Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sammy Sinner and Matthew Moral

Here's Sammy Sinner. His life is a mess. He grew up in a non-church going home and began using drugs in his early teens. His late teens were filled with sexual promicuity and heavy partying. He's a slacker -- lazy and hopelessly addicted to video games. He has had a few part-time jobs, but keeps getting fired. He's been getting into heavier drugs and alcohol lately, and is feeling his life spin out of control. Even his friends don't seem to want to be around him. In spite of doing terribly in school, he has somehow managed to get into the local State University.

Matthew Moral walks the straight and narrow. His family faithfully attends a mainline church every Sunday, including Sunday School. He's been taught from an early age to work hard, be disciplined, and do his best in school. Handsome and a skilled athlete, he has always been popular with other kids. Not surprisingly, he's a nice guy -- a kind and generous soul. He's a leader in his youth group and president of the Honor Society. Stellar grades in school land him a scholarship at the local State University.

Sammy and Matthew somehow both end up on the same floor of a dorm, where an upperclassman is leading a small Bible study. Matthew comes because he's supposed to. Sammy comes because he's tried everything else. Within a few weeks, both of them come to understand the gospel for the first time. They both give their lives to God through faith in Christ.

So, the question is this: In terms of living the Christian life, who is better off? Sammy or Matthew?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why Matthew Moral of course! -

The other guy will be back on the dope and drugs in no time....

11:28 AM  
Anonymous abe said...

this is sort of a simple example, but i think i understand what you are getting at, and i wonder the same thing. we have these two models of spirituality that we hold up as truth. one, exemplified by Matt, is that holiness and character matters. the OT is full of recommendation for godly, or holy, or admirable men. proverbs seems to indicate that all else being equal, it is better to be good than bad.

but it's also become very popular these days to glamorize sam's conversion, as if he can appreciate grace more deeply. i can understand the logic; we need to see sin to see forgiveness.

while this is not a strict answer to your question, i'm inclined to say that there's more scriptural evidence to say that Matt is better off. or rather it's better, when all is said and done, to be a covenant child, rather than a prodigal son. but then i just reminded myself of the parable by the same name, which teaches the converse.

so, i don't think you can say. rather, it's not for us to judge.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous b said...

I feel like Matt will continue to deal with wanting to earn his salvation, since works have been drilled so deeply into his life thus far. He'll have to be reminded by God that his good works do not make him deserving of grace.

But Sam will most likely have to deal with feeling deserving at all. It seems he will feel more "bowled over" by the idea that God loves him even though he has done nothing to deserve it, but he may continue to struggle with the reverse side of pride--the side that wallows in our undeservedness (if that's a word) and thinks that we are too bad for God's grace.

Recently, my pastor made the statement that someone with a covenant family testimony has the "best" kind of testimony. I think this is a ridiculous statement. It may be "convenient" since said person didn't have to go through the prodigal hardships, but salvation & testimonies are life-long happenings that can't be judged as better and worse.

5:57 PM  
Blogger chris said...

I really appreciate these comments. I'm very interested in what people think on this matter. The goal isn't to try and figure it out necessarily -- it reveals something about you.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

This is a very interesting post Chris. I myself am drawn to what Abe said earlier. The story of the Prodigal Son seems instructive here, suggesting at least, that neither Sammy nor Matt are in a preffered position before God.
There is something to be said however for good and sound character, the consequences of which last a lifetime. Perhaps Sammy and Matt might end up just as godly. Nevertheless, Sammy will have some baggage to carry as a consequence of his previous actions that Matt (all things being equal) will not. The path of wisdom does carry virtue and the path of the fool brings folly.

12:34 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Thanks Xavier. I agree that from a wisdom standpoint, there is no question who is better off.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Ann said...

I would like to weigh in here :) So, is the question we really want to ask "who is better off?" I mean, doesn't even posing this question promote an us/them mentality? As a former Sammy Sinner, i have had many conversations with "lifers" that essentially boil down to one of two comments: well, you sure have an amazing testimony...God has really done a work in your life (and he hasn't in Matthew Moral's life?) or well, you really know what grace is!!(Matthew Moral's grace is less/greater than mine?). Those comments are generally divisive and even somewhat offensive. I would love to see the evidence in scripture that shows one is better off than the other. And, as far as wisdom goes, Matthew had the wisdom of God practically from's like having (and using) a road map to get where you need to go. Sammy didn't have Godly wisdom. Yeah, Matthew's situation was a better one from a wisdom stand point, but i wouldn't really agree that Matthew was "better" b/c of the situation.

7:50 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Thanks again, Ann. It's good to hear from a fellow "Sammy."

8:31 PM  
Blogger Jill Pole said...

Chris - the reason I haven't commented on this is that I find it an impossible question to answer. It would completely depend on the individual life of the person. I don't mean to be critical of the question -- but it's too simplistic. How can we possibly answer?

Are you asking, "Who will find living the Christian life easier?" Again - I just don't know. Maybe Sammy's former life will lead him a strict rule following mentality as a compensation. Maybe Matthew will fall into the idea of grace and be drawn to the heart of God. Maybe the opposite will happen. If these were real people and I knew their story, maybe I could have more to say; but I just can't contribute without knowing more.

I'm not sure that we can say either is "better off." It depends on how God is moving in the hearts of these men. How are they choosing to grow and pursue God?

2:35 PM  

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