The central problem the fellow was grappling with wasn’t lust, it was pride. There’s no such thing as protecting your wife by sinning. The only way out of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum is to take yourself out of the center altogether, to admit defeat, to seek personal repentance, and to let God work out how to bring salvation out of that humility. The fellow couldn’t make any progress with his sexual compulsions because he was trying very hard to make sure he was still in charge — not only of his own behavior and his own soul, but his wife’s soul, as well.
There’s a reason treasure is more popular than pennies.
But woe to me if I keep on being snarky to someone who is trying hard to make amends, trying hard to be a better person. I wouldn’t smack a coin out of the hand of a widow who’s being as generous as she can be, and I shouldn’t despise a message like the one I got. I should, in fact, follow his example.
If God is so great, eternal and omnipotent and omniscient and all, why the heck does He care about a few ounces of processed animal protein? What difference could it possibly make? What kind of infinite deity even notices stuff like that? And how in the world can you say that God is love if He cares about hot dogs?
Where do we go when we as a church are caught persecuting ourselves? How do we respond when the aggressor lives within our walls, and when the criticisms of our church are accurate and true? When the enemy of the faith is a hostile outsider, our course seems clear: we fight back, to defend ourselves and our church. But this is a different matter.
Image: detail from woodblock by Hokusai(?)
“The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?” says Rabbi Abraham Heschel. He may be onto something. When we look for insight and understanding, we go to someone who has been wronged, and who has come out stronger and wiser: survivors of wars, genocide, concentration camps; people who have overcome massive disabilities; people who have been abused and outcast, and who have responded with love, gentleness, generosity, and wisdom.
But what about the man who caused his own suffering? The man who has been selfish, foolish, ugly, cruel, and who has suffered because of his own willful sins? What can he possibly know, anyway?