Tag Archives: Better Off Dead

“Ten Bucks”

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.“I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

About 20 years ago there was a television show called Ed. It was a rom-com series about a young man who moves back to the small town where he was raised after his life falls apart. He reconnects with old friends and tries to get his life back together. It was an endearing show and ran for four seasons.

There’s a running gag in the show in which Ed and his best friend Mike have an on-going series of dares that they compete to win “ten bucks.” These guys do the craziest things to win “ten bucks” from each other. I still can’t hear the term “ten bucks” without thinking of Ed and Mike (kind of like I can’t hear “two dollars” without thinking of the paperboy in Better Off Dead).

I never enter pools. It doesn’t matter if it’s March Madness or when the ice will melt off the local pond and dump the old clunker to a watery grave. I don’t have anything against pools and lottery type games. I think I’m just a pessimist at heart and assume I’m going to lose my money. I just never do it. It is, therefore, somewhat strange that before the holidays began I entered a simple pool at my local CrossFit box.  You put in $10 and weigh in. After New Year’s there is another weigh in and those who maintained or lost weight during the holidays get their $10 back and split the money of all those who gained weight.

It’s been interesting as we’ve journeyed through the holidays that I can’t get that “ten bucks” out of my head. At every meal, at every Christmas gathering, and when I’m reaching for that second piece of Wendy’s peanut butter chocolate chunk cheesecake I keep thinking about my “ten bucks” hanging out there in the balance.

Along my journey I’ve come to realize that a lot of individual life problems I see in myself and those all around me boil down to some type of appetite indulgence. We indulge our appetites for all sorts of things like power, control, greed, rest, food, sex, adrenaline, vanity, accomplishment, applause, “Likes,” and pleasure. We indulge these normal appetites for all sorts of insidious reasons and the results of our out-of-control indulgence are generally not healthy.

The holidays are a great excuse for most everyone to indulge our appetites. Enjoying good food, good drink, rest, and relaxation with family and friends is a good thing. At the same time, too much of a good thing easily becomes an unhealthy thing. There’s a reason why New Year’s resolutions come annually after five weeks of holiday indulgence.

In Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, Paul continues to address a simmering conflict between two factions. Some on the legalistic killjoy end of the spectrum were against eating any meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple. Those on the open-minded, permissive end of the spectrum saw no issue with the practice. The latter were quick to say “I am free to eat whatever I want!

Paul’s response is a great example of choosing the “both, and” rather than the “either, or.” He makes the point that while everything may “permissible”  (i.e. a little holiday indulgence), not all things are “beneficial” (i.e. I gained so much weight I need to make a New Year’s resolution). In the case of the bickering factions in Corinth, Paul reminds them that the beneficial thing for the good of the community is to consider your friend’s conscience a higher priority than either my personal freedom or my personal convictions.

In the quiet this morning I’m thinking about my own appetites. I’m thinking about the holidays (still at least four gatherings to go), and I’m thinking about how a silly “ten bucks” has changed my thinking and behavior this holiday season. The question I’m asking myself this morning is: Is a friend’s conscience worth more to me than ten bucks?

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 25

Better Off Dead
Better Off Dead (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart 
      is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather 
      or pouring vinegar in a wound.
Proverbs 25:20 (NLT) 

I grew up with John Cusack‘s teen angst comedy Better Off Dead. It was a cult classic back in the day. The film is about the travails of Cusack’s character, Lane, whose girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the Ski team. Lane goes into a deep depression and the results are extremely comical.

There’s one great scene that flashed in my head this morning when I read the proverb above from today’s chapter. The day after getting dumped, Lane gets in his parent’s station wagon to drive to school. Of course, on the radio he immediately hears Neil Sedaka singing the chipper tune Breaking Up is Hard to Do. He switches the station again and again, but every song is a frustratingly inappropriate reminder of getting dumped. The scene cuts to an exterior shot of the car as Lane chucks the car’s radio, which has clearly been ripped from the dashboard, out the window.

Comedies tickle our funny bone by creating situations to which we can all relate. No one wants to hear Neal Sedaka’s eternally cheery voice, with doo-wop girls behind him, reminding you that you just got dumped. You want to hear a Lead Belly or B.B. King wailing out the blues. You want to hear a good angry thrashing song to scream out your pain and frustration.

To King Solomon’s point, a friend is someone who is going to empathize with you in your time of need. When you’re walking through a deep, dark valley in life, a friend will recognize where you are and will join you there so they can be your companion as you make your way out of it.

Today, I’m thankful for great friends who knew not to play cheerful songs when my heart was heavy. I hope I have, and will be, an empathetic friend to my companions in their own times of need.