What if we all loved Jesus instead? What if angry Cain, polygamous Lamech, idolatrous Jezebel, seducing Delilah . . . ? Yes, siren Delilah, running rings around men—the Philistine leadership she kept leading on, the Israelite man she put to sleep on her knees, and whoever else we haven’t read about. Imagine how much Delilah could have done for citizens of Sorek and their Israelite neighbors if she had wedded her connections to Philistine political top brass, and the personal charms of her womanhood to the cause of God and purity. It’s the stuff of fantasy. We shall never know. She chose to be a siren instead of a servant.
And what if Victor had loved Jesus instead? Victor Lustig, confidence artist by occupation, was revered in the realms of criminal infamy for selling a landmark, the Eiffel Tower, twice within a month without being captured.1 Later Victor, this time in America, introduced clientele to his handcrafted mahogany thing—the Rumanian Box—the world’s only machine capable of producing perfect copies of $100 bills. The process took six hours, he would explain, then demonstrate.
Recognizing its potential, his customers would invest their hopes, dreams, and cash to secure it, and give Victor hours of getaway time. Victor Lustig, scoundrel instead of servant, focusing his wit, charm, and optimism on victimizing women and men, real estate agents and scrap iron dealers, investors and dreamers, swindling Al Capone out of $1,000.
What if, instead of their exploitation, he had lived to persuade them of the compelling irresistibility of the deal Jesus offers—the exchange of our poverty for His riches, our past for His future, our homeless dislocation for the mansions of His glorious heaven, and all without money and without price. What if the con man had loved Jesus instead?
Delilah the siren, Victor the fraud. I the preacher: what if preachers avoided stories such as this one? A story of an entity identified as a Christian church, paying no taxes on $208 million of contributions, proclaiming donations of $30 million while keeping its records secret. Then when the court commandeers the records, reviewers see $9.7 million, not $30 million in donations.2 What if the preachers’ claims of philanthropy could seem more in order with the facts? Don’t judge the preachers, you say. As if labels are the mark of acceptability: femme fatale—negative; con man—negative; preacher—positive. Not really. What defines morality is not label versus label, but reason and principle versus selfish indulgence.
Note the contrast: “There are many youth who might have been a blessing to society and an honor to the cause of God. . . . But instead of being controlled by reason and principle, they had been trained to yield to wayward inclination, and sought only to gratify themselves by indulging in selfish pleasure, thinking thus to obtain happiness. But . . . seeking happiness in the path of selfishness will bring but misery. They are useless in society, useless in the cause of God.3
What then if, instead of seduction, siren Delilah had worked on soul winning? What if swindler Victor had used his charms for Jesus? And you and I: what if you and I, and all the rest who know their sad stories, instead of mournfully, regretfully, judgmentally fantasizing about their might-have-beens, what if we would all, from this day forward and for every remaining instant of our existence, invest our every energy of heart and soul and mind and strength for service instead of indulgence, and God instead of whimsy, and life instead of everlasting death? What if we all loved Jesus instead?