Edward and James both entered the elevator of the high rise in Center City at the same time. They nodded to one another and then retreated to their own individual thoughts.
Edward was a smart man, that’s the first thing we can say about him. He also knew how to play the “political” game. He was steadily climbing the ladder of success in this huge corporation he was working for because he knew who to make friends with. If he was asked to work overtime, he did it without question, often cancelling plans that he had made with his wife and family.
Edward had two children who were both in college. Edward would think to himself that he loved his wife and family, but they were not really at the top of his list of priorities. His primary focus, if he was truly honest with himself, was on making money and living his own life. Edward was exhausted at the end of the day, but in his mind it was worth it, and he felt great satisfaction. He was a success.
James worked for the same company but really didn’t know Edward. James wasn’t interested in putting in the overtime that his supervisor wanted. He was more focused on his family and made them his priority. As a result, Jim lost out on being as successful as Edward was. But this is what Jim preferred. Family came first. So no moving up the corporate ladder for Jim, and that was fine!
Edward’s success was not just the result of putting in lots of hours. He also allowed himself to lose sight of his sense of right and wrong—of his morals and principals. In his mind you had to bend the rules once in a while to get the job done, right? That’s the way he looked at it, anyway. But Edward’s way of life began to put him on the slippery slope and in the process he was hurting himself and others, most especially his family.
But then a strange thing happened to Edward. He began to have a recurring dream. In this dream his Mom, who had died just a year ago, would appear to him, and, almost like an elementary school teacher, begin to instruct him. She would say, “I only have a little time to spend with you, so I need you to listen to me. You think that your father and I had a good marriage, but it took a lot of work. It takes discipline to make a good marriage even when it seems that you’re giving 95% and the other is only giving 5%. The word sacrifice is really not a bad word, Eddie. But you must stop with all the lying. You need to be faithful to your wife. Adultery and lack of chastity and getting lost in bad thoughts leads you down a road that robs your soul of life. Your spirit becomes withered. To throw away the promises that you made is foolishness—even reckless. Look at yourself in the mirror and see the person you really are: a selfish and arrogant person who has lost sight of the real truth of things. You’re believing your own lies. If you keep on this path you will be lost forever. God is watching you. Think carefully as you choose whose side you’re on. And as his Mother pointed a finger at him she disappeared, and the dream ended.
Edward would wake up in a cold sweat wondering what all this meant. By the way, James never had a problem sleeping…
The morning after the third occurrence of this dream, Edward was glancing at the headlines in the Wall Street Journal as he was grabbing a cup of coffee and getting ready to head out the door. There was an article about a CEO who was being accused of some scandalous activity and was being forced to resign. When Edward read the article he began to feel uncomfortable. It short, on the surface it seemed that this guy had been successful, but as it turns out, his personal life was a mess and he had fallen into some illegal activity that all started out as a little bending of the rules. He couldn’t help but think that, apart from the details, this person could be him!
Was God trying to tell him something here? First the dream and then seeing this article!
All of us in this church can name the one temptation, that one weakness, that can steal us away from Christ. We struggle with it every day. There is another way. We can turn away from self-destruction and find a way that is more life-giving. What is Jesus saying to us today: That what really defiles people are their own actions which are the product of their own hearts. But turning to Christ and asking for help to fight temptations can put our hearts in the right place and give us a new purpose in life—to be successful in God’s eyes.