A professor who had made his own way in life was given a generous sum of money to change to another university. He was already tenured and respected at his current university and compensated quite well.
The decision was made after much contemplation and negotiating behind the scenes, for the university wanted the name recognition and clout he brought. He was cited as an expert, a credible source for his knowledgeable opinions in various public and online news sources.
After the sensation of his decision died down and was accepted, the professor weighed his options. Knowing that he intended to retire after another five to six years, he sought to make his new bonus grow quickly. He considered himself quite competent in the market and in real estate, having advised many others with success. As it was close to the holidays, the professor decided the timing was excellent to try something he had been contemplating.
He had watched the December trends closely for several years and was convinced that certain purchases were virtually guaranteed to succeed in quick gains. On a whim, he made mention of his plans to “dabble in the stock market” in a news interview; but refused to provide specifics on what his choices were. However, he did agree to a follow-up interview after the New Year to share how he had done.
He was more determined than ever, believing his name and honor were now part of this. He spent time researching and forecasting his expected gains from several different approaches. The analysis made his decision easier. He targeted a single company that was uniquely positioned for big gains. He wanted the percentage to be impressive, which meant he would not take the safe way out and buy in several sectors at once. No, this was risky, this was exciting, and he enjoyed the moment when he made the purchase.
As the weeks went by, the professor watched his profit margin soar. It had even exceeded his expectations, so he added more of his personal retirement funds to the purchase as his chosen company surprised investors and experts across the country with record breaking achievements. He had anticipated public notice of the company’s success, and intended to sell at just the right point when new investors began to buy. He had calculated this to be in two days’ time, with minor variances to that time. He planned the day out carefully, teaching in the morning, and making the sell during his lunch hour over a special lunch delivered to his office to celebrate privately.
The professor hoped to go back to his own thoughts and did not ask for details or the location. He did, as was appropriate, change his expression to be serious and concerned rather than contemplating certain victory. He found his mind was racing with anticipation at the end of the day, and so he wrote out the various concepts he had mentally prepared for the news article he might write. Satisfied, he went home and checked his stock value, expecting that he may even sell early if the conditions were right. A stark reality hit him when he saw the number. Minutes later he realized why. The unfortunate accident had impacted the company he invested in, and all value had been sold off within the first few hours of the tragedy.
A series of principles he had always followed now played havoc with his mind. He knew better, that was the worst of it. If only he had cared more about the details, about the lives that were lost, if only he had invested in another company as well, if only…he had been prudent.
—————Thoughts that motivated this story—————
This story came from reflection on how even knowledge can be deceptive, especially when you mix that with pride.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
In Matthew 2:5 the most educated, knowledgeable men in the Jewish religion provide a confident response to Herod the Great. They can cite the prophet who made the prediction on where the rescuer would be born, they tell him exactly where the baby must be from. In returning to the Christmas story, this dialog struck me as most disturbing. They knew the answer, it was right before them in all the fancy scrolls they used and the discussions they had. It reminds me of a close-knit club of folks who scrutinize words but forget those words have meaning.
The journey made by the Magi was long, yet the journey for these leaders to Bethlehem was only five miles from Jerusalem. What would it have hurt for them to go and investigate and seek any truth of the rumor that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem? The news came from pagans, from unwashed kings of another region; and yet why not? They were too proud in their knowledge, too sure of their religion to believe God would announce such a thing to these kind of men; let alone shepherds of low birth. Neither were scholars of the law as they were.
It is foolishness to believe that study alone makes you holy or right before God. Writing these stories has taught me that in a whole new way. I must empty myself every time I try to write, or nothing very useful comes out of it. I have to come humbly before the Lord and ask what He wants to show me. I may think I know something, that I can tie two concepts together – but not so with this. This Christmas I want to focus even more on being ready to listen to new truths from God, to even learning from a 7 year old or my unchurched friends. I’m hoping maybe one person reading will get this as well. Christmas is so well known it reminds me of the Bethlehem prophecy, so easy to think we know it – and in our pride let it be knowledge only. When I stop celebrating that God came to be with us as Immanuel that is a shame. Sing out my soul, for even the songs I’ve sung a hundred times can and are new if I ponder on the wonder of Immanuel.