God’s kingdom is founded on his characteristics. These include justice, mercy, love and wisdom. Biblical instruction in our walking in the Spirit and producing the gifts that He bestows upon us speaks of this character of God. [Gal. 5:13-26] When we see these things, what we are looking at is a reflection of him, and they should draw us in. Likewise, when we are faced with the things upon which the world rests and thrives, we should be repelled. This response, however, cannot be our response if we are not sufficiently wise to discern the things of this world from the things of God. In order to have and exercise this discernment, God makes clear from scripture several things that serve as a foundation for evil and how it operates here. These are the pillars that hold up this order of things, and we should run far from them.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Let us set the scene. God provides a perfect paradise for man and woman to exist in his presence. He provides every one of their needs and all his attention. This is a place born of love and teeming with life. There was one thing God did not want his creation to have: a knowledge of evil. God knew what evil was not only because He knows all but also because He saw it manifest in the rebellion of Satan and his followers. Satan and his cunning deceit would challenge our trust in God’s instruction and call into question whether withholding that forbidden fruit meant that we were somehow losing out or being slighted. One might think that God’s warning of death for the one who eats from that singular tree would have been sufficient to draw obedience to this instruction, but deception’s claws are sharp and stubborn. By tricking Eve into thinking that God was withholding wisdom instead of death, and by that deception extending to Adam as well, sin entered this world.
There is a reason why God hates lies. [Pro. 12:22] While the truth has as its aim wisdom, knowledge and life, lies breed confusion, ignorance and death. Satan spoke deceptively, and the improper response to that deception ushered in this current order of things. Mankind was now separated from God in a way that was never intended. Deception worked to rob us of our fellowship with our benevolent and perfect Creator. It worked to take eternal beings and introduce them to sin, death and the possibility of utter destruction. It worked to nullify and collapse the perfection in which God had placed his children. If we understand the roots of deception and acknowledge the result of its power, we should not want to be deceivers ourselves. Lies build nothing; they can only destroy. This is why it is critical to hold all things up to the mirror that is the Holy Spirit so that we can see them for what they are, exposed to true light. And when we are exposed to that same light, we should desire that no deceitful way be found in us lest we walk in the paths that our Father hates. We should desire that our paths be founded on truth.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Worry and fear are as close as cousins. They conspire to influence us either to make choices out of the wrong motivation or to simply freeze and stop moving altogether. Some people may like being scared by haunted houses and horror movies, but no one likes being truly gripped by fear. The parent who does the immoral or illegal because he or she cannot seem to find another way to provide for the family is acting out of fear. The student who cheats to get ahead is acting out of fear. The child who tries to hide his or her mistakes and avoid punishment is acting out of fear. Like a trapped hare, cornered by life’s circumstances and desperate for a way out, we are prime victims of the pressure of fear when life takes turns we never would have chosen. Much like disobedience, fear has its roots in an erred mistrust in God. Fear tells us to take the reins of self-preservation instead of waiting for God to preserve us.
The interesting thing about the passage above is that the worrier, the fearful one, is likened to one who does not believe in or follow God at all. This passage does not coddle us and tell us that it is understandable to be afraid. No, it conveys quite the opposite message. If we were pagans and did not trust in the Lord, then we would be justified in being led by worry or fear. Being children of God as we are, there is no justification for us to be led in this way. When we are faced with the temptation to react impetuously and out of fear, it is for us to recognize the motivation behind that behavior and then place our focus not on the worry but on the Lord. Our provider and protector knows what we need much more than we do. Our urgency does not compare to his compassion. Recognition of fear should drive us to a recognition of the reason why it has no hold on us as children of God. When we are incorrectly motivated by it, we will find ourselves acting outside of the patience, trust and obedience that God requires.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart—the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.
A farmer plows his fields to prepare the soil for the seed. If the farmer wants the seed to have a fair shake at getting rooted and growing well, this will be the plan. When the field is not plowed, the seed may not take root. What will happen, however, is that weeds undoubtedly would have no problem growing in that soil. In fact, when a field is left unplowed and unplanted, it is a certainty that weeds eventually would grow in that place. The haughty eyes that look down their nose at others are a symptom of the proud heart. That heart is as hard as a rock. It is a wall, a fortification, that lets in nothing good. It does not take correction or counsel. It may accept love but will not return it. Pride looks after itself and after what it can accomplish and what it can receive. The reason pride produces sin is that it elevates the self to a place higher than others then strives make sure that place is not lost or compromised. Pride tries to place us where we never belonged.
That unplowed field is ripe for the growing of every evil weed. When the aim is to take with no thought at giving, pride is at work. When the end result has only one consideration, the ego and its preservation, pride is at work. When the tongue cannot utter the praises of another, pride is at work. When power and position and prestige top the priority list, pride is at work. This is the motivator that caused a beautiful angelic being to lead a host of worshippers into the depths of hell and to wage war against the Lord of hosts himself. As an eventual consequence, sin entered the world and now tries to ravage all that it can. We cannot be proud people and expect to produce anything good. We cannot live for self and for God simultaneously. Let us run from pride and the sin that it bears so that we would have a chance to produce that which is good and holy and right.
He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
Someone once told me that I should not say anything unless I first T.H.I.N.K. This acronym means that the words we speak should only be spoken if they are true, helpful, informative, necessary and kind. This statement was made after someone in our Bible study had taken time to disparage a brother who was not present by making comments that were not untrue. A word spoken, although it may be true, cannot be justified merely because of its truth. If that word is actually meant for harm, then the truth of it is merely a disguise. For example, it may be true that I am not terribly intelligent, but it certainly would not be helpful or loving to merely point that out to me with no other purpose than to make me feel inferior. If the objective is not to raise me, then those words clearly serve no good purpose and are only sharp weapons meant to injure.
The discernment that we are given by God will indicate to us when hate is masked as something else. This day in age, people are very quick to publicly shame others for any number of things. We hear expressions like “the truth hurts” or “we were all thinking it; I’m just the one who said it.” What we try to do is poke and jab under the guise of making a factual observation. The truth of that matter is that hateful words are not spoken simply to recite facts. When those words are spoken out of any ill motivation, that is hatred. Those words, which can have much power, serve only to tear down. We, as children of God, are not here to tear down those around us. We are here to build them up and move them forward. Let us be vigilant in honestly recognizing the motivation behind our words and making sure that they are spoken to give life.
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
We might think of disobedience as the catch-all to the characteristics or foundations of the world’s method of operation. From this perspective, we take every action that goes against the character of God and group them into a set of acts that are anything other than what God would desire or command. The above scripture indicates where these acts lead us. Although we may try to carry the illusion that we are living in obedience to God, the truth is that our work is detestable and worthless when we live in disobedience. It is just like the biblical admonishment that tells us God would prefer that we be hot or cold but not lukewarm. [Rev. 3:16] He wants us to choose a side. If we are to go against him, He prefers that we commit to that and not pretend to represent him when we clearly are working to defy his desires and purposes. It is an offense to God to profess that we follow him if we are serving another master.
The thing about the disobedient heart is that it never acts in ignorance. Scripture tells us that no man has any excuse. [Rom. 1:20] This means that God and His truth and his character are displayed for all to see. No one will approach the throne and be justified by their ignorance of God’s holiness and his calling us forward for redemption. When we disobey God, we know what we are doing. We either have ignored the Spirit’s prompting to conviction, or we have willingly decided that our way is the right way. The life lived in disobedience to God is detestable to him. The value it could have had is lost. What God desires is a heart that not only wants to obey him but fights to remain in obedience to him. He wants a heart that is committed to persevering beyond the struggle.
When we try to draw a line in the sand and distinguish between those who follow God and those who follow anyone or anything else, we can divide that group into those who know the truth and those who have been deceived. This all starts with deception, which leads us to believe that something other than God is the answer. When we are able to recognize the way in which the world operates to frustrate our living righteously, then we are able to avoid the pitfalls that can so easily snare even the most fervent and devoted Christian. Let us not deceive ourselves into believing that we are above the cunning of the enemy and the trickery of sin within us. Let us honestly confess that we can be susceptible to these ploys so that we can earnestly seek God’s wisdom, protection and direction.