Author Philip Caputo, in his memoir about serving in Vietnam, wrote about his idealism in wanting to respond to John F. Kennedy’s famous phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.” He thought he could do something for his country by serving in Vietnam.
He wrote: “In the patriotic fervor of the Kennedy years, we asked, ‘What can we do for the country,’ and the country answered, “kill VC' (Viet Cong).”
The violence, the insanity, the mind-numbing slaughter were taking their toll on the men until the officers had come up with a new strategy to motive the solider to fight. “From now on,” Caputo wrote, “any marine in the company who killed a confirmed VC would be given an extra beer ration and the time to drink it. Because our men were so exhausted, we knew the promise of time off would be as great an inducement as the extra ration of beer. So we went along with the captain’s policy, without reflecting on its moral implications. That is the level to which we sunk from the lofty idealism of a year before. We were going to kill people for a few cans of beer and the time to drink them.”
What a powerful commentary on humanity, on evil, on human evil. Even the best of intentions can go bad, even the purest of motives built only upon the foundation of human goals and dreams, can so south — and quickly, too.
Hence, in the Word of God says: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:11-13).
Whatever we do, whatever our loftiest goals, we must build them upon only one foundation, the foundation that, indeed, comes from above, from the God who made us, sustains us, and has in Jesus saved us.
Otherwise . . .