How the Mighty Have Fallen

Yahoo News reports on Bernie Madoff's court appearance:  "In court Thursday, Madoff — a dapper figure, dressed in a charcoal-gray
suit, with swept-back, wavy gray hair — said he began the scheme during
the last recession, when 'I felt compelled to satisfy my clients'
expectations, at any cost.' He did not put his investors' money into
the market, as he claimed. Instead, it was a Ponzi scheme, or a pyramid, in which early investors are paid off with money taken in from later ones.

'When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I
would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme,' he
said. 'However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and
as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would
inevitably come.'"

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen," soon-to-be-king David proclaims three times in the first chapter of 2 Samuel, referring to King Saul's death. Mr. Madoff and Saul had some characteristics in common. Fear of people, most notably. Madoff "felt compelled" to give his clients what they demanded. Saul was "afraid of the people" (1Samual 15:24) and thereby disobeyed God's clear command to utterly destroy an enemy, including all their livestock.

Saul compounded his disobedience by insisting to the priest, Samuel, that the sheep Saul had spared were to be sacrificed to Yahweh. But Saul replied, "To obey is better than sacrifice." (1Samuel 15:22)

How often our disobedience is inspired by our fear of people. We want to please others rather than God. We step just a bit out of bounds and think we can pull ourselves back when we need to. We'll ask for forgiveness afterwards.

We may not be the "mighty," but we, too, can fall. Unlike Mr. Madoff, we may not take so many down with us. We may not impact a nation, like Saul's disobedience. But people are watching us. Our children, our church friends, our neighbors, even random people in the world. And in this age of social networking, our impact can extend farther than we might imagine.

Obedience matters. It matters that we stay inside the boundaries God has drawn. We choose to believe honesty wins over deception. We choose to believe obedience is better than asking forgiveness. We work towards faithfulness in every area. Disobedience is shaky ground. Just look at Saul or ask Mr. Madoff.

Father, we need your enabling to obey. May we see that obedience to your commands leads to a stable life.