God’s warnings require our attention

Curtis K. Shelburne

It had to be a government production, the sign I saw. Only a glassy-eyed bean-counting bureaucrat with common sense completely and laboriously expunged by years of mind-numbing training could have produced it. (Your tax dollars at work.)

Posted above a busy tramway, the sign proclaimed in large letters: TOUCHING WIRES CAUSES INSTANT DEATH. Good information, that.

But then in smaller letters was posted this message: “$200 Fine.”

Well, fine indeed. But I’m not exactly sure what to make of that.

I’m always as willing as the next guy to avoid shelling out two hundred bucks, but if paying up is presented as the alternative to sudden and gruesome death, I’d likely shell out a couple of C-notes.

Does the second warning belie the truth of the first? “Touch these wires, moron, and you’ll surely be quick-fried to a crackly crunch!” But maybe not. In which case, you’ll be fined, and that’ll teach you!

Or maybe there’s no contradiction at all. Maybe the long arm of the bureaucracy involved will reach right past death. The dead dumbo, smoky and smelling a lot like an electrical fire, finds himself waiting almost eternally (in a long line, no doubt) in front of a desk in the afterlife. He waits forever to file the forms in triplicate needed to remove the $200 lien on his account that’s got his posthumous processing locked up in limbo.

I’m not sure I get it. The sign’s message, I mean.

But I AM sure I won’t be touching tramway wires if I should happen to run across any. I don’t like the sound of that stiff fine.

Some governmental signs and warnings can be a bit baffling. But it occurs to me that when God gives a warning, we do well to pay very close attention. Some things that we touch will hurt us worse than even an electrified tramway wire.

Touch adultery, God warns us, and you will get scorched. Count on it.

Grab on to greed, and you’ll end up with some awfully bad burns. You can be sure of that.

Grasp bitterness, and embrace an unforgiving and critical spirit, and it won’t matter at all that you have been so mistreated and have such a very good excuse for being bitter: you’ll end up twisted and alone.

Grip such tempting wires, and so many more like them, long enough, and your soul will die, fatally scorched. And, yes, we do well to be wary of eternal death, but the sad fact is that if we choose to play with that which is deadly and embrace hellish attitudes right now, we can easily create a hell for ourselves a long time before we die. The fine inherent in such offenses is dreadfully high.

When God posts a warning, it pays to pay attention.