There are a couple of levels upon which we operate in this life. The first is the level of the Base Plane where we deal with such questions as, What do I want / What do I need / What's in it for me, etc. This is the low plane of life, the plane of the minimal existence. There are few complications of conscience here. This low plane is basically about subsistence and survival - no big questions asked.
So it usually becomes, in practical terms, merely about paying the bills, coping with the kids in the minimal amount of time, doing what has to be done, grabbing after personal advantage, and keeping a low perspective to avoid the more complicated issues.
Life on this lower plane is efficient and streamlined and mostly repetitive. It doesn't require complex thought. It does not require us to become involved in the abstract or consider the larger and more noble issues. But neither does this plane add much to us, personally, or to our world. Actually, over time, life lived on this low plane makes us to be quite ugly and empty.
The second level upon which we can choose to operate in this life is the level of the Higher Plane where we do, indeed, become involved in the higher issues: Is it right / Is it good / Is it moral / Does it please God, etc. This is the plane of conscience and intellect. This is the plane where we address the more complex questions, where the abstract comes into play, where we do take on the complicated stuff of mind and conscience.
Life on this plane is not so efficient. This higher plane of life requires us to be more conscientious, more intellectually invested and aware, and more sensitive to a larger array of concerns. This plane of living simply takes more time, and thought, and energy for its processes.
As long as we are only about the immediate issues of the lower plane, basically, "What's in it for me," or "How does it benefit me or mine," we will never be great people, people of gravity, truly respectable people. Such smallness is simply not respectable. In fact, when our sphere of concerns becomes that small, we become people of the most minimal merit.
On the other hand however, we can take our head out of the "simplistic sands" of the lower plane. We can choose to look around and begin to measure our existence by the higher values of life. It is when we gage our existence by these higher values: love, self discipline, honesty, morality, integrity, honor, duty, faithfulness, humility, godliness, etc. that we do, indeed, become people of the higher plane.
And, in fact, bringing us to the higher plane of life, to the higher and more noble concerns, is absolutely God's purpose for us in Christ. However, I think it accurate to say, we are not cooperating with his intentions at the level that we did, even a generation or two ago.
What is different about the Church of today is the lower percentage of people who are willing to embrace life on the higher plane. What is different in our homes today is the lower percentage of parents that are people of the higher plane. What is different in Washington today is the lower percentage of leadership who are willing to live and lead by the values of the higher plane. What has changed in our world is the smaller number of people who are willing to pursue life on the higher plane.
Perhaps all of us operate on the lower plane of life in some measure. But not enough of us get beyond that meager level now. Not enough of us operate on the higher plane of conscience and character anymore. That's too bad. We would be much better people, have a much better life and a much better world if we did.