I’m about to be a millionaire!
Now, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this. After all, the money hasn’t come through yet and I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but I was assured by Mrs. Edith Hazelbaum from Nigeria that it would happen soon. All I had to do was provide my personal bank account information so they could transfer the money out of the country and pay for some minor withholding fees. The sad thing is that there was a problem with the transfer and the $5,000 I already sent wasn’t quite enough and if I could send another $5,000 then the money will be freed this week and I will receive enough to make me a millionaire! Great isn’t it? Have you seen these “opportunities” come to your inbox? I get these emails at least once a week and lately it’s been even more than that, and each time one of these vile pieces of spam comes to me, it makes me furious. I’m not furious that they think I’m naïve or gullible enough to do it, I’m just insulted by that. I’m furious because we live in a world where people think it’s okay to try and rip off people for thousands of dollars at a time. And there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ve tried reporting it. I’ve tried responding to it. I’ve tried looking up how to block it and nothing seems to work. I have to wonder to myself, what kind of people have such low moral standards that they simply can’t do the right thing?
But they aren’t the only ones.
It isn’t just anonymous spammers from West Africa and across the globe. It’s people from every walk of life from every nation including right here in America. Do you remember the scandal with AIG at the beginning of the financial crisis? After having received a government bail out and then losing $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, the executives of AIG were going to receive bonuses totaling over $165 million dollars with payouts possibly totaling more than $1.2 billion. And they tried to justify those actions. Studies have shown that one soda a day increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60% and more than 9 million children are considered overweight in America, yet soda companies in testimony before Congress said that sugar-laden sodas can and should be considered part of a nutritional well-balanced meal for kids. It’s like listening to testimony by the tobacco companies that tobacco wasn’t harmful. Did you know that auto manufacturers had the ability and capability of building solar powered cars as early as the 1950’s? But because that would ruin the oil industry they never developed the technology even though transportation is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world today. To justify our money, our power, and our selfishness, we will do just about anything to convince ourselves that what we are doing is alright, even when all the evidence is stacked against us showing us that we are wrong.
This is not a new thing.
This is a problem that human beings have had since the world began. Our early reading from Genesis showed Adam and Eve pointing fingers and casting blame on everyone but themselves for breaking God’s trust. God had only one rule in the Garden of Eden – don’t eat the fruit of just one tree. Just one. But they did it anyway. Just one rule to keep for eternal paradise. No getting old, no being in pain, no sickness, no sadness, just keep one rule and they couldn’t do that. And instead of fessing up to the crime, what did they do when God asked them what happened? They cast blame on other people. Adam pointed a finger at Eve and said she told him to eat it, as if somehow he wasn’t capable of making his own decisions. Then Eve pointed her finger at the serpent and said he tricked her into doing it even though she still had the freedom to say “no.” Just three chapters into the Bible and already human beings are self-interested people ready to justify their actions even when they know them to be wrong. There are many other examples in the Bible as well. Take the case of Pontius Pilate for example. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, please go to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 27, beginning with verse 12. Matthew 27:12. This all takes place after Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s denial. Jesus has been charged by the Jewish Sanhedrin with blasphemy against God. The Sanhedrin is an official body of high priests, elders, and teachers of the law who come together to judge a person accused of a crime. And in Jesus, although they cannot find fault in his actions, they use his words against him and sentence him to death. They beat him as they find him guilty and take him to Pontius Pilate to carry out his death sentence. That is where we pick up this morning.
12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Pilate KNEW Jesus was innocent, but did nothing about it.
You could argue that he tried to give Jesus a chance by leaving it up to the people, but all he really did was try to absolve himself from guilt. He KNEW Jesus had done nothing wrong. Look at verse 18, “For he (Pilate) knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.” Then even his wife warned him not to have anything to do with Jesus. She said, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man.” It was so obvious that even his wife knew Jesus was innocent. But Pilate didn’t want to do what’s right. He wanted to do what was expedient. He wanted to go along with the crowd. He knew it was wrong but he didn’t want to upset the boat. He didn’t want to make any enemies. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. We’ll never know exactly why Pilate didn’t do what’s right, but we can guess that like us he was unwilling to put himself out for what was right.
It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right. It’s another thing to DO what’s right.
It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right. It’s another thing to DO what’s right. I would argue that most of the time we know what the right thing is to do, but because of pride, stubbornness, or fear, we choose to do what’s wrong. We are human. We are flawed. And we will definitely make mistakes. But we need to remember those mistakes come at a cost. Not just to our conscience but often to other people. When we fail to do what’s right, we fail those around us. And we fail God. It might not seem fair, but fair or not, we represent God to the outside world. When we do what’s right, we inspire others around us and perhaps even give them the notion that there’s something to being Christian that’s special. When we do what’s wrong, we turn others away from God and show them that God hasn’t made a bit of difference in our lives. We can’t afford to do that. God forgives our mistakes, but it’s up to us to do as few as possible, to live up to Christ’s expectations, and to be an inspiration to those around us. It’s up to us to live up to Christ’s expectations and to be an inspiration to those around us. Let us make a commitment to God and one another to do the right thing. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.