Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale is a genius of irony. The Pardoner tells of three drunks who go off to kill Death, a hilarious over-personification. An old man tells them they’ll find him resting under some trees up the road around the corner. When they get there, they find eight bags of gold and immediately forget their original purpose. Instead, they propose to cart the gold off at night. In the meantime, one goes in to town to get bread and win. The others stay and watch the loot.
But then one suggests they kill the third, thus dividing the treasure between two instead of three. For his part, the guy getting win buys poison to kill his buddies and get all the gold for himself. When he comes back, they kill him. Then they drink the wine — and die.
There’s plenty of irony in this story but the ultimate irony is the fact that it’s told by a Pardoner, a guy who goes around selling “indulgences.” What better way to get people to give him money than by urging them not to be greedy with a hard-hitting story. In telling others to not be greedy, the Pardoner shows his greed.
Posted in Christianity
Tagged ambition, Chaucer, Faith, greed, inspiration, Jesus, love of money, ministers, Pardoners Tale, pastors, reflection
Shakespeare’s MacBeth starts with good intentions. He defends the king from a traitor. When he’s promised the kingdom, he swears off procuring it himself. If it falls to him, he’ll take it.
But the good intentions soured. Dark ambition took over his heart. When the king visited his castle, MacBeth killed him and made it look like it had been the king’s own guards. As next in line to the throne, MacBeth got the crown.
All his bases were covered except his conscience. He hallucinates that his hands are covered with blood. Then he argues with the ghost of the king in front of his friends. His kingship was short. What’s ill-attained quickly will go up in smoke.
Working 17-hour days, Michael Milken epitomized an age of unrelenting ambition. Peddling high-risk, high-profit “junk” bonds, he made millions in the 1980s. Milken despised sleep. It interfered with making money. Tens of thousands of business men emulated his work ethic.
But now, this do-without-sleep mentality is totally discredited. Today high-flying execs extol a good eight-hour night of Zzzs. Sleep doctors warn that minimizing sleep cuts your lifespan. Bed manufacturers boast about the latest technology. If the 80s generation thought they could skip sleep, their credo is debunked.
So here´s the comparison. Just as you can´t skimp on sleep without consequences, so too you can´t scrimp prayer. We are the hurry, worry, and scurry nation. With long to-do lists, prayer seems expendable compared to “urgent” priorities.
Actually, the truth is the opposite. Neglect all your ministerial work before neglecting prayer. Just as sound sleep leads to health and enhanced performance, so too your prayer time — how ever long it is — can´t slacken.
Prayer is God working for you. Lack of prayer is you working for you. If you work, it may not work out. But when God works, nothing can impede.
In 1990, Milken plea-bargained guilty to six counts of securities and tax violations. He paid $200 million in fines and served 22 months in prison. He is now a philanthropist.
Milken´s anti-sleep motto fell into disgrace with him. Remember the “junk bond king” offers “junk.” Don´t junk prayer.