by: FCC Staff
While Yesterday's proverb warned us of the danger of avoiding promoting our own opinions over trying to gain understanding, today we are told what happens when we or others ignore that wisdom, choosing instead a path of wickedness, contempt, dishonor, and disgrace. While we can do our level best to avoid these pitfalls ourselves, it is inevitable that we will come into contact that refuses to engage in godly fellowship or even civil discourse, holding our honorable intentions in utter contempt. Certainly, we should avoid this arrogant mindset ourselves, but what should we do when we have tried our best to follow biblical wisdom and others refuse? Paul had some wisdom to share in this area for his protege Timothy, and it is applicable for us today as well:
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Not that we should panic or think the world is coming to an end because Paul mentions the "last days" in this wisdom, and we see people around us who are behaving in these ways. Paul's biblical worldview was that he and other believers of his times were indeed living in "the last days" or that they could be upon them at any time. Paul tells Timothy personally that he should avoid such people, indicating they were around 2000 years ago, just as they are today. This is not an end-times statement per-se, it is simply an acknowledgment that in the times in which we live, the post-resurrection age, we are going to encounter people who deny Christ, his resurrection, and his Gospel. Just as our proverb tells us, they are focused on their own wicked interests, at the expense of all else. If we find people like this in our lives, even if they are "having the appearance of godliness" Paul's advice is straightforward and clear: Avoid them.
The disgrace that is inevitable from such behavior need not affect us. Not that we should sit in judgment of others outside the will of God, Paul was very clear about that too. (1 Corinthians 5:12) Nor should we resist sharing the Gospel with others or trying to come to an understanding of their perspective. But if people hold your efforts and the Gospel of Peace in contempt we can and should avoid close associations with them, and steer clear of the consequences of their sin. Jesus taught his disciples, "And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town." (Matthew 10:14-15)
Jesus' command alludes to two cities that faced the summary judgment of God in the past. The patriarch Abraham pleaded with God to spare the city of Sodom, "Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? ” (Genesis 18:24-25) What follows is Abraham negotiating the number of righteous God would spare the city to save, working his way down from let's say 50, all the way down to well what about only 10. God agrees, if there are a handful of righteous people in the city, it would not be destroyed.
In the next chapter of Genesis we see that Abraham's concern for Sodom isn't 100% altruistic, his kinsman Lot is living there with his family. God sends two messengers to the city, and Lot shows them hospitality. When the wickedness of that city is proven to be great indeed, the messengers of God tell Lot and his family to leave, to avoid being swept up in the judgment of God that was coming. Lot did, (in a very human way) try to dissuade them from their wickedness, but they were not having it. They showed him and God's messengers' utter contempt, and in that dishonor disgrace was coming.
Compare that to the narrative of Jonah and Nineveh. Lot didn't feel like they deserved his presence or God's mercy at all. He wanted to see God's wrath fall on the city. But much to his disappointment they repented and God showed them mercy. "and should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” God replies to Jonah. (Jonah 4:11) Not only does God care about the people, but he also doesn't want to destroy even the animals who lived there.
So we can see from our proverb today that wickedness can lead to contempt of the wisdom of God. The biblical narrative shows us that we can seek to reach those who listen, but we do not need to enable those who choose weakness in their poor choices, nor share in the inevitable results that sin will bring into their lives. Certainly, we should avoid contempt of God's wisdom ourselves, but we should also wisely avoid getting caught up in the consequences of others who choose to do so themselves.
So today, let's be wise, not only in our own actions but discerning how the actions of others can affect us as well. We should offer the Gospel of Peace to any and all who would receive it, but avoid the inevitable consequences that come when others do not.
Prayer for Today
Father thank you for the wisdom of your Word. Let it guide me today, and keep me from the dishonor and disgrace that sin brings into my life. Jesus gives me the wisdom to lovingly share the Good News with others, and give me the wisdom to walk away in peace should they refuse to listen. By your Holy Spirit guard my mouth and guide my steps today, that I may bring the mercy, peace, and honor to the world that flows from your love. Forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who sin against me, and help me to see your wisdom in all I do today. Amen.