Weekly Thought – December 12, 2023
Fred started playing golf at 50. His fascination and love for the game never waned. He studied the game, used it in illustrations, and always carried “his sticks” with him – just in case! In his latter years he was bedbound and watched hours of the golf channel. He once commented to golfing friends, “I would be so much better if I were playing now because of all the hours I have watched.”
Morality versus Legality
Among individuals of character, the legal simply defines the minimum morality needed for a healthy, well-functioning society to function, benefitting the individual and the group. As long as no one wants an unfair advantage but rather desire everyone to have all that he deserves, laws can be simple.
Men (and women) of good will can have honest differences of opinion, and these can be covered legally in short order. Men of ill will use the law not for rightness, but for wrongness… this necessitates voluminous documentation.
Golf gives me an excellent illustration of the reason for law. Few games have such volumes of laws with such extensive interpretation. John L. Low, chief compiler of the 1902 Golfing Code clearly shows why. “The code of laws is being used by individuals to escape the law rather than to abide by it. They want interpretations which will favor their escape but bind their opponents. The pity of golf today (1905) is that men play entirely to win. It would be happier for golf if it could be remembered that the true good is in the playing, not the winning. The man who does his best and loses has wrought his play as bravely as the winner and is entitled to feel equal satisfaction from the day’s engagement. Those who will not abide by the spirit of the game cannot be trusted, and they need the law to birch-rod them into the ways of honesty.”
I have played with theologians who cheated – intellectuals who remained ignorant of the laws on purpose – and otherwise honest men who opportunistically made exceptions to the law for their own benefit as well as legalistic friends who would ask for interpretation hoping for advantage. These are all ways to get around the rules.
You could simplify a great many golf rules by stating: “A player shall not create any advantage for himself other than by skill.” This would do away with picking the ball up – cleaning it – moving it – kicking it – soiling the club – stepping behind the ball – and all such things which are really manufactured improvements for the advantage of the player. Yet human nature would cry out that these actions were merely a way of recompensing an unfair circumstance. This is their idea of a “fair advantage.”
Wherever morality far exceeds legality, there can be a reverence for the spirit of the law permitting the simplification of the law.
In my humble opinion, when golf became only about winning, Satan was given membership in the club. He sends some of his demonic minions our with every foursome shouting “Win! Win! Win! Win!”
This week carefully consider: 1) How often do I fall into the trap of thinking more about the legality than the morality? 2) What comes to mind when I think about the proliferation of laws? 3) Who would enjoy and understand Fred’s golfing illustrations?
Words of Wisdom: “Wherever morality far exceeds legality, there can be a reverence for the spirit of the law permitting the simplification of the law.”
Wisdom from the Word: “The one who conducts himself in integrity will live securely, but the one who behaves perversely will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9 NET Bible)