It was the oddest of arguments. In suing the tobacco company, the US government paraded person after person who testified that they had continued smoking even after being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses brought about by smoking. The legal argument went like this: tobacco is so addictive that even when faced with life and death choices, people cannot stop. The tobacco company has for years hidden the addictive quality of tobacco (never mind that for years the Surgeon General’s warning was on every box of cigarettes). Therefore the tobacco company is responsible and must pay the health costs for the States affected.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no love for tobacco companies or cigarettes. But the government’s case seems like an argument for irresponsibility. If I refuse to stop dangerous behaviour despite knowing its consequences and can plead my inability to change, then someone else is responsible for my choice. Why, gambling is addictive, and therefore casinos should take out ads in the media and put up displays outside, warning that gambling can ruin your life and the lives of your loved ones. And if despite those ads, I end up gambling, and if despite losing home and family, I cannot stop gambling, then casinos should be made to pay for my counselling and the costs of running homeless shelters. Drinking is addictive; if I keep drinking after being told that I have cirrhosis of the liver, it is the fault of liquor companies for letting me take the first drink that led to drunkenness. Sex, I am told, is also addictive. To some.
When it comes down to it, sin is addictive. As one great saint put it, “What I do is not the good I want to do; the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19). And whose fault is that? Why, God’s of course.
At least that is the way some would argue. And the way some have argued. After all, if God really does not want us to sin, then He should make sin unattractive, and humans incapable of sinning. If things are not that way, why should He blame us? (Rom 9:19).
Environment, genes, evil multi-national companies, these are all responsible both for society’s ills and each individual’s problems. Me? I am just a spawn unable to change. And since it is not my fault, I need not repent. In fact, the worse I am, the more we see the overwhelming factors over which I have no control. So, the worse I am, the more compensation I deserve. Of course, God does say that the wages of sin is death. But hey, by this time I have become too addicted to sin to stop sinning. So God should not only give me a free pass into heaven, but probably a special place at His right hand. After all, look what I have to endure.
Mary Yeo is ever grateful that taking responsibility is not the end of the story. Rather it is the beginning of God's redeeming and transforming grace.
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