Christianity 201

July 19, 2018

Slimeball Sibling (How Not to React When a Brother Reaps What He Has Sown)

by Clarke Dixon

How do you respond when someone suffers a mess of their own making? Do you find your attitude is different when it is one of your own, when a loved one suffers the consequence of bad or even immoral decision? Are you gracious and understanding or do you say “I told you so”?

When foolish people are brought down, we might cut them some slack: “there may be reasons, pressures and influences that we know nothing about”. Or we might think “good, they are getting what they deserve”. Sometimes we are gracious and sometimes we add to the pain the already suffer.

In the Bible we are given an example of how not to be a brother. Back in Genesis we read about two brothers, Esau and Jacob. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites. Jacob’s descendants were the Israelites which split into two kingdoms, Israel to the North and Judah to the South. The Edomites were neighbours and relatives to the the people of Judah when Babylon came along and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Here is what the Lord had to say to the Edomites through the prophet Obadiah:

10 “Because of the violence you did
to your close relatives in Israel [Hebrew is “your brother Jacob],
you will be filled with shame
and destroyed forever.
11 When they were invaded,
you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.
12 “You should not have gloated
when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.
You should not have rejoiced
when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune.
You should not have spoken arrogantly
in that terrible time of trouble.
13 You should not have plundered the land of Israel
when they were suffering such calamity.
You should not have gloated over their destruction
when they were suffering such calamity.
You should not have seized their wealth
when they were suffering such calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossroads,
killing those who tried to escape.
You should not have captured the survivors
and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. Obadiah 1:10-14 (NLT)

Out of all the nations, Edom was the closest in blood relationship to the suffering people of Jerusalem. According to the prophet Obadiah, the Edomites ought to have helped rather than heaping on more hurt. Edom acted more like an enemy rather than a brother. Do we serve up opportunities for healing, or dish out further hurt? When our loved ones mess up, do they feel they can come to us? Does our presence feel like a safe place, where they can experience grace and growth? Or does coming to us just feel like yet another war zone?

“But they deserve it!” That might be our next thought. However, Judah deserved the consequences. God had said all along that if He was kept in the picture, He would be in the picture. But if not, then the people were on their own among stronger empires bent on expansion. Judah messed up and paid the consequences. Yet Scripture records that Edom still did the wrong thing in heaping on more hurt rather than helping. When fallen loved ones reap what they have sown, it is better for us to focus on what we are sowing rather than on what they are reaping. We have the opportunity to sow good seeds of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT). We have the opportunity to help.

So we ought to be gracious to loved ones when they suffer the consequences of their misdeeds, but we can stick it to to everyone else, right? Not so fast. Esau and Jacob parted ways long before Edom heaped hurt on Judah. In fact well over a thousand years had passed which makes these “brothers” very distant relatives indeed! God expected Edom to be helpful rather than hurtful despite that distance.

How big is our family? Those of us who are Christians are part of a very large family. Having been adopted into the family of God we have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. Many of them may seem distant. Some of them might seem odd. Some of them might even make us want to shake our heads in disgust. Nevertheless, are we giving space for healing when we see a brother or sister in Christ suffer a mess of their own making?

Our family is actually even bigger than that; much, much, bigger:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Ephesians 3:14-15 (NRSV)

Never mind just loving our relatives, Jesus taught us to love our enemies as well!

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven … Matthew 5:43-45 (NRSV)

Not only did Jesus teach it, he did it:

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. Romans 5:10 (NLT)

Fact is, you have never had an enemy you are not related to.

How can we start living out this message from Obadiah? Since we tend to be more gracious and understanding toward our own, we can start by treating everyone like one of our own. When people get themselves into a mess of their own making, ask, “what if it was my son or daughter, mother, father, brother, sister? What if it was the person I most admire and love in the world?” Keeping in mind the Golden Rule we can also ask “what if it was me? Would I want everyone saying ‘serves you right’ or could I use a good friend right now?”

We know that love for family is important. Being gracious and understanding is part of that. We get that. We want to help rather than cause further hurt. What we tend to forget is just how big our family really is. Love for family is super important. Grace within family is super important. You have a big, big family.

Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. (I also got to hear this sermon preached live at Clarke’s church!)

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (32 minutes).

October 5, 2013

The Danger of Pride

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:19 pm
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Prov. 16:18 Pride goes before destruction,
    and haughtiness before a fall.

haughtinessIt’s interesting that even the more modern translations stay with the word haughty spirit or haughtiness.  It’s not a word we use often. offers this:



adjective, haugh·ti·er, haugh·ti·est. 1. disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant; supercilious

1. lordly, disdainful, contemptuous, proud
Antonyms :
1. humble, unpretentious, unassuming.
The recently published Common English Bible (CEB) offers something different, as does The Message:

CEB 18 Pride comes before disaster,
    and arrogance before a fall.

MSG 18 First pride, then the crash—
    the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

The Reformation Study Bible suggests that all pride or arrogance is practiced in relationship to others.

pride . . . disgrace. Wisdom recognizes the importance of self-control. Arrogance and pride are easily recognized by others who will then withhold honor.

with the humble is wisdom. Because humility involves the realistic appraisal of one’s place in relationship to others, it promotes a wise sense of the true order of things.

That is to say, “I know that I am great because, by comparison, I am better than you.” Just as Paul said that without the law, we do not understand transgression, so without people to compare ourselves to, we don’t have the mammoth potential for pride.  The note above is referred from verse 18 to a note in Proverbs 11:2, the text of which reads:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom.

But is inevitable fall or crash a consequence of arrogance, or does the Lord specifically visit disaster upon those who need a shot of humility?  The actual text where I began my personal study in this is from the first chapter of Obadiah:

The Lord Speaks to Edom

ERV* 2 “Edom, I will make you the smallest nation.
    Everyone will hate you very much.
Your pride has fooled you.
    You live in those caves high on the cliff.
    Your home is high in the hills.
So you say to yourself,
    ‘No one can bring me to the ground.’”

Edom Will Be Brought Low

This is what the Lord says:
“Even though you fly high like the eagle
    and put your nest among the stars,
    I will bring you down from there.
You really will be ruined!
    Thieves will come to you.
Robbers will come in the night,
    and they will take all they want.
When workers gather grapes in your vineyards,
    they will leave a few grapes behind.
But the enemy will search hard for Esau’s hidden treasures,
    and they will find them all.
All those who are your friends
    will force you out of the land.
Those who were at peace with you will trick you,
    and they will defeat you.
The soldiers who fought by your side
    are planning a trap for you.
They say, ‘He doesn’t expect a thing!’”

Not many worship songs from those verses, right? Now, we have two choices when we read a passage like this.

  • We can say, “This is a specific prophecy, spoken to Edom (corporately), at a particular time, and it doesn’t apply to us (individually).”  Or…
  • We can say, “This passage expresses a principle of how God deals with pride, and we need to take it as a warning both corporately (as a family, a church, or whatever tribe) and individually.”

Obviously, there is a danger in taking the former approach, in overly contextualizing the passage. Again, in Proverbs, this time in chapter six, we see the word haughty again:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Our reading of scripture ought to be with the aim of understanding the ways of God, and God’s feelings about prideful spirits are a part of scripture

* This is the first time we’ve quoted the Easy-To-Read version (ERV), and I actually clicked on it by accident!

Related post: The Danger of Gloating