Christianity 201

May 27, 2022

Your Friends are an Indicator of Your Future

One verse in Proverbs that has stayed with me over the past few years is Proverbs 13:20,

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
(NIV)

Anywhere you see a verse which contrasts wise and foolish or wisdom and foolishness you are effectively seeing a microcosm of the entire book of Proverbs; this is the book’s overarching theme, seek wisdom. It echoes throughout the book in many places including the next chapter:

Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.
(14:7 NLT)

Years ago, my parents found me a “youth edition” of The Living Bible’s book of Proverbs called Get Smart. The title is rather pithy — and possibly alludes to a TV show of that era — but this is indeed the message of Proverbs: Seek wisdom. Get wisdom wherever you can find it. Treasure wisdom like a fine possession.

We sometimes use the expression “married up” to describe someone whose life was bettered by finding a companion who could lift them to greater experience and potential. I would argue the Bible is making a case here for “friending up.”

This doesn’t mean we simply toss friendships that don’t meet a certain standard, but at the very least, it demands an awareness of whether our friends are lifting us up or bringing us down. The reason is simple: Wisdom in contagious, but so is foolishness.

Many are the people who would have, at one point said, “I would never say that;” or “I would never go there;” or “I would never do that;” but got talked into something because an influential friend or group of friends was saying/going/doing that particular thing.

We tend to think of peer-pressure and conformity as something that needs to be taught in Sunday School or especially at youth group. We rarely consider how it continues to impact us as adults. It’s possible that some reading this have heard J. B. Phillips rendering of Romans 12:2 more often than the more traditional version:

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

I think it’s important to note that the verse doesn’t say,

  • Whoever walks with the wise is wise and
  • Whoever walks with the stupid is stupid!

No! It goes beyond that and “a companion of fools suffers harm.” We can say that sooner or later, foolish behavior leads to negative consequences. 1 Timothy 5:24 reads:

Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. NKJV

The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. MSG

Time will tell. We see this also in Exodus 34:7b. I know this passage is interpreted many different ways, but I’ll simply toss it into the mix for you to consider:

“…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I can’t leave this without remembering the warning of Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount concerning the consequences of becoming foolish:

NIV Lk 7.24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I think it’s also important to remember that to “walk with” or “journey with” people today may mean to journey with them online. Many of us have a great depth of relationship with people online which can affect our worldview or decision-making.

Here are some practical indicators something might be wrong:

  1. when you realize your core group is moving in a direction you want your life to move in
  2. when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than you are
  3. when you feel pressure to compromise (when something that was previously never a real temptation becomes a live option)

Our relationships can set the trajectory for our lives. Someone has put it this way:

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

Again, walk with the wise!

April 17, 2021

You Can Learn a Lot from Lot

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In a blurb for the book Bad Boys of the Bible by Barbara J. Essex, the publisher summarizes, “Cain, Abraham, Adam, Samson, Lot, Jacob, and Jephthah are well-known men of the Bible who were strong and faithful, yet also weak and challenged.” That’s being charitable considering some elements of their story. Parents who have ever tried to purchase a children’s story book about Samson know that the publishers of similar series often avoid the character, and I would think even more so would books about Lot be few.

If you don’t know a lot about Lot, there is a summary at LifeMinstires.org.nz.

The website GotQuestions.org also provides the basic story outline, which weaves through chapters 12 to 19 of Genesis. His uncle was Abraham and much of his story includes interactions with the Jewish patriarch. The site concludes that Lot’s character is very much a result of geography:

Much of Lot’s life is a picture of the consequences of greed and the negative influence of a sinful environment. Lot knew God, but he chose to live among people who would lead his family into sin and complacency. But Lot’s story is also an illustration of God’s great mercy—in spite of Lot’s poor choices, God saved him and his daughters from a violent end in Sodom and preserved his line throughout the ages

Again, that’s a more gentle way of relaying some hard truths. The site BibleOdyssey.org focuses on the narrative involving Lot and his daughters (which it describes as an etiological myth) and includes depictions of that narrative in classical art which all involve scenes of nudity. Again, it’s a reminder that parts of the Bible are not PG-13. (I’m not sure what I think of this summary, but the other links today are highly recommended.)

Despite this, the Apostle Peter considers Lot a righteous man in 2 Peter 2: 6-8

Later, God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. (NLT underlining added)

At the site WordsOfLife.co.uk there is a wonderful 7-part outline on the life of Lot which integrates his story with New Testament principles.

The scripture references… make very sad reading. They tell us about a man who was saved, … but he was only just saved; he… had a saved soul but a lost life, because he lived for self and was in bondage to the things of time and sense, and he became engulfed in and succumbed to the evils of his time.

Also at Words of Life Ministries, some of the points have sub-points. Sadly in a section on Lot’s influence in his time and place,

  • He had no influence with the men of Sodom. We learn this from Genesis 19: 1-11, and particularly notice in verses 7 –- 9 that they laughed him to scorn. The men of Sodom must have despised Lot, and the world despises a worldly, “make-believe” Christian.
  • He had no influence with his children. We learn this from Genesis 19: 8; this is a verse to make us shudder, but is there a sadder verse in the whole Bible than Genesis 19: 14?
  • He had no influence with his own wife. We learn this from Genesis 19: 26, which tells the solemn story of her disobedience and her tragic end

So honestly, why read and study the lives of men like Lot. The same website answers that with a reference to 1 Corinthians 10: 11-12

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. (NLT)

We must also remember that our choices and actions don’t take place in a vacuum. We are part of larger families and networks. A Roman Catholic website, Community in Mission, reminds us that Lot’s actions didn’t just affect himself, they affected his whole family:

But here is the risk that Lot takes: he turns his face toward Sodom and willingly exposes his family to the grave moral threats there. And it does indeed affect them. Ultimately, his wife cannot bear to leave, looks back, and is lost. His daughters escape, but later engage in the grave sin of incest. Lot, too, will find it hard to flee Sodom, finding God’s offer to save him to be too much trouble. He’d rather stay, whatever the risk.

If you’re going to swim in muddy water, you’re going to get muddy. And that mud gets in your ears and in your soul. This is what Lot risks and what results when he pitches his tent toward Sodom.

Many of us, too, think little about the risks that television, the internet, music, and culture pose to us and our children. Too easily we risk our eternal salvation and that of our children by pitching our tent toward Sodom through easy commerce with a world that is poisonous to our faith. Even if some things are troublesome, many of us make little effort draw back and limit, even in little ways, the influences that are contrary to our faith.

The consequences are noted at website EncounterLifeMinistries.org:

A man who has no honor cannot expect to get honor in return, can he? 

and mentions that later on in the story,

Lot reconsiders and thinks that maybe he should leave Zoar and head into the mountains. How many times have we been Lot in this very second? “God, I want to do it my way…wait…that didn’t work out…okay, let’s do it your way.”

As we said at the outset, Lot, like Samson and others is what we might call an anti-hero. But his life provides us with helpful warnings and good counsel. The words of Jesus recorded in Luke 17: 26-30 reminds us that,

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”
(The Message)