Aleteia

The Devil’s Lies and False Promises of This World

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We’re on an endless treadmill, always reaching for “just one more thing”

One of the great illusions under which we labor is that if we just get one more thing from this world, then we’ll be happy. Perhaps if we just had a little more money, or a better job, or the latest iPad, or if we were married to so-and-so, or if we just lived in a better neighborhood … then we’d be satisfied and content at last. But “at last” never comes, even if we do get some of the things on our list.

As Ecclesiastes puts it, The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing (Ecc 1:8). Or again, Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income(Ecc. 5:8).

Though we know this, somehow we continue to buy into the lie again and again: that just one more thing will do it. So we lay out the money and spend the time, but the delight lasts only twenty minutes, tops. The world just can’t close the deal.

There is a little preacher’s parable that illustrates the endless treadmill the world has us on, and shows how the world endlessly seduces us to want “just one more thing.” In the end, this seduction leads us to neglect the one thing most necessary. Here is the parable, followed by some commentary:

There was a man who was lonely and thought, perhaps, that buying a pet would help his loneliness. At the pet store he looked at many animals, and found himself drawn to one in particular.

The sign over the cage said, “Talking Parrot: Guaranteed to talk!”
"This will surely solve my problem,” thought the man, “For here is an animal that can even talk!”

“That’ll be $250,” said the merchant.

"One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder and talk?”
“Ladder? You didn’t tell me about a ladder!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, and talk?”
“Mirror? You didn’t tell me about a mirror!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, peck the bell, and talk?”
“Bell? You didn’t tell me about a bell!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man returned saying, “This parrot still isn’t talking!”
“You mean to say,” said the merchant, “he didn’t climb the ladder, look in the mirror, peck the bell, jump on the swing, and talk?”
“Swing? You didn’t tell me about a swing!”
“Oh, sorry,” said the merchant, “That’ll be $10.”

One week later the man came to the shop and the merchant asked, “How’s the parrot?”
“He’s dead!” said the man.
“Dead?” said the merchant … “Did he ever talk before he died?”
“Yes, he finally talked!” said the man.
“Well, what did he say?”
“He said, ‘Don’t they sell any birdseed at that store?’”

Lesson 1: Promises, Promises 

And thus this parable teaches us in a humorous way that the world and the “prince of this world” are always promising results. Yet when those results are lacking, the practice is simply to demand more of the same. First the bird, then the ladder, then the bell, then the mirror, and then the swing. There’s always something more, and then the perfect result will surely come! This is a lie. The lie comes in many forms: just one more accessory, just go from the free to the paid version, just buy the upgrade to solve the difficulty, just one more drink, one more diet, a newer car, a bigger house, a facelift, bariatric surgery, etc. It’s always just one more thing and then you’ll make it; happiness is just past the next purchase.

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