Many years ago, Rod Serling penned an episode of The Twilight Zone in which a kindly antique dealer happened to release a genie from an otherwise worthless bottle. In keeping with tradition, the man was granted wishes—a generous four wishes—but warned by the genie to choose wisely. After wasting one wish on something insignificant and then consulting his wife, the man called for money, one million dollars to be exact, which the genie granted immediately. After giving away nearly $60,000 to their needy friends, the man and his wife eagerly totaled the balance of their nest egg. Unfortunately, before they could finish, the IRS auditor handed them a bill for all but five dollars of what remained.

He should have wished for one million tax-free dollars. He failed to consider the consequences of his wish and to wish accordingly.

Next, he wished for power, to be the leader of a modern, powerful country in which he could not be voted out of office. The genie immediately granted his request and, in a flash, he found himself in a bunker, surrounded by Nazi attendants and sporting a class of mustache that will never come back.

He should have considered the genie’s fondness for irony and been more specific.

The poor man had no alternative but to use his final wish to restore life as it was. The temporarily rich and powerful shopkeeper gained only wisdom from the experience. He learned, firsthand, that the power to wish without complete foreknowledge could be the making of his own hell. If only he had found a genie who genuinely cared about him.

In describing the problem of evil that continues to afflict the world as a result of sin, Paul has highlighted two human limitations that tend to make matters worse. First, “we do not see” (8:25). Our perspective is limited. We see nothing of the future and can never predict what will occur only a few minutes ahead. Second, “we do not know how to pray as we should” (8:26). We may do our very best to pray in harmony with God’s will, but we frequently wish for the very opposite of what is good for us. Fortunately, we do not have an evil genie for a god. And I cannot count the number of times I have thanked my Lord for not granting an earlier, short-sighted request!

Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Romans, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 173–174.

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