Archive for the ‘King Solomon’ Category

Cigarette, gambling and alcohol stocks up in down market
Published: August 22, 2010

BOSTON — So much for virtue.   Sin is in.

That’s according to a mutual fund manager who’s finding investment opportunities in companies profiting from vices like smoking, drinking and gambling. Jeff Middleswart’s aptly named Vice Fund is beating the house in a down market.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down 1.9 percent this year. Yet stocks of cigarette makers are up an average 12 percent…
….Defense contractors — another fund mainstay — are up an average 12 percent. Alcoholic beverages? Up 6 percent.

As discussed in this space a few days ago, a friend from high school updated his Facebook status for religious beliefs to list hedonism.     This has had me thinking on the topic at many levels for the past few days and the issues accompany such a life choice.

Hedonism is defined as the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good, a devotion to pleasure as a way of life: The later Roman emperors were notorious for their hedonism.   Synonyms: sensualism, libertinism, debauchery, dissipation, carousal.   

Hebrews 11:24-25 tells us: It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  

The fleeting pleasures.    That’s just it.    No argument that the world and even sin is alluring.   Just ask Eve about that piece of fruit.   The depth of the canyon draws us in.     But it’s fleeting: there is no lasting “high” that does not need to be replicated.    This life is not the ultimate and complete experience.    We all live, and we all die, but the end is not goodbye.    

Solomon had a lot to say about this topic following his later years of life and pursuing his passions, pleasures, and riches and power unknown to people like us.

Ecclesiastes 2   (The Futility of Pleasure)

 1 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2 So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” 3 After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

 4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

 9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

M*A*S*H is an American television series adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH about three army doctors. The series is a medical drama/black comedy that follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. M*A*S*H’s title sequence featured an instrumental version of the song “Suicide Is Painless”.  (wiki)

As I was mulling over this post a few days ago, an episode of M*A*S*H came on TV.   I’d not seen it in years.     There on the screen was Hawkeye Pierce, and principal character, hero, funny guy, and all around hedonist.    No one character probably better lives out the hedonistic persona in my mind than this one.     Caught in the midst of a horrible time and trying circumstances, Hawkeye seeks to avoid pain and seek pleasure in any way possible.    Guilt is not in his vocabulary.   Supporting characters follow some moral tones throughout the seasons of the show, each influencing Hawkeye is some small way, but each being influenced by his lifestyle as well.

In the end, the pain is still there.    Life is still short.   And suicide is not painless.    To quote Hawkeye:  “in war, there are two rules.   Rule number 1: young men die.   Rule number 2: doctors can’t change rule number 1.”

But hope does not disappoint us.  Romans 5:3-6

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

M*A*S*H can be an entertaining show.    Just realize that the characters are not “saints in surgical garb”, and that there’s more to life than pleasure.

There’s also more to life than the “American Way”.     More to follow…


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A follow-up and tie in of the past two posts is in order.   Kudos to Wikipedia for the multi faceted definitions interspersed below…

Moral hazard occurs when a party insulated from risk behaves differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.   Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not take the full consequences and responsibilities of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to hold some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.   For example, Bo and Luke Duke driving was a true case of moral hazard: every time they (or, more appropriately, the stuntmen) took a flying leap in the General Lee, they knew the show’s producers would have an undamaged carbon copy of that orange Dodge Charger sitting there ready to drive away in the following scene, no matter how badly the jump vehicle was damaged or destroyed to the viewing pleasure of the CBS audience.

More broadly, moral hazard occurs when the party with more information about its actions or intentions has a tendency or incentive to behave inappropriately from the perspective of the party with less information.  For example, the aforementioned Mr. Jeffrey Skilling, CFO of one Enron Corporation.   Not only did he create, craft, and conjure the multi faceted accounting fallacies that brought both riches and ruin to Enron, it also cost countless employees their livelihood and investors large sums of money, not to mention those who were impacted by the reckless tinkering with the energy markets.

Moral hazard also arises in a principal-agent problem, where one party, called an agent, acts on behalf of another party, called the principal. The agent usually has more information about his or her actions or intentions than the principal does, because the principal usually cannot completely monitor the agent. The agent may have an incentive to act inappropriately (from the viewpoint of the principal) if the interests of the agent and the principal are not aligned.    The relationship between God and Jonah and the situation in Nineveh falls within this “principal-agent problem” definition, don’t you think?    The agent, Jonah, had more information about his actions and intentions, but he neglected to accept that God knows all.    Likewise, the interests of the agent and principal were not aligned: why else would Jonah sit under the plant and eagerly await the destruction of Nineveh, angry when it did not come to pass?    But God had other plans.

It has long been recognized that a problem of moral hazard may arise when individuals engage in risk sharing under conditions such that their privately taken actions affect the probability distribution of the outcome.     King Solomon is a great example of this scenario.     Widely accepted as potentially the wisest man to have ever lived, Solomon engaged in an escalating pattern of ever riskier behavior, contrary to the advice and counsel of God, the One Who blessed Solomon with such wisdom to begin with.  

1 Kings 11 (Solomon’s Wives)

 1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 

 9 The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. 11 So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.

So what happened in these cases?    How did the falls occur?       Simple: the motivations were wrong, or they changed over time.     Pride.      Lack of focus.    Focus on a false horizon.     And fall they did.       

Jeffrey Skilling was focused on money, and overcome by greed, to the detriment of what had made him a success, that is his skill, experience, and acumen in financial planning and business.       Jonah was focused on his on wishes, his fear of the Ninevites, and his pride, to the detriment of what made him noteworthy, that is his relationship and standing as a prophet of God.     Solomon was enamored by women.      He could not have enough, and wanted almost every one he encountered.     That had to make for one contentious palace.    No wonder he built so many.    He had to keep these women separated so they could not gang up on him.

So where’s the application for us?   For me?     The other Jeffrey in this story, not Mr. Skilling, but Mr. Bingham?     Maintain your focus.   Don’t be fooled by false horizons.     Keep you head up and looking toward God.    The depth of the canyon is awesome, and you wonder intently what it is like at the bottom.    What richness of color and mystery it presents.   Beware, the slope is slippery near the edge, and the abyss is deep.     Very few survive to recover from their falls into such depths.

Heroes fall when carelessly skirting the canyon ledge.     More on that thought later.

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