Now let’s get on to the sin question of vv. 10-19. “Don’t give in to the enticement of sinners.” Really? Ya think? Why does this need to be said? Isn’t this, like, pretty dumbly obvious?
I’ll tell you this, and let’s be real: sinning is so doggone attractive, and we all have at least one pet sin that we just love and won’t quit from. We want it, no matter what. We not only have to be told to stay away, we often have to be physically restrained or mentally coerced to not give in to our sins. But we’ll fight it, yessirree.
Then the text gets so vicious so quickly (v. 11). It’s like those Grimm’s Fairy tales for children, where witches push children in the oven, or father’s desert their children in the woods. But think more about it. We have a choice whether to go along or not. But the desire to be included—to be wanted—is a strong one. How many problems come about because we want to belong! Here is a scenario of undeserved malice for personal gain. It isn’t just a middle school problem. Adults are just as guilty, but we’re more savvy about it. And what makes this so attractive and enticing is the personal gain: the self-orientation and self-seeking. More respect, more money, more prestige, more power—like, whatever.
What we see in v. 12 is just over-the-top nastiness, domination, and destruction. Is it just the politicians, bankers and CEOs who act this way? It’s the total obliteration of anyone who stands in the way of your pride, greed, consumerism, accumulation, comfort, and power.
Now, it’s true that most of us live with more social graces than this, and we’ve been socialized to where we temper ourselves and live with more mercy. On the other hand, I will also claim that it doesn’t take much for us to get in the mindset of “He’s going down!”—to get our backs up and our juices flowing, to swallow someone else alive and bring them down whole.
You may want to know why I’m being so nasty. I’m just readin’ the text, and putting myself and ourselves into it. After all, it’s meant to be real life, and it is.
V. 13: Now we find out what is more often the stronger motive in our lives: accumulation of stuff. Why is competition for promotions taken so seriously at work? Because they help us attain more wisdom and discernment, or because they allow a higher standard of living and more respect from those who know us? Yep. People actually fight each other for toys at Christmas. There are mob scenes on “Black Friday”—and God help the person who gets in our way.
V. 14: We don’t actually enter into a literal blood pact with each other as co-conspirators, but in reality we do. We brag to each other about our promotions and our acquisitions. This is the stuff of life far more than other things much hard to converse about: wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and prudence. See, just listing those things sounds stuffy, and if someone tried to talk with us about stuff like that, it would be a contest to see who could get away from them the fastest, am I right?
V. 15: Right: the first step is the hardest (Don’t set foot on the path), and it reveals where your mind is, and where your desires are. There’s usually a mental or spiritual battle when temptation first points its bony finger and you, and tries to entice you to come. You have enough strength to at least resist a little at the onset, but as you dance with the temptation, you start to convince yourself that you want it, and it will be OK and maybe even a benefit, or that you’re not strong enough to resist (contrary to 1 Cor. 10.13). The fruit looks good to your eyes, and you think it will taste good (Gn. 3). And…then…you…set your foot on the path. The dirty deed is done dirt cheap. Now taking it further will be easier. Your foot is already on the path. The problem does lie even in doing what they do, but before that—walking with them (Ps. 1.1). So don’t set foot on their paths. Most spiritual battles are won or lost in the mind and the soul long before in the eyes, the feet, or the hands. Choices and behaviors become habits, or at least patterns, so easily. Before too much time passes by, we don’t think much about it any more. We don’t debate about our feet on the path. We just step onto it—rush into it. “Well, that’s just the way I am.”
A little bit of deception, hidden motives, disguise, tempered words, under-the-table politicking, and smoke-and-mirrors can go a long long way. We know this is how things work. We know the game, and are used to the system—so much so that we don’t even think about it any more. We just jump on the path and rush to do life “the way it has to be done.” We’ve been brainwashed and suckered, trained, duped, and corrupted. Oh, but we’re “good” people. Evil enticement is often covert and subtle: movies, TV, magazines—they’re just “entertainment”. They’re always more.
V. 18: Many sins fit into this category, in the same sense that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. King David’s passion gave us most of our psalms, and he enjoys a relationship with God deeper than most of us will ever see, but it also became his downfall with the women in his life (or someone’s else life). The gift of making money can be a tremendous blessing in life and be of benefit by donation to a multitude of ministries and needy people. But money also has a power of its own to seduce and destroy. A businessman or pastor may be able to make hard decisions quickly giving his organization great success, but that same strength often runs roughshod over people in his or her path. A musician’s great singing voice can be used mightily for the Lord, but also can be a self-destructive source of pride.
Sin works the same way. Anger gives you great power, but it also destroys you. The accumulation of furniture, clothing, and stuff can bring you great happiness and comfort, but it can also bring into your life a lot of fear about losing it, and anxiety about all of your possessions.
You get my point. In the end, we can so easily be our own worst enemy. All sin harms the sinner. No one gets away with anything. The ways of the Lord are the only safeguard against pride and self-destruction.