by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
In the "good old days" of America's national pastime, players had a sense of loyalty to their teams. Many baseball players showed their loyalty by staying with the same team for years. Many of the "greats"—Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and many others—played for only one team throughout their big-league careers.
Well, that is not how things are done these days. For instance, Pittsburgh, though it seems to crank out championship teams fairly regularly, is a small-to-medium-sized market. Even in years of good attendance, the team cannot pay huge, multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts for its talent, so its best players look for greener pastures—sometimes even before their contracts expire.
Why is there so little loyalty in sports these days? Or is the lack of loyalty not a sports-related problem but a societal one? Has our culture of competition and each-man-for-himself attitudes spawned a society of disloyal, self-satisfying money-grubbers? Is it a sign that we are in the last days?
"A Culture of Mercenaries"
Near the end of a recent public television show called The Great Health Care Debate,the head of a watchdog think tank in Washington, DC, that monitors lobbying, said, "Washington is a culture of mercenaries."
What did he mean? In observing the superabundance of lobbying for political favors that takes place in our nation's capital, he could see that political initiative and votes are sold to the highest bidder. Dozens—hundreds—of law firms specialize in one or several areas of political action. In fact, Washington, DC, has the highest concentration of lawyers in America and probably the world. It is not surprising that it also has the highest per capita income in the U.S.
Kevin Phillips, author of Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street, and the Frustration of American Politics (excerpted in Time, September 26, 1994, p. 51), writes:
So many [special interest groups] had come to Washington or been forced to come [by the 1970s] that the city started turning into a special-interest battlefield, a competitive microcosm of interest-group America. When policy decisions were made, attendance would be taken, checks would be totaled, lobbyists would be judged, mail would be tabulated—and if a group wasn't on hand to drive its vehicle through the Capitol Hill weighing station, that organization was out of luck. . . . The city on the Potomac has become a golden honeypot for the politically involved, offering financial and career opportunities unavailable anywhere else.
He notes later that an unprecedented number of politicians in both the executive and legislative branches of government are resigning to take well-paying positions with Washington lobbying firms. Further, over half the legislators who are defeated in elections remain in the capital as lobbyists or attorneys. He writes, "[T]he corruption of Washington— . . . bluntly that is what we are talking about"(p. 52).
If the mercenary culture can be seen in sports and government, is it evident in other sectors of society? The evidence is overwhelming that this mercenary culture pervades America. Like the ballplayers, top executives in major corporations can be lured to new companies with better benefits, stock options, and fatter bonuses and paychecks. Tenured professors at universities can be bought with research grants, high salaries, and high-tech research facilities. Mid-level employees in every type of business keep their eyes on the help-wanted ads and a head-hunter in their back pockets "just in case."
A June 1994 survey shows Americans are willing to shelve their principles (if they have any) to pursue "the American dream." One third of the respondents said they would cheat on their income taxes. In fact, forty-five percent of adults with annual incomes exceeding $50,000 said they would not report $2,000 in cash income on their returns. Twenty-three percent said they would commit a crime to get $10 million if they knew they would not be caught.
Even the sacrosanct medical profession does not escape the mercenary culture. That prices are out of control is self-evident. Fraud, malpractice, and overcharging are frequent news items. The National Right to Life Committee reports in a recent letter that abortion doctors—an oxymoron—charge different prices for abortions (which they term "killing for hire"), depending on the lateness of the term. "In fact, if the abortion is one of the 15,000 performed annually in the U.S. after the baby is 20-weeks old," writes its president, Wanda Franz, "it has been suggested that the abortion fee should be determined by the length of the baby's foot. A long foot would mean an older baby and a higher price." Talk about adding insult to injury!
A Prophesied State
Should we have known this was coming? Paul writes prophetically in II Timothy 3:1-5:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Notice how many of these characteristics are traits of the mercenary. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition defines mercenary as "serving merely for pay or sordid advantage: venal; also: greedy." Synonyms for the noun form of the word include "hireling," "hired hand," and "hired gun." Adjectival synonyms are "bribable," "corruptible," "purchasable," "venal," "greedy," "avaricious," "voracious," "rapacious," "grasping," "covetous," and "money-hungry."
One of these traits of people in the last days, "unforgiving," is particularly appropriate. The margin of the New King James Version reads "irreconcilable," but the Greek word, aspondoi, literally means "without a treaty or covenant." It means they function as though they have no contract! They have no loyalty to a team, a political ideal, a company, or anything! If they have no loyalties, how can they be reconciled to anyone?
Does this affect us? Certainly! This is the type of society that has been influencing our thoughts, words, and deeds for many years. We cannot help to have taken some of this in because it is America's way of life!
We hear it subtly on TV: "Be all you can be!" Pop psychologists advise, "Take care of your own first." "You deserve more!" The get-rich-quick salesmen scream, "You can have it all!" Advertisers in every medium suggest you must live like the Joneses. It permeates our culture.
But it is not God's way of life! Yes, He wants us to prosper (III John 2), but the Bible also says, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). Paul then shows the example of Jesus Christ, who did not cling to His prerogative of being equal with God to come to this earth as a human to die an ignominious death and thus save us from eternal destruction (verses 5-8). When Satan tempted Him with promotion for His personal gain, He rejected it outright. He said, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Matthew 4:10). His loyalties were to His Father, righteousness, and holiness.
That is the kind of life we have been called to, a life that sees a higher purpose in our actions than personal satisfaction and fulfillment! We are not in it for the money, prestige, fame, or power!
"No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (II Timothy 2:4). We are not mercenaries or soldiers of fortune—we are soldiers who have been enlisted, drafted, to fight a spiritual warfare so that we can lead people in a better way of life in the World Tomorrow! To be caught up in America's mercenary culture is to become entangled in a snare of Satan's design. Our Elder Brother has warned us about this temptation and given us proven advice to combat it!
So let's leave this mercenary culture behind and fight the good fight as we have been trained!