Buying your way out of sin

I found it at a petrol station, somewhere in the middle of Isaan, pasted to the information board: the sin table. An enterprising Isaan monk had solved the centuries old problem for us: how do I know whether my good deeds compensate for my sins?

At the top all good deeds were listed that would earn you points. At the bottom all the sins with the number of penalty points. Scoring points wasn’t all that easy. Everyday good deeds, like being friendly or helping someone only get you a half point. The penalty points accumulate a lot quicker. A little  lie already results in ten penalty points.

I don’t know where the monk got his information. But  I found it remarkable how the sins were weighed. Committing adultery? 50 penalty points! Gambling? 200! So after sharing your bed with three different people who are not your spouse, you still have les reason to have a burdened conscience than after buying a lottery ticket.

Yet the worst sin of all, topping the list with 100,000 penalty points was… cutting a forest. This may lead to the comforting thought: okay, I lie and deceive every day, I stole 17 times, I burnt down 3 houses, and I cheated on my wife 131 times, but… I did NOT cut down a forest! I’m not doing all that bad.

On the positive side  a good analysis of the tabe opened up some useful opportunities. The most important good deed that you may do in your life is to always take care of your  parents. That gives you 100,000 points! That is so much that all the other good deeds really are not worth your time (except of course if you have cut down a  forest).

Hidden in between the other good deeds I found the ultimate indulgence: Donating a square meter of land to a charitable institution gives you 1,000 points. I caught myself calculating how much land I need for a life of sin without worrying.

Then I realized I don’t need  to calculate. I already know the result  of 1 penalty point: “For the wages of sin is death”. And the solution is not being the owner of a large estate: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). There is no need to count. “You will cast all our debts into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19)’

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