Solving our Problems - Rodin's Thinker, Rubik's Cube
The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost


The solutions are simple. It's the symptoms that are complex.

The solutions to our problems are simple. The reason they seem complex is because they are shrouded in our unwillingness to change. Change means pain, and we will do anything to avoid that. We would rather take the longer, easier way around, even if it means ending up in the wrong place, than take the shorter, more difficult route. Because of this, we focus on symptoms rather than causes. It is a lot easier and less painful just to take a pill for what ails us, than to change our diet or lifestyle or start exercising. We are lazy, stubborn, unbelieving people. And yet, God keeps trying to work with us. Go figure.

Here's an example. The solution to the health care crisis is simple because the cause is simple. The cause is fear and greed within the health care industry. Patients mistrust doctors, so they threaten to sue if anything goes wrong. Doctors fear lawsuits, so they buy exorbitant insurance. Lawyers take advantage of this situation, exacerbating the problem. Insurance companies respond by raising the rates of both patients and doctors. Lawsuits and insurance drive up healthcare costs. Everyone is afraid and greedy, so the situation spirals out of control.

Now enter the enlightened Christian doctor. He believes in his hippocratic oath. He didn't go into medicine to make money but to help people. He tells his patients that he will do his best for them, but if they want him as their doctor, they will have to sign a release form stating that they will not sue him in the event something goes wrong. He doesn't have to buy the exorbitant insurance any more, so he is able to lower his rates. People love him, and his business soars. Pretty soon, other doctors take note of his success and follow suit. Health care costs drop and we once again have a health care industry that makes sense. The lawyers and insurance companies are the only ones that lose. Good.

Here's another example. There is a gap today between education and work, between employers and employees, that every young person experiences when he looks for his first job or starts out in a new career. It's called the experience gap. The prospective employer tells the job applicant that in order to work for his organization, the applicant must have experience. But the applicant can't get that experience without first getting a job. It's a Catch 22. The way many solve it is by lying on their resume. But that is both unethical and causes problems down the road when they actually have to deliver on what they've said they can do.

We created this problem when we did away with the master-apprentice relationship in the workplace. Originally, trade unions and guilds were set up to protect the knowledge and skills associated with a profession, and to pass that training on to the next generation. They did this through some type of master-apprentice program. The apprentice worked with a noted master in his field until he had aquired the knowledge and skills needed to become a master himself. Then he would either stay with his master as an associate in his business, or strike out on his own and hire his own apprentices. This system worked for almost six thousand years, for doctors, lawyers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

But at some point, fear and greed set in. Employers realized they were, in essence, creating their own competition. Once their apprentices were trained, they went out and used that training to compete against their old masters. What these masters didn't realize is that the master-apprentice relationship was enriching and growing their industry for everyone. But fear and greed caused them to be myopic. Thus, they stopped hiring apprentices and began hiring cheap laborers. And, since these people were not being trained to become professionals like themselves, they had little respect for them and began to abuse them. Pretty soon, women and children - the cheapest of labor back then - were being hired and mistreated. Thus were born the labor problems of the 19th and 20th Centuries, which caused trade unions to change from being propagators of knowledge and skill to legalized gangs hired to protect employees from their employers.

The fear and greed of employers, along with the fear and greed of trade unions, helped to create the gap that now exists between employers and employees. And it is not just an experience gap: there is also a hiring gap. Have you tried to find a new job lately? It's like finding a needle in a haystack. Have you tried to hire someone? It's a daunting task. There are no simple methods in place to connect job seekers with potential employers. Have you read job descriptions lately? They describe perfect people that do not exist. Reality and common sense have little to do with the job market today. It is in chaos. Why? All because we did away with the master-apprentice relationship in the workplace. So, the simple solution to this apparently complex problem is to reinstate that very practical institution. But, like the health care issue, it will take an enlightened Christian employer to do it. Will anyone have the vision and guts to do it? If they will, others will see their success and follow suit. And a very difficult problem will be solved.

Problems are simple and so are their solutions. It is only the symptoms of problems that are complex, and our own reluctance to change that keeps us from solving them. But do you see how it takes an individual with vision and integrity to do it? Because only such a person is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make the solution happen. Jesus was such a person. So were the people described in Hebrews 11. And so are we.

It takes faith, not big government, to solve problems. Yet, God's people, along with the rest of the world, are looking to Barak Obama and his administration to solve their problems. It won't happen. Governments deal with symptoms, not solutions, because it is problems that keep them in business. If the problems were actually solved, governments would be out of business. They're not going to let that happen.

So it's up to us. It's up to Christian doctors to solve the problem of spiraling health care costs. It's up to Christian businessmen to solve the problem of the experience gap, as well as the capitalist-labor, employer-employee gap. It's up to Christian educators to solve the problem of poor education. It's up to Christian filmmakers to solve the problem of inappropriate entertainment. Etc. The problems are simple. So are the solutions. But it takes Christian men and women of vision, integrity and faith to solve them - people who are willing to take the more difficult of two roads.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken" (1915)

In the weeks ahead, I want to share with you what I believe is the greatest problem facing us today and the simple solution to it. But it is the hardest problem to solve because it takes Mt. Everest size vision, integrity and faith. But I believe we can do it, with God's help. I hope you'll stick with me.


Waitsel Smith, January 25, 2009

Text © 2009 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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