Archive for August, 2010

True Humility

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

This is a bold statement.  The first part of this verse may not seem too unusual, because the Bible repeatedly warns us against selfishness, strife, and vanity.  However, the second part of the verse is truly profound, “consider others better than yourselves.”

On the surface, we tend to interpret this as meaning, “consider others before considering yourselves.”  In other words, “do for others, and then go ahead and do for yourselves.”  This is indeed a valid interpretation.  We should consider ourselves as secondary to others, just as Christ demonstrated when he washed the feet of the disciples.

However, when we consider the deeper application being taught here, we would do well to interpret these words as “consider others as being better than yourselves.  This is telling us to be truly humble and selfless.  We should each regard others as being better than ourselves.  I should truly believe that others are superior to me, because, in this life, they are.  We should think more highly of others than we do of ourselves.

Now, for the application:  When that guy cuts you off in traffic, do you get angry because he caused you some inconvenience, or because he unjustly took the place in front of you?  In this situation, we should have the lowliness of mind to think that justice was served.  That person is better than you, and he has rightly taken your place in line.  You should praise God because He has allowed you to glorify Him by serving others, as Christ served us.

Christians Should Stop the Denial of Death

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

The TV news show 60 Minutes recently aired a report about Americans prolonging their own deaths (and suffering).  The report cited that Medicare pays $55B to doctors and hospitals each year for treatment of patients in the last two months of their lives.  This is more than the entire budget for the Department of Homeland Security, and for the Department of Education.  This treatment often includes $10,000 per day for ICU, plus a lot of unnecessary tests.  Furthermore, 20% to 30% of this treatment has no meaningful impact.  This would be bad enough if they were spending their own money, but they’re spending taxpayer money as though there’s an endless supply.  85% of these bills are paid by the government or by insurance. 

The terminally ill, the aged, and people with advanced illnesses are effectively trying to deny their own deaths.  However, one man in the report noted that this is only a delusion, and it makes people act in ways that make no sense.  Although, of course, they can’t prevent their own deaths, they are preventing themselves from dying a natural death.  Instead, they’re dying an unnatural death.  Some people think that death is the worst thing that could happen.  However, this is actually worse than dying.  This is dying badly–hooked up to machines, being treated (unsuccessfully) by dozens of doctors, and having tests that do no good and serve no purpose.  75% of deaths occur in hospitals, even though most people say that they would rather die at home.  30% of hospital stays are unnecessary, and all hospital stays include the risk of hospital-acquired infections. 

I believe that we need to make two fundamental changes in the way that we deal with death: 

1) We need to stop trying to deny our own death.  Each of us needs to understand that, although we can sometimes delay death, it’s often better to die a natural death.  The denial of death is especially poor judgment for Christians, who should know that they’re going on to a better life in eternity, with God. 

2) We should not expect our doctors to simply become better and better at delaying death for us, prolonging it as long as possible.  What we need from our doctors is to become more skilled at determining exactly where we are on the long road between birth and death.  For example, suppose that we’re in ICU, being treated by a dozen specialists, and taking a dozen medications.  Perhaps the best thing the doctors could do for us is to be honest and tell us when they believe that we have about two months left to live.  They should explain, for example, that we could continue in ICU and expect to live two months.  On the other hand, they should tell us if it might be possible for us to go back home, stop most of the medications, and die a natural death in six weeks. 

When faced with this difficult decision, why not take a route of less aggressive treatment, such as pain management, and die at home or in a hospice?

Enough of the NYC Mosque

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

The media frenzy over the NYC mosque is quite amazing, but I think it’s a bit overdone.  It’s not uncommon for the media to exaggerate the importance of an issue when they can’t find anything better to talk about.  It’s unbelievable how this issue has stirred the emotions of Americans, and made it into the top national issue.

I agree with most Americans on this issue.  The First Amendment allows the Mosque to be built, but our better judgment says that it shouldn’t be built so close to Ground Zero.  Those who want the Mosque to be built will forever argue their First Amendment rights, and some even claim that the Mosque will be a memorial for those killed in the 9/11 attacks.  Those who agree with me will argue on the side of better judgment.

There:  It’s that simple.  Those are the two sides of the story.  How many more weeks and months do we have to hear the media rant and rave about this issue?  Let’s move on.

For the last few months, the media has been exaggerating the effect of the Gulf oil spill.  Of course it wasn’t until their exaggerations were exposed that they stopped covering the story so voraciously.  Next month they will probably begin exaggerating stories about the upcoming elections.  We just need to learn all of the tricks that the media uses in order to get our attention, and judge these issues based upon their true merit–not by the sensational tactics by the media that make us listen to their reporters.

I’m tired of hearing about it.  Is the mosque story really more important than issues like the economy, unemployment, taxes, and our soldiers who continue to die in Afghanistan?

Tax Increase by Not Extending the Bush Tax Cuts

Friday, August 6th, 2010

If the Bush Tax Cuts are not extended, everyone’s taxes will increase–and more than you might expect.  Although the new tax rate tables have not yet been established, we do know that the old (higher) rates will return.  The exact income cutoffs (modified for inflation, etc.) are still unknown, but the tax rate tables at the bottom of this post are reasonable estimates.

Use the calculator at Bush Tax Cut Calculator to find out how much your taxes will increase.

Tax Bracket Married Filing Jointly Single
10% $0 – $16,750 $0 – $8,375
15% $16,750 – $68,000 $8,375 – $34,000
25% $68,000 – $137,300 $34,000 – $82,400
28% $137,300 – $208,250 $82,400 – $171,850
33% $208,250 – $373,650 $171,850 – $373,650
35% Over $373,650 Over $373,650

(Estimated) 2011:

Tax Bracket Married Filing Jointly Single
15% $0 – $70,040 $0 – $35,020
28% $70,040 – $141,419 $35,020 – $84,872
31% $141,419 – $215,528 $84,872 – $177,006
36% $215,528 – $384,860 $177,006 – $384,860
39.6% Over $384,860 Over $384,860