“My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them! They may say, “Come and join us. Let’s hide and kill someone! Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent! Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave; let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit of death. Think of the great things we’ll get! We’ll fill our houses with all the stuff we take. Come, throw in your lot with us; we’ll all share the loot.”
My child, don’t go along with them! Stay far away from their paths. They rush to commit evil deeds. They hurry to commit murder. If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away. But these people set an ambush for themselves; they are trying to get themselves killed. Such is the fate of all who are greedy for money; it robs them of life.”
– Proverbs 1:10-19
Years ago, there was a movie that Pixar did call “A Bug’s Life”… In a scene in that movie, a bug was staring at a bug zapper and his friend said “No! Harry No! Don’t look at the light!” and Harry replies in a daze “I can’t help it, it’s so beautiful….” and then proceeds to get fried. This was a great movie from my childhood, and while that scene was funny back in the day, it honestly carries a good lesson now that I’m well into adulthood. It was what I immediately thought of when I was reading this passage in Proverbs.
The father in this story was like the friend crying out to Harry to not let the dangerous bug zapper draw him in. The father here is warning his child not to join in with a group of people who are trying to make easy money at the expense of others. It seems easy up front, but in the end, it’s going to backfire on them. That kind of life, one way or another, will most certainly end up in disaster. Even if through their entire life of robbery and violence they do not get caught, they will still be held accountable before God. Odds are good, however, that the group will become too greedy or too relaxed and get caught during an attempt or be arrested and found guilty along the way. It seems like it is easy money, but it’s really just buying an early grave.
Sin is so attractive because it appears as if it’s the fastest way to prosperity and inclusion with everyone else at the same time (because everyone else is doing it). By allowing sin into your life, you effectively become a slave to it. As the hamster on a wheel discovers, if you go a little bit farther you still aren’t at the end. So, you go a little deeper into the sin and there’s only more to corrupt your heart, mind, and body. Sin will always seem like the best choice for the short term, but in the long term, it WILL kill a part or the whole of you. The father here is warning his child that even though others will be preaching how easy it is to get ahead if you only did what they did, it’s not obeying God’s word and there will be a great price to pay. As in most things in our lives, we need to be thinking about the long-term… When it comes to finances, we need to think about retirement… when it comes to our health we should be taking care of ourselves now so we don’t regret it when we’re older… and when it comes to our relationships we should be seeking people that we know will not lead us astray from the Lord, try to hurt us, betray our trust and take advantage of us (and the same for us towards them). The father in this passage has wisdom and experience, and he wants his child to not have to suffer. He wants his child to fly freely and not be drawn like that bug to the bug zapper. “It’s so beautiful” only for awhile… and then you pay the price.
Now you might be saying, “Wow, this passage talks about killing people for fun… I think you’re exaggerating and overreacting to it. I don’t try to ambush and kill people. I’m not a bad person.”
Well, that’s honestly what I thought several times I had read it through the last few years. I love the book of Proverbs, and I read it often. This time, however, this passage really stuck out to me because of this very reason. It seemed too distant to be relevant to my life at first glance, and that’s always the first sign that I haven’t meditated on it long enough to see what God really wants to show me. The connections started to come together after I thought, and re-read the two passages below.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
– Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
– Matthew 5:27
Notice a pattern? The Old Testament scripture that Jesus is referencing refers to actions that are a sin, but he is talking about the condition of your heart and your motivations. The father in Proverbs is warning his child to stay far away from anyone who would encourage his child to go down a path that would lead to dishonesty, cheating, lying and even violence towards innocent people. It may seem ridiculous to think of ourselves hiding behind a boulder waiting to kill someone “just for fun” (and profit). However, look at it from how Jesus would be teaching it if this were referenced in Matthew. The father warns his child of the actions that he must avoid, but Jesus takes it one step farther and warns us of the danger of even entertaining these thoughts in our mind. I’m not putting words in my Savior’s mouth, but I want to try to see this passage in Proverbs through his eyes. Too many times, we as Christians get it in our head that we’re “good enough” because we’re not “as bad” as others. God has quite a different message to reveal to us even here! We may not be waiting to ambush innocent people, but the wise father’s message applies even in much “smaller” situations. Have you ever encountered any of these situations and thought “Maybe just this time because who will know?”
– You find money laying on the ground, and off a little ways you see someone frantically looking through their wallet, purse and pockets knowing that it was there a minute ago. There’s no way to *prove* that this was the money they lost, right?
– You get a bill from a company or restaurant and the total is lower than you knew it should be so you look over it and see what they forgot. They’re a big business, what would it hurt if “the little man” gets a break this time?
– Your boss leaves early on a Friday, and you know that once he’s gone he really doesn’t check back in until Monday so why shouldn’t you pad the time card a little and check out early too?
– You pull into a parking spot just after dark on a slow Tuesday to get a bite to eat. You get distracted and leave a dent in the car beside you. There’s visible damage, but your car doesn’t show anything and no one is around. They shouldn’t have parked so close to *your* spot so why should your insurance have to cover the damage?
Please re-read the passage at the top in Proverbs 1, and remember it the next time that you come to a test of your integrity. It’s too easy to think that no one can see you when you have the opportunity to profit at the expense of another, but God always sees and he knows the motives of your heart.