I was going over some news articles I had saved today, cleaning out my desk, and found three articles each with a similar theme.
In the first, the author, Reinaldo Gadea Perez commented that Venezuela is seeing its highest murder rates in history and he attributed it largely to their “culture of impunity” in part created by a president who “justified stealing to feed starving children” and who let “murderers and corrupt cronies walk free” creating a culture where people are proud to have gotten away with their crime. “Our ‘culture of impunity’ is also creating killers… There is no hope for a future for Venezuela unless we ‘destroy this culture of impunity’ and start imposing consequences for breaking the law.”
The second was about how India did away with major bank notes, taking them out of circulation. At first, the rationale was purported to be an attempt to “force the wealthy Indians who were hoarding their money to put it in the bank and pay taxes on it.” Later the Prime Minister changed his story and said it was “to move India toward a cashless society.” No matter what the objective, however, the perhaps unforeseen effects have been most harshly felt by the poor who rely on cash and have no bank account.
The third article addresses the internet. “The irony is that the internet was supposed to democratize information, enabling ‘curious citizens’ to become better informed about complex issues… Instead, it’s made it possible for people to hide out in ‘closed information loops.’ The internet’s lack of a filter has made all beliefs appear equally valid, since you can always find online ‘evidence’ and opinion to back up even the most nonsensical notions, with no agreed-upon authority to differentiate fact from fiction. We truly have entered ‘a post-truth era.’”
I think what fascinates me is how each of these decisions, almost certainly made for good reasons, had unforeseen and negative consequences. Good intentions, unfortunately, do not necessarily translate into good decisions. I even think about some of the recent articles I’ve seen about people who, with hearts to help Houston, are sending all manner of problems their way in the name of donations. Workers are having to spend their much-needed time and energy sorting through mounds of donated items that are, for now, useless and/or frivolous so that, rather than helping, such donation become a hindrance. In other words, they hurt more than they help.
I have a book on my shelf called When Helping Hurts. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s the general idea that sometimes what we do to help …doesn’t. Either it doesn’t help or it creates another, unforeseen problem. Sometimes a decision to fix a problem is a little bit like a time-traveler messing with the space-time continuum…you may help one area but you change everything, and that always has consequences and effects…and not all of them positive.
It all can begin to feel rather futile and maddening when you look at it that way, but here’s the good news, GOD can see the future. He sees all the consequences of our actions. AND, He can work all things for good. So, prayer and obedience to His Holy Spirit is critical, first off. We need his direction. Only He can see the dominoes our actions will set into motion. Second off, when things are set into motion and we suddenly discover that our helping may have hurt in some area or another, we can rest knowing God can work good out of all things, even the negative consequences of our actions. Thirdly, because of that, we can also trust that, just as things that seem good can have bad side effects, conversely, things that seem bad may actually have some good side-effects. Just think how Jesus’ death provided for our salvation, or how persecution of Christians after Jesus died actually served to spread the Gospel of Christ. The Kingdom is an upside-down affair in which the last are first, the first are last and bad things can be used for good.
Perez, R. G. (January 2017). We Kill Because We Can. The Week, 15.
 Roy, A. (January 2017). Cash-free Society Hurts the Poor. The Week, 15.
 Misinformation: Why facts are now irrelevant. (January 13, 2017). The Week, 17.