Time for Carlos to Sacrifice

I watched the new Desperate Housewives tonight, and the plotline that stuck out to me the most was Carlos’ job dilemma. But Lynette almost running over that guy who threatened her son was a close second!

Carlos is getting his sight back, and he needs a job. One of his old cut-throat CEO colleagues wants Carlos to work for him, since he respects Carlos as a “shark.” Carlos’ wife, Gabby, wants him to take the job, since it pays in the six figures and offers all sorts of fringe benefits. After she accepts the CEO’s offer on Carlos’ behalf, she rushes to the mall to buy some expensive shoes.

Carlos, however, has something else in mind: he wants to work with the blind at a community center. Gabby invites the CEO and his wife to dinner so Carlos can hear him out, and Carlos grows annoyed with the CEO’s stories of his exploits as a cut-throat businessman. “Maybe you can tell that story to the other CEOs in hell,” Carlos jokes to him. Carlos and Gabby also get to observe the CEO’s strained relationship with his wife.

The next day, Carlos announces that he’s made his decision: he still wants to work with the blind at the community center. He doesn’t desire a job that robs him of his soul and keeps him away from his family. He wants something fulfilling, a job that can allow him to make a difference in the world.

Gabby responds, “Look, I’ve been helping a blind man for the past five years. It’s not as fulfilling as it looks!” And she goes on to remind Carlos that she has sacrificed for him for five years, and it’s now time for him to step up. The family has been poor, and she has had to sell her cherished items (e.g., fancy clothes, shoes, etc.) to take care of life’s necessities. Carlos then calls the CEO and accepts the job. And Gabby goes to her closet and kisses her new shoes!

At first, Gabby struck me as rather shallow. “I thought this lady grew after her years of self-sacrifice. But no. She’s still the same old materialistic Gabby!” But when Mary Alice (the narrator) said at the end of the show that people don’t like to struggle, and Gabby was shown looking out the window with a tired look in her eyes, I began to identify with her more.

Personally, I don’t care about dresses and a new pair of fancy shoes because (1.) I’m not a woman, and (2.) I’m not obsessed with how I look. But fashion is something that’s important to Gabby. And she has had to do without for five years to take care of life’s necessities. I can’t always buy everything my heart desires, and I’d probably have to sell my cherished CDs, DVDs, and books if my family didn’t help me out. Fortunately, I haven’t come to the point where that is necessary. Gabby, however, was not so lucky.

Here are some things that come to my mind:

1. Will Carlos be a shark when he takes that CEO position? Sure, Carlos looked rather selfish when he expected Gabby to keep on sacrificing just so he could fulfill his feel-good desires. But the fact is that Carlos has changed. He’s no longer the money-grubbing, ruthless CEO that he was five years before. He’s learned to value other things, like family, life, beauty, and giving to others. Will he be able to resume his role as a shark? Or will his soul continue to be intact just because he’s doing what he doesn’t like for Gabby and his kids?

2. Gabby’s statement that helping the blind isn’t all it’s cracked up to be is refreshingly honest. A lot of us expect community service to resemble what we see on Highway to Heaven–with everyone smiling and feeling good about helping others. And service work can indeed have those sorts of rewards. But there’s another side to it: the grunt work, people’s lack of appreciation, wondering if you’re even making a difference, etc.

3. I thought about the rich young ruler, the one Jesus told to sell all his possessions. Mark 10:22 says, “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (NRSV). Gabby’s situation reminded me of that, since she preferred having possessions over her husband helping the blind full-time. (She was open to him doing service work on the weekends, just so long as he took the job with the six-figure salary.) Similarly, the rich young ruler chose wealth over Jesus’ ministry to the poor, the sick, and the blind (among others).

Is Christianity only about giving things up? I remember Joyce Meyer saying that the rich young ruler was actually the one making the sacrifice with his selfish, short-sighted decision. He could have gotten so much more had he forsaken his wealth to follow Jesus! Not only would he have gotten treasures in heaven and the satisfaction of helping others, but he also would have received his treasures back, and so much more.

We see something like this in the text. Later in the chapter, Jesus tells his disciples, who gave up everything to follow him: “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life” (vv 29-30). Notice that Jesus mentions rewards in this life, not just the hereafter.

And here are some points that came to me in my Luke quiet time ages ago. I always had problems with Jesus’ sayings about giving to others. I have in mind passages like the following:

“[A]nd if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). This is directed towards Jesus’ disciples, so we can’t use the argument that Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler applied only to him!

Give to everyone who asks? Give even my cloak? I’d have nothing if I did that!

But Jesus says these things with the presupposition that God is an abundant provider:

“[G]ive, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

As Proverbs 11:24 affirms, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.”

I’ve heard stories in which these principles work in real life: a person tithes or is generous, and God blesses him financially. But then I’ve heard the opposite as well. Armstongites could be extremely generous in their tithes and offerings, and many of them suffered as a result.

But the Bible doesn’t necessarily present a zero-sum game, in which giving to others means deprivation for oneself. Rather, there are places where it affirms that people can experience the best of both worlds: service, along with happiness in this life.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Daily Quiet Time, Desperate Housewives, Highway to Heaven, Luke, Matthew, Religion, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Time for Carlos to Sacrifice

  1. R.L.Scovens says:

    I loved this post!


  2. James Pate says:

    Aaa, you just say that because I quote Joyce Meyer, R.L! :p And understandably so. She is quite a teacher!


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