What Have We Become?
Is the world getting worse or is the world as dysfunctional now as it was 5,000 years ago? Good question.
In a world filled with voice activated devices that help us do practically everything, surveillance
cameras that follow our movements almost everywhere we go, and anti-theft devices on sweepers, the
world is a strange place to live... Yes, I said "anti-theft devices on sweepers". What have we become?
Today, I went to a big box hardware store to look at sweepers for the church. I was on my 'smart' phone
checking customer reviews of several prime machines I was inspecting. Out of curiosity I
reached up above my chest to the shelf and began slowly turning the boxes to view all the accessories and
features of each machine. I wanted to get one with a powerful motor, directional head, and oodles of
attachments. Oh, and I wanted to get a moderate priced machine.
At some point of the inspection, I grabbed the $500 model box and began rotating the box. The box is
about 40 inches tall, 12 inches wide, and approximately 15 inches deep. The weight I would have estimated
to be about 25-30 pounds.
As I read the feature list and turned to the next box panel, a shrill piercing squeal began. I hesitated and
tilted my ear and wondered, "What is that sound in the next aisle?" Not stopping to investigate the noise, I
continued the inspection. In about 40 seconds a store associate came to my aisle, walked in front of me,
and began searching the boxes. How rude, I thought. The man then pulled the $500 machine box
forward and deactivated the anti-theft alarm. Imagine my surprise when he informed me I had activated the
alarm by simply turning the box. I felt a little stupid. I offered my apology for causing a commotion.
He and the other associate received my apologies as though it is a common occurrence. They then
informed me that the store has done extensive studies of all their products and have ear-marked quite a few
items that are often shoplifted. Hmmm, how does one lift a 40 inch by 12 inch by 15 in box weighing
upwards of 30 pounds and walk out of a store without paying for it?
I could see the scads of plumbing hardware that are small enough to conceal in the palm of your hand or
a hundred other items. But a large sweeper box? Apparently, their studies are convincing enough to install
anti-theft devices on them. Who knew this? I didn't. My only point of gratitude about the incident is that
the store didn't complete the anti-theft procedure and install the dye bomb to explode when I pulled the box
off the shelf.
My dilemma thickened as I narrowed the purchase down to a particular model. I looked at the associate
across the aisle and approached her to ask the dumb question. I said, "I want to buy one of the sweepers
over there but don't want to set off the alarm. How do I manage that without all the commotion?" She
seemed to be a bit disconsolate as she walked over, asked which sweeper I wanted, and then proceeded to
get it down for me. She then explained the model I chose to purchase was not banded so therefore it had no
anti-theft device. (Insert my disconsolate look here....) She dryly looked at me as though I was dumber than
a rock and walked away.
My cynicism and sarcasm began to grow a little and I mused the whole way through the store what would
happen if I waltzed on out through the door without paying. What would happen? What would the
newspaper headlines read tomorrow? What have we become that sweepers need to be tagged with devices
to keep criminals from making the world cleaner?
It has become clear to me the world has been broken for some time. The level to which it is broken is no
more or less now than when the Fall occurred in Genesis. The means of dysfunction seem a bit more
sophisticated now than then. King Solomon nailed it when he contemplated the nature of newness. There
isn't anything new under the sun. Sin or evil is now as it has always been. The question, "what have we
become?" is less critical than what we can become. Those who feel swallowed by the broken world are
commanded to follow one who said he would overcome the world. Who is that? It's Jesus who has made it
clear that who we are in him is a new creation not willing to kill someone with a rock or steal a large box
filled with a multi-directional head, strongest motor on the market, sweeper with oodles of attachments.
"All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear
filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is
nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in
the ages before us." (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10, NRSV)