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I want, you want, they want

And he [Jesus of Nazareth, around AD 32] called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny self and take up his cross and follow me."            Mark 8: 34

The States of Jersey Police Six Month Crime Review for January to June 2009 has a Section headed “Acquisitive Crime”. Offences included in this category include theft, shoplifting, burglary, fraud and forgery. The months of March and May 2009 saw a significant increase in ‘Acquisitive Crime’.


The Section could be headed “’They-Want’ Crime” – ‘They Want’ rather than ‘I Want’ because all readers of the Review will see the statistics as referring to the crimes of others and not of themselves.


Parents and grandparents who spend time with young children and grandchildren will be very familiar with sentences beginning with “I want....” It’s quite an effort to alter this to, “Please, may I have...”   Even that does not alter the basic orientation of all children towards themSELVES and their desires.


At what age does the “I want” begin to change?


It’s quite a discovery to find, first of all, that in others it doesn’t change at all. Sometimes it is partly concealed. But one can readily detect the ‘He wants’ / ‘She wants’ / ‘They want’ in all areas of our lives here in Jersey as one tries to reach agreement on the rental of a flat we need or the price of a second-hand car we wish to buy or the purchase of something in a car boot sale?


Does it change in me? Somehow, we are far, far less conscious of the “I want” when we own the flat, are trading-in the car or selling the bric-a-brac. But it’s there. ‘I want’ a big rent, an excellent trade-in, more-than-its-worth for my car boot stuff.  


Jesus of Nazareth (a town no respectable person wanted to be associated with in AD 30 but which he chose to be associated  with) seemed to be particularly aware of ‘I want’ / ‘you want’ / ‘they want’. In one illustration he used a “great millstone” – an item of equipment that assured its (mill) owner of great wealth and success. But the millstone became the means of punishment for an ‘I want’ course of conduct that affected another person. The symbol of ‘all-my-wants-have-been-supplied’ was used to indicate the seriousness of a particular course of conduct that affected a child.


It would be better, Jesus said, for the perpetrator of that course of conduct to have had that millstone tied round his neck and then that he be thrown into the sea – rather than carry out that course of conduct. In other words, it was sound justice that the perpetrator should die by the very means that demonstrated that all his ‘I want’ had been amply supplied.


What was the course of conduct to which Jesus was referring? It’s rather important to find out. It’spart of an incident in Mark’s biography of Jesus of Nazareth (chapter nine). The incident started with a strong argument as to who was the first among the group of men who followed Jesus. Jesus drew attention to his grave concern that others (children, particularly but not exclusively), who might otherwise follow Jesus, would be permanently entrapped in that ‘I want’ culture as they watched the unending battle to be first.


The consequences for those adopting that course of conduct and thereby entrapping others within that permanent, irrevocable “I want” were worse than having their heavy wealth bring them to the bottom of the sea.


Because there is a very real problem with I want in Jersey (and, especially, in me Richard Syvret) are the words of Jesus in bold above not applicable to me? “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny self and take up his cross and follow me."


And if I don’t want to? Then let things carry on as they are. Let’s allow ‘I want’ to continue throughout our lives. Let’s employ more Police. Let’s have acquisitiveness – forever.


But what about our dear children and grandchildren?

 ‘The itch of acquisitiveness makes a man scratch what he can from another.’ (Thomas Watson, Pastor and Writer, 1620-1686)
‘And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.’ (At the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth AD 33)
Richard Syvret

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