Them’s the Breaks

and this thing called consequence

Have you ever heard this saying? ‘Them’s the breaks’. I recently heard it for the first time as I followed the political unravelling of a former Prime Minister. In resignation to what was before him, he shrugged it off as ‘them’s the breaks’. Then, within a month, as I binge-watched a series (yes, yes, in one of my moments of aimless but very needed distraction), one of the characters, in full acceptance of his circumstances, shrugged, ‘them’s the breaks you know’.

When I first heard the saying, someone tried to explain it to me. The explanation didn’t shed any light on the meaning for me, so I turned to Mr Know-it-All, Google. According to Google, ‘them’s the breaks’ is a term that originated in the game of pool or billiards. It refers to the breaking of the formation of the balls after they’ve been racked. If you’ve played pool before, or seen it played, you would know there’s little control over how many balls are sunk and into which pockets they go. ‘Them’s the breaks’ then, refers to one’s resignation to the outcome of things and an acceptance of consequences whatever they be.

Turning now to our Gospel for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, from Luke 16, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (not the brother of Mary and Martha). In the parable, Jesus tells of a rich man who, while he was alive, lived the good life and did nothing to help those in need. Among ‘those in need’ was Lazarus, a beggar whose body was ‘covered with sores, [and] who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table;’ (Luke 16:20-21). As the ‘breaks’ would have it, Lazarus and the rich man died, seemingly at about the same time. Lazarus, whose name means ‘God has helped’, was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham; the rich man ended up in Hades where he was being tortured.

Suffering in the torture, he looked up and saw Lazarus with Father Abraham. He called out to Father Abraham that he might send Lazarus with just a drip of water to cool his tongue. In response, Father Abraham returned, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:25-26). If ‘them’s the breaks’ was an expression in the first century when Jesus walked the earth, I think Father Abraham, might have chimed in at the end, ‘What can I say, Mr Rich Man, them’s the breaks!’

Last week, in my piece, ‘The Dishonest Manager’s Day of Reckoning‘, you were encouraged not to fret at the prosperity or seeming good fortune of the wicked for their day of reckoning would be upon them and they would have to account and pay the price for their actions. You will recall, in the parable of the dishonest manager on which the piece was based, not only was the manager called upon to account for what he had done with his master’s money, but he also suffered the consequence and was fired. Now, here we are again, confronting the fact of the inevitability of the consequences of our actions.

Friends, it doesn’t matter who you are, your station in life, the power or resources your command, you will be held to account for what you do. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve gotten away with a wrong deed, eventually, it catches up with you and you will have to account and pay the price. If I might say it this way, your getting away with sin – dishonesty in business, infidelity in relationships, inattentiveness to your family, abuse of the trust of others, laziness, envy, greed and other vices – is God’s way of declaring God’s almighty power by showing mercy and pity. Let me break it down further: your getting away with whatever wrong you commit is God’s way of giving you an opportunity to repent and to do right. Do not be deceived into thinking you’ve avoided the consequence of your action.

God is infinitely merciful and God’s desire is for all His children to be reconciled to Him. And, although He recognises that some of us will choose (whether or not we recognise it) not to be reconciled to the Father, He, in His mercy and pity will continue to give us an opportunity to repent. He will continue to present us with opportunities to get back on track and honour our purpose. Be reminded: our purpose is to keep in step with God’s will.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in God’s wisdom, Lazarus was probably deliberately placed at the gate of the rich man so that daily he could be given an opportunity to show love for his neighbour as written in the Epistle (1 Timothy 6:6-19). That is,

‘to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [himself] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [he] could take hold of the life that really is life.’

1 Timothy 6:18-19

Regrettably, the rich man didn’t take heed. He never stopped for a moment to consider how he might help Lazarus and well, in the parable, we see the consequence. Them’s the breaks, I suppose.

Friends, whatever you choose in this life, choose life…eternal life. As Paul encouraged Timothy, I encourage you: ‘pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called […]‘ (1 Timothy 6:11-12) Living by this code, you will attain your purpose whatever your missions in life. Forget the things of this world, ‘for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;’ (v. 7). If you observe, the conjunctional phrase is ‘so that’. It means it has been designed that way so that we would focus on a higher purpose and a higher cause, a purpose and a cause that keep us in eternal life.

Friends, in this life, we must choose wisely the path we walk for while we may choose our path, it is not for us to choose the destination of that path. What can I say? Them’s the breaks!

Until next time,

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