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God’s Fine Print

Now that the festivities are winding down and the actual day has passed, I thought I’d make the point that although my school boy theology is nearly 30-years rusty, but its most likely that the person we know as Jesus of Nazareth was not born on December 25. I’ve heard several reasons for this, ranging from the change of the calendar by the Emperor Constantine (the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire) to the fact this date was associated with Saturnalia, an old pagan fertility festival that the early church founders found easier to adapt than abolish.

That little snippet of trivia should in no way distract from the significance of the festival. The birth of Christ is the central theme of Western and by many extents, global civilization as we know it and if the date of December 25 is a “set-up” it was a pretty clever one in as much as the day after is St Stephen’s Day or Boxing Day as its better known. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian faith. He was, a man who refused to bow down to the version of God as expressed by the Sanhedrin and penalty for Jews who p*** of the Sanhedrin back in those days was stoning.

This was how Stephen died for this faith - Not the best way to die … Photo: Lee Jay Walker

So, why would the early church leaders choose to commemorate very brutal death of the first Christian martyr straight after it celebrated the birth of Jesus, or the reason for the church’s very existence?

As a matter of disclosure, I did take Christian theology up to A-levels and my teacher expected me to read theology at university. However, I realized that I didn’t have the patience for detailed study and the thought of learning ancient Greek (the compulsory element as you have to read the New Testament in the original language) and used the national service period as a reason to abandon the dreams of those who had great hope in me. I place this disclaimer so as to clarify that I am merely giving an opinion based on my personal beliefs and observations.

I believe the significance of having St Stephen’s day after Christmas sends a clear message about faith and just about everything else in life, which is the fact that you cannot have glory and joy without being prepared to suffer for it. The point is easier to explain at Easter where we commemorate the pain of Good Friday before the glory of the resurrection of Easter Sunday. However, the point should not be lessened at Christmas. Think of St Stephen’s day as the fine print of the divine contract. Everyone gets excited by the “birth of the savior” on Christmas day because it’s a promise of all sorts of wonderful things. However, there’s the fine print, which says that in order to reach the promised land of heavenly glory by following the proverbial “savior,” you got to be prepared to lose everything, including your life.

This is important because much of the modern capitalistic system is based on instant gratification without the painful bits. Lotteries are the prime example. The odds of winning the lottery defy logic. According to Forbes, you have a 292.1 million to one chance of hitting the big power ball jackpot. By contrast you have a 300,000 to one chance of being struck by lightning. You’d think that with such poor odds, no logical person would by a lottery ticket. Yet, despite these odds, lotteries throughout the world continue to thrive? Why? Everyone is attracted by the prospect of being wildly rich without having to slog and save towards wealth. Being rich is attractive – working to the extent of having to pay a personal price is not.

Another extreme example is “miracle diets” which promise you a beautiful body is you just buy them. I would love to be as lean and trim as Bruce Lee in his prime. Training for six hours a day and 365 days a week like Bruce Lee is a different story: [LINK]

These are extreme examples but the point remains, most of us want the glory without having to struggle for it and there’s a twist to it in Singapore where an “easy life” is seen as an “entitlement.” Too many of Singapore’s leaders forget that one of the key elements of our success came from having to do the ground work. Lee Kuan Yew wasn’t born Prime Minister. He had to struggle to know his electorate. The English-speaking Mr. Lee had to force himself out of his comfort zone to communicate in Mandarin and Hokkien to get people to vote for him.

However, this isn’t the case today. How many of the ruling party’s potential candidates for parliament have had to leave their comfort zones to know the electorate? The only criteria for parliament seem to be checking the right boxes set by an all-knowing party executive and before you know it, you have a cushy side gig paying an allowance that is five times the national average wage.

At least politicians have to face some form of competition every five-years. Lower down the line you have senior civil servants being appointed CEO of big companies in businesses that are unrelated to their previous work experiences. It’s called “Sharing talent” with the private sector and everyone is supposed to believe this will benefit the rest of us. Doesn’t work like this in 2021/2022. Bosses are expected to understand the ground and know how their organisations work. Yet, nobody expects the former civil servants to know the businesses they have been parachuted to run. Why are we surprised when the companies run by former civil servants end up with floundering share prices and un-balanced sheets despite having a national monopoly on essential services and products?

The leaders of the media industry once claimed that the market was “too small for competition.” The reality is that it is “too controlled” to punish managerial incompetence. Too many of our leaders across all sectors fall in love with being the boss without understanding that bosses need to do work. Hence, they rush out of their way to lavish luxuries and opportunities on hedge fund owners but struggle to pay what is due to movers and stationary providers without understanding that their business needs the support of partners. Yet, the system shields them from incompetence.

This has to change if Singapore Inc is to have a future. Market forces must be allowed to punish leaders who fail to do the work of leaders. In religious terms we all want the divine glory that Jesus brings but are we prepared to put the work that Stephen died for? Unless we are willing to answer in the affirmative, we shouldn’t get the divine glory.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

17 Responses to “God’s Fine Print”

  • Singaporeans R Free Riders:

    Too many of our leaders across all sectors fall in love with being the boss without understanding that bosses need to do work.
    ===========================================================================
    Very true, Tang Li.

    That is why Singaporeans cannot get any jobs because Singaporeans are just 10 years series templated exam cheaters aka workers, not leader.

    Anything not in 10 years series, Singaporeans don’t know what to do.

    Singapore will never punch above its weigh with 10 years series exam workers

    PAP supporters please print/distribute/share my post.
    In Dollar$ We Tru$t. Prai$e the Dollar$. Glory be with the Dollar$

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must be Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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  • Wasnt born in Winter:

    When Mary (Mariam; peace be unto her) gave birth to Jesus (Isa, peace be unto him), the shepherds were busy herding their flock of sheep to graze.
    Was it Winter, Spring or Summer? Definitely not Autumn.

    When politicians rise to power, was it not their duty to see to the wellbeing of the citizens who elected them? Nay. Most are there for the Easy Money and Huge Fortunes.
    All cahootly ezlinked!

    When power is used for personal gains, tyranny sets in unrebelled, much to the sufferings inflicted upon the sheepled citizens.

    When policies fail, sheepled citizens are conveniently blamed for whatever reasons that can be cooked up.

    Not when the ruling politicians make all the blunder, they still can plunder selfservingly.

    When will this world come to a convenient stop? The Only One God knows. Not two, not many but One.

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  • Fire:

    There are no God .

    Don’t peach .

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  • operate on cost recovery model:

    //Why are we surprised when the companies run by former civil servants end up with floundering share prices and un-balanced sheets despite having a national monopoly on essential services and products?//

    they operate on cost recovery model right (no competition as in monopoly ??), so when costs go up (due to inefficiencies or wastage ?? but may be pushed it as market conditions as an excuse ??), just recover it from consumers lor by raising price lor (monopoly right so no competition to put them on their toes which anyway it all comes down ah kong consumers lor ??) ????

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  • educational system:

    //That is why Singaporeans cannot get any jobs because Singaporeans are just 10 years series templated exam cheaters aka workers, not leader.

    Anything not in 10 years series, Singaporeans don’t know what to do.//

    and which dominant force has designed such educational system (reinforced by the whole poo-litical eco system ???) under one-party curry function for the past 5 decades where most of the people in the past has been conditioned to such mindset ???

    can lesser peasants make noise by mass protests and demonstrations to tell them that something is wrong OR the white monkey idiots want to have the quiet safe environment to think and ‘tweak’ ‘tweak’ ??

    same one party curry function, but how many education ministars we have which keep on changing while still in the CAN-BEE-NET ??

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  • opposition dude:

    The incompetence of the PAP is highlighted so often these days that we just simply expect them to screw up more and more and aren’t disappointed. It’s true that a lot of ground work had to be done in the early years since there wasn’t a huge number of volunteers to rely on unlike today.

    The newspaper loves telling us that PAP has good ground machinery and is well oiled but so what, they still lost 2 GRCs in 3 elections and are expected to lose more. These days voters aren’t so impressed with mediocre ministers anymore and so have taken initiative to kick them out. Just go ask anyone you know who resides in Sengkang, why did they not vote for PAP?

    The current useless PM has shown far too many times he can’t do any work excpetopen that big mouth of his to give beautiful sounding speeches during May Day and the NDR. This is reflected in his vote share last year. He will still be boss come the next election since they will just keep very very quiet on who the next PM is anyway. Since he has already lost 2 GRCs we wait and see how many more he will lose next time.

    And this idiot still thinks that voters should trust his government and that they will look after us HA! Talk about being delusional!

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  • theforgottongeneration:

    “….Too many of our leaders across all sectors fall in love with being the boss without understanding that bosses need to do work….”

    This is especially true, and very damning for SG, for our most expensive PM and his ministers. Loong is the BIGGEST Free Rider in our history, always with a “clutch mentality” on his daddy. The GE2020 results proved CONCLUSIVELY that he can hardly stand on his own without daddy support in the background. His ministers seems to be selected more on being Yes-people than for their competency or merits, aka balls carriers.

    BTW, technically such “parachutists” and balls carriers are by definition NOT leaders. At best they are Appointed Managers or Authoritative Figures. Leaders are those who inspire and can accomplish great things beyond their authorized powers. None of our PM/ministers has inspire this generation nor is their mediocre performance (for their million$ pay) considered as exceptional.

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  • theforgottongeneration:

    An aside on “fine print” policies by our million$ PM/ministers – now Loh Kean Yew has revealed that he did not get any prize money from our Sport Council or SBA or whatever ministry-in-charge after he had done SG proud by winning the recent World Badminton Championship. Yet the pappies so thick-skinned, baking in his glory when he returned to SG. Perhaps it is in the fine print for Loh to represent SG for FREE, but SBA and the minister (ET) trying to soak off some credits is truly DESPICABLE; Or that is the standards of the PAP nowadays?

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  • SureDie:

    In the finer or final  print, God is also an authority you subscribe to or bow to. If there is a god,  this God is talking about your god. A god of the people by the people and even for the people or a people’s God. In other words, it is the people who breathe life into this “God” or a god made out of their hands/ works.
    This “Gods” surface in politics as well as in religion.

    Joh 10:34-35 KJV 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

    The 10 great laws or commandments were written about these gods. So long as the people empower these gods, they(political and religious rulers/leaders) will behave like gods(an authority) to the people.

    These gods,  to a certain extend,  will grant or rule in the people’s favour or entrench them deeper into their vices, lusts or personal well being(mostly material well being etc). The religious however seeks or were led to seek the transcendental or matters related to the intrinsic/unseen world or of their fertile  Imagination(basically out of touch with reality).

    You can say there is a very tight or strong clasp around the people,  like the winding grip of an anaconda.

    The vast majority of the people want it that way. Both leaders and people embrace to their…graves.

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  • No accountability:

    Straits Times: Autopsy performed on boy who died 75 days after Covid-19 jab; public urged not to speculate on death

    The public will not speculate if the government is open and transparent.

    1) When a 15-year old student died on Feb 4 following an incident at SAFRA Yishun the cause of death was never made public. WHY?

    2) The student at River Valley High School (RVHS) who had mental issues killed another student in the same school. DID MOE and/or RVHS know of the boy mental problems before the tragedy? If yes, what did they dfo about it? If they did not know, why? Again, no reply from MOE and Education Minister CCS on what happened BEFORE the tragedy. WHY?

    3) A teenager died at East Cost last July when the basketball backboard structure fell on him. To date the police has not said the cause of this tragedy. It is definitely NOT an accident. The structure would not collapse if it was properly designed, installed and maintained. This is the responsibility of East Coart Town Council headed by DPM Heng Swee Keat. He has not admitted responsibility for this tragedy. WHY?

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  • Billy ma:

    It is common knowledge that incompetent PAP MPs & poor quality PAP scholars are parachute into big titles big salaries jobs.
    Basically PAP doesn’t care about whether these dudes can positively contribute to the big chairs that were given because this is a PAP rewarding system & no profitable returns necessary.

    So the situation is such that screwup PAP dudes are brought in while those really good at their jobs are forced out one way or another.

    Let see how long such corporations can last if this reward system not only continue but enlarge to bring in more screwup PAP dudes.
    And worse is that these PAP dudes got zero shame when taking the jobs.

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  • Accountability:

    Need to have accountability.
    Reward good work but must also punish stupidity and inaction.
    Need more creative leaders.

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  • Smart Nation:

    Stephen is memorialized for his service to the poor, his faith despite persecution, and his Christ-like spirit of forgiving his persecutors. Not sure how the Feast Day of St. Stephen came to be celebrated immediately after Christmas, except that he was the first Christian martyr. Christmas celebration on Dec 25 is an adaption of the festival of Saturnalia in honor of Roman pagan god. The early church adapted it to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many of Christian ideas find similarities in ancient pagan religion – miraculous birth; son of god; god dying and returning to life; and worshippers identifying themselves with the gods in rituals and sacramental meals. Even the offering of animal sacrifice to the gods in exchange for divine favor was an ancient practice. Despite claims of special revelation, religion like most things evolves and adapts to its environment.

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  • xoxo:

    Even Jesus’ first miracle required human effort.
    At the wedding in Cana,the groom was worried as his household ran out of wine in the midst of the wedding.
    His servants were so worried,so too the groom n his bride.
    Mary,Mother of Jesus,saw what was happening.
    She asked her Son for *help*.
    Jesus told Mary,the time was not right.
    But Mary simply told the servants,* Do as he tells you*.
    Jesus told the servants to fill up the empry wine jars with water,yes water.
    The servants listened and did exactly as told.
    The water changed to the best wine at that wedding.

    You see,even God wants man to do his part.
    If the servants did not do as instructed,there wont have been a miracle.

    Sgs,we need to do our part,whatever it is.
    Even by just voting wisely…

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  • Mortal man also can:

    If LKY had declared tap water to be the best maotai, 70% would agree instantly. People would bid $100,000 for a glass of it.

    xoxo:
    Even Jesus’ first miracle required human effort.
    At the wedding in Cana,the groom was worried as his household ran out of wine in the midst of the wedding.
    His servants were so worried,so too the groom n his bride.
    Mary,Mother of Jesus,saw what was happening.
    She asked her Son for *help*.
    Jesus told Mary,the time was not right.
    But Mary simply told the servants,* Do as he tells you*.
    Jesus told the servants to fill up the empry wine jars with water,yes water.
    The servants listened and did exactly as told.
    The water changed to the best wine at that wedding.

    You see,even God wants man to do his part.
    If the servants did not do as instructed,there wont have been a miracle.

    Sgs,we need to do our part,whatever it is.
    Even by just voting wisely…

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  • Saul of Tarsus or apostle Paul:

    Acts 22:3 Saul is taken to Jerusalem as a boy (see 1 on Map 21) and is taught by Gamaliel, a respected Jewish Pharisee (see Acts 5:34).

    Acts 7:58 Saul looks after the coats of the men who stone Stephen to death in Jerusalem in 35AD via Dolorosa, Jerusalem, near St Stephen’s Gate

    Acts 8:1-3 Saul leads a violent persecution of the young Christian church in Jerusalem. He goes from house to house, dragging men and women off to prison. When believers are found guilty of what is considered to be “blasphemy”, Saul calls for them to be stoned to death (see Acts 26:10).

    At St Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem
    Stephen disciple of Jesus was stoned to death
    (Acts 7:58)

    Acts 26:9-11 Saul of Tarsus begins to persecute the Jewish followers of Jesus in foreign cities.

    Acts 9:1-9 In 35AD, armed with the Jewish Sanhedrin’s authority to persecute followers of “The Way of Salvation” (an early name for the Jesus Way), Saul sets off from Jerusalem to Damascus

    Just before reaching Damascus, the risen Lord Jesus appears to Saul – who falls to the ground blinded. He is led by the hand of his travelling companion into the city, and spends three days neither eating nor drinking. Thereafter you have the converted Paul…. self proclaimed apostle to the Gentiles.

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  • SureDie:

    That’s why western democracy is not going to work. The east is sceptical and suspicious of the democratic doctrines. But mainly because it panders to people’s …lusts and exploited by corporate entities. Neither authoritarianism works either(for obvious reasons).
    Chinese is toying with their model of democracy,  close to Sin’s model(very grey), which we know is a farce.
    All heading the wrong way – collision.

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