I don’t know about you, but time seems to have taken on a very elastic quality for me these days. Our oldest son is set to graduate from High School in a mere four months and head off to basic training a couple of weeks after that. So of course it seems like only a couple of months ago we were bringing that little bundle nervously home from the hospital, wondering how it was that those nurses and doctors were about to allow two completely inexperienced people drive off with that brand new and utterly helpless tiny infant human.
I have shared much with readers about myself and my life in this blog. The new format is conducive to news but a little stuffy for the more personal stuff, don’t you think? Yet my “on a personal note” posts seem to draw the most interest. I think we all enjoy glimpses into the lives and hearts (and minds) of others, if only to know that we aren’t alone in the struggle to make sense of things in this thing we call life. It’s natural curiosity, and it’s also part and parcel of our humanity. Despite being a society that is becoming less personally interconnected, we cannot deny our own nature. People need other people. In a day and time when fewer people are willing to admit that, it remains an immutable truth.
Well, it’s that time of year! Tax time! Another task that automatically forces a person to sort of review the year past. Do you know what it was about the tax stuff that blew me away this year? (Well, aside from the headway we have made on the bills for my husband’s surgery and chemo treatments, and our younger son’s surgery-praise the Lord for that!). The shocker this year was the “year-to-date” cost of the medicine for my narcolepsy. I have been far and away the person in the family who has generated the most medical expenses in our family for the past decade and a half. Whereas this year my actual doctor’s visits were limited to one visit to my sleep doc, one to the rheumatologist, and two to my primary. That’s a pretty darn good health year for me! Yet my medication alone was in the very high five figures, and getting dangerously close to six. It’s not just the cost, but the fact that in the four and a half years that I have been on it, the cost has quadrupled. Tell me there is not something terribly wrong about that? But I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that this medication has not only saved my life, but given me back a quality of life that makes living bearable. I praise and thank God for this!
Generally a pharmaceutical company retains all of the exclusive rights for manufacture and sale of a medication for a certain number of years in order to recoup their investment in the research, development and testing, before the other Rx companies are allowed to produce a generic which will cut into the profits of the company who holds the patent on the original formula. But there is a category of pharmaceutical products known as “orphan drugs”. That’s what my medicine is.
Orphan drugs are a special category of pharmaceuticals that exclusively treat rare disorders. Treatment for an uncommon disorder which only a relative “handful of people” (in the U.S. it the designation is 200,000 or fewer) suffer from, does not offer the lure of lucrative profit potential, and which no company is willing to take on the cost of research, development and production of, because they would be unable to recoup their investment. This designation of “Orphan Drug” is applied to these discoveries which the scientific community and public recognize as inherently valuable in their potential to make a very significant (often life-saving) difference for those relative few, and therefore deem the worthy developing for society’s sake. Thus other means of financing the research and development have been devised, including tax breaks and extended exclusivity of the patent (seven years) in order to encourage pharmaceutical companies to take on the production of the needed drug. The Orphan Drug Act was passed in 1983 and since then 7,000 medical conditions have become treatable which had not been treatable prior to the Act. It is easy to see why the Orphan Drug Act is a good thing, but the downfall is that since only one company will be given these exclusive rights and privileges, that company, in effect, creates a monopoly over that period of time, and can drive the price up precipitously, which in effect defeats the purpose, since it is then priced out of reach to most of those patients who stand to benefit. Of course, charitable agencies often move in and take up the cause on behalf of the needy patients, but in the long run, this still results in what, to me anyway, seems like an unethical gain on the part of the pharmaceutical company. A company can also stretch the parameters of this law by coming up with new applications for old drugs. I understand there is a “bottom line” to be considered, but when a company takes advantage of loopholes and special provisions which were intended to benefit the needy patient with a rare condition, and it serves instead to line the pockets of “fat cats” at the top of the food chain in much the same way that has occurred in the banking industry, well, it’s just not right! It is reprehensible and this is the type of excessive personal gain that has given Capitalism a bad name. Big Pharma has a huge amount of clout in the political arena, lots of money to throw around after candidates willing to cater to their interests. There is nothing wrong with a Pharmaceutical company recouping their investment to develop a medication that benefits humanity as a whole, or even making a profit, but not if the purpose of the law is circumvented and defeated thereby.
Don’t get me wrong. Capitalism in it’s pure and true form, is good and a great part of what once helped make America the most prosperous nation on Earth. But the bad apple of greed has a way of spoiling the whole bushel basket. Nothing new under the sun, though, right?
So you’re thinking: “Corruption is rampant, so what else is new?”. Why write yet another post about it?
I guess that caveat, that principle of there always being someone “out there” manipulating things for their own benefit alone, and to the detriment of others, that struck that sore spot for me as I was going through our tax stuff. Honest, “good guy” folks do seem to finish last. We live with inequity and slights and unfairness every day in this world. Some much more than others. Because it doesn’t just happen in business. It happens in many aspects of life. Sometimes it’s in personal relationships; A “friend” who is only a friend when it’s convenient; a church leader who seems sincere, but proves to have been manipulative or duplicitous; a trusted city official who pilfered from the coffers to supplement her own lavish lifestyle.
I guess I have a strong sense of justice, and I will admit that for a great deal of my life I naively expected that if I lived by the golden rule, the same would come back to me. It is a rude awakening to find out that is not the case. But the thing is, that doesn’t let me off the hook, now does it? Yeah, that’s the kicker for a Christian. Our nature is to quickly recognize the wrongs of others, but our God-given mandate is that we are to turn that same scrutiny upon ourselves. We don’t get to point to our obedience and say that we are doing “a better job” of living an upright sort of life, because our example isn’t Joe Pharmaceutical, CEO. We have been provided a standard by our Standard-Bearer, and we don’t get to be smug just for doing what we are supposed to do, not even if we were to find ourselves the only ones left playing by God’s rules. We also don’t get to say, “well, nobody else is doing it so why should I?”. We might be very tempted, especially in a world where standards get lower by the second, to go that route, but it is not justified. And it won’t pass muster on judgment day.
One of my favorite possessions is a copy of Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” which is in journal format. It was a gift from my “best cousin” for Christmas in 2004. I can look back over those years and read what I wrote on a certain date each given year since then, and I can see where my mind was at that time, where understanding was very poor in certain areas ten years ago, and some progress in the intervening years and in new challenges. At the same time, I also can see patterns where certain areas seem to be harder to grasp. A step or two forward, followed by a step back. The Christian life is like that. We learn lessons, but we so easily lose sight of them and fail to recognize their application in the new set of circumstances we face in the present day, and so it can sometimes seem like we are having to learn the same lessons over and over. It is such a good thing God is so patient with us. It is such a good thing, when we get discouraged or frustrated at our own seeming inability to gain mastery in our spiritual understanding, to realize that God is a patient and loving Father who knows we are still learning. We truly are like sheep who need a shepherd. Sheep will get themselves into all sorts of ridiculous messes that they aren’t equipped to get themselves out of. But the shepherd doesn’t hold our weakness against us. He knows what we are.
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few chosen.
Chosen for what?
Somebody has to be last! The meek shall inherit the Earth. There always have been the poor, among us. There always have been those more materially endowed, those more beautiful, more talented, more charismatic, more adored. What is God’s purpose in this? Where does that leave “the rest of us”?
I have to confess that sometimes I get an attitude. “God, look, I have been killing myself down here, choking back my words when someone has crossed lines, trying to overcome evil with good, giving of my time and money, helping someone in need, being sensitive to others and thoughtful of ways to encourage them or bring a smile to their face. Why does it seem that the more I try to do this, the more alone and isolated I feel in the endeavor? Why do I have to always be that one? Why am I still trying? Forget it, I’m going to worry about me for a change!” True confession! And very telling of my underlying motives. If I am doing anything in hopes of reaping the same benefits from others in return, then I am doing it for the wrong reasons. There is not some “cosmic bank account” wherein we make deposits against which we can rightfully expect to make later withdrawals as needed. I should be doing what good I can with regard to God’s own generosity on my behalf. Period! If not, I’ve gotten myself “above my station”. I used to know that. When did I lose sight of it? It is so easy to allow life’s trials to make us cynical. Proper perspective is everything. God doesn’t command us to “bless them that curse you” as an exercise in piety. God blesses those who curse Him (hate Him, ignore Him, defy Him) on a daily basis; with health, and food, shelter, sunshine, the breath of their lungs, their life-sustaining heartbeat. God doesn’t love us because we love Him, He loves us because it is His nature to love. Love is not our nature, but the new nature of Christ within us should prevail in love through us, if we are rightly aligned with His Word and His Spirit in our hearts. Something is out of joint if that is not the case. Jehovah Jirah, my provider. His GRACE is sufficient. Unmerited favor is generous enough! I am sorry, but we are not entitled to “more” as long as we are here on this Earth. Though there is a great inheritance that awaits us in eternity.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
It is really none of my business why God seemingly blesses someone else “more” in monetary terms, in physical terms, in terms of talent or beauty, even in strength and health. Scripture warns many times that we should not be envious of the wicked, who seem to defy the rules and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer, with nary a twinge of conscience. But this doesn’t just apply to envying the godless. It applies to all envy and covetousness. Is thine eye evil because I am good? What does that mean? Do we look at God, who is generous even to those who do not love or honor Him, and grow angry and defensive as if we actually deserve to be blessed ourselves? Do we envy what God has seen fit to give to others and question His fairness? Envy is a snare and coveting tells the tale of our sin-nature.
Here is a thought that I have to credit to a song by Christian singer and comedian Mark Lowry. Christian; whatever you have today is more than you deserve, considering the fact that before your salvation, you were bound for hell itself. We forget that, don’t we? After being a Christian for a lot of years, we forget that was our original (default) destination.
We see someone else’s good fortune and even while we are sincerely happy for them, we ask, “God, why haven’t you ever done anything like that for me? Why does my life have to be so hard?” I don’t care who you are, or what challenges you are up against. There is always someone worse off, and
Mark Lowry had an “eloquent” way of putting it in this tongue-in-cheek “white boy rap” song entitled Sure Beats Hell, released in ’94 on his hilarious “This Is The Life” album. (I bought it on cassette and just about wore it out! I still have it, and pull it out from time to time). Click song title above or photo below to listen!