Paul's exposé of depravity in Romans 1:18-32 is a chilling account of human wickedness, a vivid pen-portrait of unleashed unrighteousness, unashamed godlessness, and unnatural lust. Reaching the final argument of his prosecution, the teacher from Tarsus twists the accusing knife with cruel eloquence: "and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32).
This came home to me anew as I read about a scam that took place in New York City when some con men decided to make some extra cash by feeding on the depravity of humanity. Naturally, they made a killing.
They got a pile of cardboard boxes, newspapers, stickers that read "Factory Sealed," a roll of bubble plastic, and a stack of stolen shopping bags from Macy's. They stuffed each box with bricks and newspapers until it weighed enough, then wrapped everything in bubble stuff and affixed the stickers. As the evening rush-hour traffic backed up at the Holland Tunnel, the con artists started wandering the curb, carrying the bogus boxes inside the Macy's shopping bags. When they spotted a potential buyer stranded in traffic, they walked up to the car window and started fast-talking a cash deal.
"Hey, man, I got a Sony Handicam here . . . just got if off a FedEx truck." He lifts the box out of the bag, saying, "Macy's sells 'em for $999." Then, jerking his head around nervously, he says, "I'll take 90 bucks, cash."
The cars start to edge forward and the other drivers start yelling. The thief delivers his final pitch: "Okay, man, I'll let you have it for $45. Take it or leave it."
And the driver takes it, knowing it's hot merchandise.
When asked about how it feels to rip people off, selling them empty boxes, one of the men said, "Hey, man, I'm not beating an honest man. No one buys hot unless they've got larceny in their heart."
I must admit . . . the guy's got a point! The fella who grabbed the box and sped off into the night was just as guilty as the thief on the street, and, along with that, his money gave "hearty approval" to the one who ripped him off.
Happens all the time. The details change, but it's still depravity on display. Furthermore, no one is immune. In fact, the possibilities of appealing to our old nature are endless.
What kind of deals do you make when no one is looking? Are you, right now, aware of wrong and giving hearty approval to another's sin?
[ Hey, the cashier missed ringing this up. I guess God wanted me to have it. You’d better guess again! – JS ]