05 April 2013

Playing Fair

Last month it was “March Madness” time in the USA. For non-American readers, this is the time for the national university basketball championship tournament. (Which this year, actually ends in a few days from now - 8 April). It’s a very big deal. I have had the opportunity to watch some of the games thanks to modern technology. There were some big upsets in the early rounds. It was all very exciting.

Sport is not the only source of competition at the university level, however. There are musical contests and various forensics and academic titles to be sought and won. Competition is no less fierce than on the court or the ice or the field. One such competition is called the National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT)   

On the same day I read of a small university from Florida overcoming basketball giant Georgetown University, I also read of a scandal at the NAQT.  Harvard University, that current bastion of (American-style) liberalism, was stripped of four academic tournament titles because it cheated.

J.K. Trotter of the Atlantic Wire writes,
Quiz bowls aren't really known for attracting cheaters — the 2006 British hit Starter for 10 excluded — but, as recent history suggests, if there's a way to cheat, a Harvard student will find it. According to a "security update" posted earlier this week by the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC (which holds and judges quiz bowl tournaments), Harvard's quiz bowl team will be stripped of four quiz bowl championship titles after the company caught four students on Harvard's team illicitly accessing official quiz questions before the tournaments were held.

Harvard University is the oldest university in the United States, having been founded in 1636. It was founded by ministers, to fill a need for trained ministers of religion. How the high have been brought low.

It’s in this small space now, that I should attempt to answer the question, “why do people cheat?”. Forget it. That’s a much-too-complex question for this blog (or this mind). But, I will say this, it’s a basic sin-issue. Yes, man is sinful. He has desires, which he (she) often allows free reign.

James, the brother of Jesus, has much to say on this topic in his epistle. In the first chapter he writes:
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV)
verses 14 and 15 are pretty straightforward. You want stuff, including athletic trophies and academic titles, so you will be willing to sin to get them.

James goes on to set the matter even straighter in chapter four, where he states What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (vv. 1-3, ESV).

You are willing to go to any lengths to get what you want. You will even murder.

Cheating is rife in academic institutions the world around. Even the military academies regularly catch cadets and midshipmen being dishonest in their academic pursuits. Cheating is commonplace in relationships. The most broken promise ever made is the wedding vow.

So, does James offer any solutions to this problem of sin and cheating, passion and murder? He does, but it’s not exactly a magic potion. Sin will continue to exist until the end of time (a subject we will NOT be looking into here). James writes:  "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, (AD)that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." (Chapter 5, verse 16).

Prayer is the answer. Sounds simplistic, perhaps, but it is the answer. Prayer and repentance will turn around the most vile of sinners. Will it clean up the world as we know it? Maybe to some extent, but we will still live in a sinful world. The Apostle Paul completed the though, in a sense, when he wrote to Titus.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14, ESV.
The answer is Jesus. We don’t need to cheat to get this answer. It’s plain for all to see and comprehend.

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