Why are drug stores putting toothpaste, candy, and soap behind lock and key?
Organized retail crime—rings of criminals who steal products and then sell them online—is the problem. Retailers must now balance the challenges of escalating shoplifting and angry shoppers.
One obvious lesson this phenomenon illustrates is that we value what we want. We do what benefits us. Even when we act sacrificially, like making products more difficult for consumers to buy, there is usually an ulterior motive that we hope will outweigh its cost.
“Blue” cities in “red” states
One of the most foundational ways we are culturally conditioned to self-advancement is self-reliance.
From the ancient Greeks to today, our culture focuses on the individual as the key to truth and meaning. “Know thyself” was Socrates’ famous pathway to wisdom. Not “know thy family” or “know thy community” or “know thy god.” Not “seek wisdom from the past” but “seek wisdom in yourself.”
This existentialistic worldview pervades everything we do today.
Yuval Levin has noted the degree to which CEOs and employees alike use their employer as a platform for their personal agendas. CEOs have become celebrities as never before. Employees use their social media platforms to amplify what their employer is doing—or not doing—that aligns with their personal values. Employees are even choosing employers based on such personal agendas and then working to ensure that the company continues to align with them.
America has been composed of “red” and “blue” states for years, but now our partisan divisions are far more complex. There are “blue” cities within “red” states (Austin, Texas, for example), and vice versa. There are “blue” communities within “red” cities and vice versa. People are choosing where to live based in large part on whether that specific community shares their personal values.
“Fight against those who fight against me!”
Of all the challenges radical self-reliance presents, none is more systemic and foundational than the spiritual.
Psalm 35 begins: “Contend, O Lᴏʀᴅ, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!” (v. 1). The author, King David, was one of the mightiest warriors in history, killing a lion and a giant when he was but a boy and defeating some of Israel’s gravest enemies. Yet he knew how much he needed God to fight with him and for him.
The more we know, the more we know we do not know.
If I choose to fight a professional boxer but have no boxing experience, I am less likely to realize my predicament than if I have done some boxing. It is the person who has begun to learn a language who knows how much she does not yet know.
So it is with spiritual conflict—the more I fight, the more I know I need God to fight.
This is why David prays, “Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether who rejoice at my calamity! Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves against me!” (v. 26). He knows that he needs God to do what he cannot do. And he is committed to praising the Lord as a result: “Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long” (v. 28).
“Not by might, nor by power”
How can we exchange self-reliance for Spirit-dependence today?
One: Ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions (Ephesians 5:18). Make this your prayer to start every day and to repeat through the day.
Two: Name your challenges and give them to God specifically and intentionally. Write them down as a prayer list if that is helpful. Continue to ask God to do what only God can do and to lead you to do what only you can do.
Three: Look for ways God is redeeming the present challenges for his glory and your good. He so often works in ways we do not understand or even see at the time. Ask for spiritual eyes to see his angelic host (2 Kings 6:17), faith to ask for more faith (Mark 9:24).
Make Zechariah 4:6 your mantra today: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts.”
The old maxim is true: The closer we get to God, the further away we realize we are.
How close to God are you today?