I heard a story at church this morning. A few years ago there was a woman in our congregation whose mother was grossly obese to the point where she could no longer walk or even get out of bed. One day she had to get her mother to the hospital, so five men from the congregation went to her house to help load her mother into the car. It was a long and difficult process full of humiliation and severe pain for the woman. She hadn’t done anything spectacularly wrong to deserve this. She wasn’t a wicked person. Over the years she had made lots of small, bad decisions: a choice on Tuesday to buy this instead of that, on Wednesday to eat an extra helping at lunch and another at dinner. Although none of those choices in themselves could be blamed for her current condition, the cumulative effect was devastating.
We are 300 million. Most of us are decent people. We aren’t evil. Yet we find ourselves in a very bad place right now, and it will be difficult and painful to get out of it. We borrowed for this and that, tried to save some people over there, minded our own business on that issue…and now we’re so overextended, so financially and politically bankrupted that nothing we could possibly do will fix it. There is no single person, no single wrong decision that brought us here. Rather there are millions of people, making millions of fatefully unwise decisions. Each one was just a shovelful or maybe a trowel or a spoonful of dirt. The pit is deep. We dug it, we’re in it, and there’s no ladder. In the long run, the only thing that will get us out again is a long series of morally and financially sound decisions.