How in the world does a guy like Bernie Madoff live with himself? What must have been going through his mind over the years to justify his actions? Can a person be so morally hollowed-out that he has absolutely no care or concern for those who trusted him? How could he look so many people who knew him personally and trusted him with their life savings in the eye and lie so convincingly over such a long period of time? Does he LOOK like a thief and a liar?
This case is a good one to illustrate the value of at least three of the overall topics for discussion on this site: worldview, government and the law, and morality.
It is obvious that Bernie Madoff’s worldview was inaccurate. He believed that he would not get caught, or that the penalty he would have to pay would not be all that dear if he did, or that the penalty exacted by the law would be the only one he would have to pay, and that it was all worth it in order to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. But I believe that he has not even started to see the penalty he will have to pay. He has given Satan and the powers of darkness a great victory, and he will have a very long time to regret his actions, deeply, bitterly, and completely.
Were his actions immoral? Most of us would agree that they were, but when it comes to our own actions, we have a blind spot that keeps us from seeing ourselves as anything other than “good”. We have an almost infinite capacity to justify ourselves, no matter how immoral our actions are. But what the Bible teaches us is that “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So we Christians see his sin just as clearly as others do, but we see our own as well, and we are all too aware of the fact that we could just as easily have gone the same way – serving only ourselves and having a blind spot that keeps us from seeing it.
So we avoid the impulse to strike back in anger, and to demand his head on a pole. We understand that he who carries hatred in his heart is poisoning only himself. And we try (it’s very hard to get this one right!) to love him. Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. That is a most counterintuitive worldview, but it is one we have a lifetime to work on.