Below is my modern mash-up (simply updating pronouns, gender and style) of a parable written by William Rathvon in 1911. The original portrayed an auction, as the devil was “going out of business” — but perhaps that was a bit premature in 1911? — being prior to two world wars. Well, fast-forward to where he’s now holding a weekend yard sale, hoping to cash out before the apocalypse arrives either to snuff or “rapture” his potential buyers; or before Jesus descends from the heavens onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (which would disrupt Lucifer’s rummage sale) — so, queue the medias’ search-lights in Jerusalem! ~see Acts1:11. (Note: I consider myself a Judeo-Christian believer – yet only God knows if I qualify – so please recognize that my sarcasm is not directed at Jesus, but rather at some widespread misinterpretations of the Bible.)
Indeed these notions have spilled out of “the churches” — dangerously infecting the general public of western civilization, and beyond. If you believe the end is near, or that your life or human civilization is at risk of becoming dark, or worthless, or even over, be alert! (Belief shapes experience, which, for example, is why BigPharma spends millions doing double-blind experiments, including into placebo-effects about the power of belief.) If belief affects personal physiology, is it too far-fetched for it to affect our social mindset, too? Well, perhaps “the end” is greatly exaggerated? But hey, every life seems to have an end! – or maybe a coda (a “next chapter”)? – or a sequel? — so let us recall that there have been at least five major global extinctions of life across deep history, yet life continues. And now we have “Extinction Rebellion” — young people vigorously resisting a “sixth”. Well, all stories do have an end, so what do YOU believe about “The End”? What story do you occupy, or anticipate?
Clearly the devil has not read Professor Bart Ehrman’s disruptive new book, ARMAGEDDON: What the Bible Really Says About the End — or he wouldn’t be so hasty to liquidate his tools. (Ehrman is a prominent, some might say “infamous”, church historian.) I’m confident the devil doesn’t want you to read a free sample excerpt ! — so, do it anyway ? OK, here’s my modern version of Rathvon’s parable:
THE DEVIL’S YARD SALE
It was recently announced that the devil was holding a weekend yard sale, and would offer his tools for sale to anyone who would pay his price. On the first night of the sale they were all temptingly displayed, and a bad looking lot they were: malice, envy, jealousy, holier-than-thou (a.k.a. “pride” ~see v.16…), hatred, sensuality, deceit, betrayal, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. As a centerpiece, there lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of the others.
From among the crowd, someone asked the devil what it was for. “That’s discouragement,” was the reply.
“Well, why do you have it priced so much higher than all the others?”
“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of them. With it, I can pry open and get inside anybody’s consciousness, even when I couldn’t get near them with the uglier, more complicated tools; and once inside I can use that person in whatever way I desire. It’s so battered because I use it with nearly everybody, as very few people are aware that it belongs to me.”
“You say you use this wedge-of-discouragement with nearly everybody — with whom are you unable to use it?”
The devil hesitated a long time and finally said in a low voice, “I can’t use it to get into the consciousness of a grateful person.”
It should be added that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it, and is still eager to use it.
REVIEW quotes of Ehrman’s book:
“Vigilantly persuasive.” —The Washington Post
“Lucid and compelling.” —Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Ambitious.” —Publishers Weekly
“Well-argued [and] certain-to-be-controversial.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Ehrman is always highly readable… posing thought-provoking questions about what readers believe and how those beliefs affect their actions. Lots to ponder here. –Booklist