opponent, whether it is his fault or not. Others create their opportunities through lying, influence-peddling, bribery, and even fund the looters and supply them pallets of bricks.

It is a truly righteous person who does not cave to that kind of temptation, but whose character is proven, or tested, by it. David’s Psalm 15 contains a profile of integrity itself:

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.

When the thin veneer of a culture is peeled away, we see the unvarnished evil in men’s hearts. But we also have an opportunity to witness the truly righteous, and join their company. May God grant us grace never to take advantage of the chaos or profit from it.

“You are the light of the world. . . Let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14, 16

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