The Forgotten Ramifications of Selfish Actions

One of my favorite genres of entertainment, be it TV, movies, whatever, is that of time-travel narratives.  The idea of being able to change the past and have an effect on future events has always fascinated and entertained me.  One of my favorite movies (and my son’s, which illustrates my upcoming point) is “Back to the Future,” where the main character accidentally travels back to when his parents were young and alters his own future by making them better people.  However, the ramifications of our actions don’t necessarily have to solely transcend time: the effect can be immediate.  In fact, a popular theory called “the butterfly effect” suggests just that concept: when a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the earth, it can cause a hurricane on the other side.  It’s an extreme example, but the concept is clear:  actions have reactions, sometimes to enormous effect.  Throwing the tiniest pebble in a calm lake creates ripples that can cover the entirety of the body of water.  Trying to remember and apply this concept for myself, I keep in mind that my personal decisions can have far-flung consequences with results that go well beyond myself.  For example, when I run and exercise, yes I am benefiting from my efforts by being healthy and feeling good about myself, but I am also making an investment in my son’s future, making sure that my health will last so that I will be around for when he grows up.  He is someone I deeply care for, so I want to make sure that I can provide for him by being there for him.  I am also acutely aware that he will grow up to become just like me in many ways, imitating me in my views and practices, so I want to be a good role model for him.  We too often forget that our actions have consequences for others, that for every bad decision we make, we don’t just affect ourselves but we also negatively and selfishly affect those around us.  Moses found this lesson out the hard way.  In the Old Testament book of Numbers, Moses and the Israelites are finally released from captivity and slavery and are working their way to the Promised Land.  As they approach it, despite the solid promises from God about the great land ahead and how He will bless them abundantly with it, Moses doubts and chooses to send spies out to see what awaits them.  Angry with Moses’ decision to do so, God chooses to punish everyone and have them all wander the desert for much longer:  “For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you” (14.34).  Because of Moses’ poor decision, the Israelites were denied access to the Promised Land and were forced out to the desert.  His bad decision severely affected everyone, and his inability to trust God rippled outward and punished not only himself but the people around him, too.  As we move through life, our selfish behaviors, our bad habits, and our sins affect more than just ourselves as they ripple through the people around us.  For every word we speak, every action we make, the persona we put forth, the character we display, there are consequences for these things.  You may not think you are harming yourself, but you might be silently destroying those who love and care for you.  This week, when you throw your pebble into the water, avoid creating waves of toxin headed for the people in your life; make sure that your ramifications have encouraging and uplifting effects on those people.  Be the change for good you desire for others and let that change flow outward.  Amen.



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