The moral principle of BoomerangI once flew a boomerang. In an uncomfortably melodramatic sense it was a thrilling experience. I took my version of the Australian hunting weapon to an empty field opposite the Manse in Wigtown, in the mistaken view that this gave me plenty of space to practice throwing. A returning boomerang, of the sort I had been given, is a flat aerofoil, designed to spin about an axis at right angles to its direction of flight and then return to the thrower. If correctly thrown, it will trace out something resembling a triangular path.
After several failed attempts, I threw it just right and it sailed away from me at considerable speed, took a sudden and brief bend to the left then a sharp right and up, straight towards a neighbour’s window. During those brief, horror-filled, seconds all manner of nightmarish scenarios played out in my tormented imagination. I could see myself arriving at the door of a house with a broken window, like a guilty schoolboy: ‘Can I have my boomerang back. It’s the one inside your bedroom.’ The headline in the local newspaper ‘Wigtown minister smashes neighbour’s window in boomerang prank.’
Just before it struck the window (and I can’t overstate how close this came to shattering contact) it then took another sharp turn and headed straight back towards me. I now found myself pondering another problem. How do you avoid getting whacked by a returning boomerang? I had been so preoccupied with the challenge of mastering the skill of throwing the thing that I had not considered how you catch it, or at least get out its way.
I turned and ran like a five year old.
There is a moral law at work in human affairs that resembles the flight of the boomerang. Sooner or later, acts of selfishness and wickedness boomerang back upon us. It is a moral law to which the Psalms and Proverbs repeatedly bear testimony. For example:
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. Psalm 7:14-16
There are lots of other examples in the Wisdom literature of the same truth, and it is alluded to in the Book of Proverbs:
for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. 17 For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, 18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives Proverbs 1:16-018
Those who do wrong to others are really setting traps for themselves, which is the stupidest thing to do. It is like throwing a hunting tool, such as a boomerang, and becoming your own prey. Whack!
Jesus teaches much the same principle when He warns against gaining the world at the expense of others and thereby losing your own soul:
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36
This has a great deal to say to me, and to you. When we act selfishly or cruelly towards others it boomerangs back on us. When people are ruthless to others in the workplace, or callous to those around them in the neighbourhood, or merciless to family members, then they damage themselves as much as they surely hurt others. They unleash the capacity that lurks in all our hearts to be cruel and selfish, and when those ‘genies’ are out of the ‘bottle’ then we lose control of them and we make all the wrong choices in life, to our own loss, our eternal loss.
That wonderful Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner, commentating on the above verses from Proverbs, writes of the
“….necessary connection between gaining the world and losing one’s soul - for to live for one’s takings is even more corrupting than to wield power, since one has already, by definition, dethroned justice and mercy, to leave appetite as master.”
Living to satisfy yourself, rather than serving God and serving others, leads, paradoxically, to everlasting un-satisfaction. The flip side, teaches Jesus, is to choose to lose our lives in the service of God and the service of others, thereby finding life: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
There is no surer way of leaving our hearts empty of happiness than selfishly seeking it. Instead, we must seek the Lord first:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you Matthew 6:33