Monday, August 27, 2012

Stuff worth hating- Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies

and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Proverbs 6:16-19
Sometimes I wonder what translation of the Bible people are reading to justify their claims of what God hates. Just do a quick google image search on what God hates and you will be bombarded with pictures of people holding signs that describe in very hateful language the people whom they think God hates. They even have scriptures posted on the signs as evidence that the inspired word of God teaches that God actually hates certain groups of people based on their behaviours. The truth of what the Bible actually teaches couldn't be further from that idea of God's feelings toward mankind. In fact, the most concise definition of God that we have in the Bible is that "God is love." Period. Once we understand and come to believe that God is love, then we better take a long hard look at anything that the Bible does say God hates. Because if God is love, then anything that he feels passionately hateful toward must be in complete contrast to the love that He is.

With that in mind, the proverb above had better serve as a very serious warning to the people who wear God's name.

Let's take just a quick look at these things that are so dreadful to the righteousness of God that they earned a special place of standing as a list of "6 things the Lord hates, 7 that are detestable to Him."
  1. Haughty Eyes- This is a problem. Pride is something that is so easy to spot in someone else and so difficult to identify and root out in ourselves. Do I often consider others as less important than myself? Before you answer that, take into account such simple things as "shotgunning" for the front seat, driving habits, and reactions toward people who are living in sin. Is it possible that those among us who consider our mission to stand on a street corner holding a sign about who God hates or those among us who simply hold our heads and eyes in such a way that we communicate the same message are guilty of the very first item in the list of things that God hates? That's not something to brush past and move on if there is even a twinge of guilt registering when you think over those instances. After all, The God of love hates haughty eyes.
  2. A lying tongue- Really? These are the first two listed? I was sure it would have been drug abuse or adultery, or murder! Lying is number two in the list!? Flattery, deception to avoid conflict, deception to avoid consequences for someone else, half truths, and stretched truths for more emphasis and "wow" appeal in a conversation. These are things God hates? Yes. Are we still willing to engage in them?
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood- Phew! Finally one that I feel fairly comfortable with! Oh wait...then there's the fact that Jesus explained what God was actually getting at with the "thou shalt not murder command." "You have heard that it was said to people long ago, 'you shall not murder,' ...but I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'raca,' is answerable to the court and anyone who says, 'you fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell" (Mat. 5:21-22). OK, got it. If I can't control my temper I might as well be murdering someone as far as my relationship with God goes. It's about what's in the heart...and God hates hands that shed innocent blood. I better take a breather the next time my blood starts boiling at a perceived insult!
  4. A heart that devises wicked schemes- Ever start daydreaming about ways to put it to someone? Ever  daydream about ways to "get away with something" that you know is wrong? Why do we do that? Because we haven't let those lusts be redeemed by God yet. Since the heart is the "well-spring of life" from which all of our actions come, is it any wonder that God hates the act of mentally dwelling on and planning out evil? Perhaps the content we allow into our hearts through TV, music, video games, and conversations should rate a little higher on our "important things to be careful of" list. Otherwise, we are already halfway down the road to devising wicked schemes in our heart. "Garbage in, Garbage out."
  5. Feet that are quick to rush into evil- Some of us just have a knack for being right in the middle of it. Relationship drama? This person knows what is going on. Scandal? They are in the thick of it. This person is simply itching to taste evil and if therefore ready to spring at it the first chance it gets. While the heart of that person is dearly and infinitely loved by God, the actions that feet are taking are hated by him.
  6. A false witness who pours out lies- Well I've never even been in court...but I've passed on gossip that I found out later was untrue. You could say that I "testified" to someone else's guiltiness even if it was just to one other person who, based on my testimony judged and condemned the person I was testifying about. God hates that.
  7. A person who stirs up conflict in a community- Wow. That is the culmination of the list of things that God hates. Someone who deliberately sows division.
I began this article intending to make the point in passing that "God hates the sin but loves the sinner." I am still convinced that is true. But for all the other banners that people carry around describing who God hates, I have yet to see one that says "God hates false witnesses" or "God hates someone who likes to stir stuff up."
Why do we continue to act like pride, deception, gossip, attitudes, and divisiveness are sins to be winked at? Why are we only willing to confront a brother or sister in Christ when they have committed one of the "big ones?" Take another look at the list of things God hates. The only "big one" even mentioned is murder. May we VOW to see sin for what it something that God absolutely hates. May we begin to hate it with the same loving passion that God hates it with so that we might love in the ways that He does too.
(For further study, you might take a close look at this Proverb compared with Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. God truly hates the things that are in contrast with love!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Go to the Ant! Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its preovisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest --  and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
Proverbs 6:6-11
     Have you ever read Where the Red Fern Grows? It’s a beautiful book about a boy in the Ozarks and his two Coon Hounds. Actually it’s about their love for each other and determination to finish a hunt because of their love for each other. There is a passage toward the beginning of the book when the boy, Billy, is absolutely determined to finish cutting down the biggest tree in the forest simply because his dogs had treed their first coon in that tree and Billy had promised them that if they treed a coon, he would do the rest. After two days of chopping with an axe, tears, blisters, and refusing help from his Papa, the tree finally came down with a crash. After a day and half of chopping when Billy was ready to quit, his grandpa came to help him build a scarecrow so he could go home and get some rest and finish the job the next day. The conversation that the Billy’s grandpa had with him in the buggy on the way to the house that night is well worth having again today with our children.
“You know Billy,” he said, “about this tree-chopping of yours, I think it’s all right. IN fact, I think it would be a good thing if all young boys had to cut down a big tree like that once in their life. It does something for them. It gives them determination and will power. That’s a good thing for a man to have. It goes a long way in his life. The American people have a lot of it. They have proved that, all down through history, but they could do with a lot more of it.”
I couldn’t see this determination and will power that Grandpa was talking about very clearly. All I could see was a big sycamore tree, a lot of chopping, and the hide of a ringtail coon that I was determined to have.
     What do you think? Do we still have the kind of determination and will power that grandpa claimed the American people have always had? I think it is well worth our time to consider our own lives and the lives of our children to come to that answer…especially considering the fact that Solomon thought the dangers of laziness and self-centered idleness was such a dangerous thing for his son that he called him a “sluggard” to get his attention and told him to spend some time watching the ants!
     There is no doubt that God intends for us to rest. However, I am fairly confident in today’s culture of entertainment, luxury, and technology that has made everything so easy and instant gratification an entitlement, I am somehow far past the rest intended by God for a Sabbath, a rejuvenation, and a quieting of my soul and often times, enter into the dangerous area of “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” And yet somehow with all of that rest in the form of sleeping, hobbies, entertainment, sports, and everything…I still haven’t taken the time for a Sabbath.
     Solomon warns of physical poverty and I think we would all do well to be very intentional about instilling good work ethic in ourselves and in our children for those reasons. But oh, how tragic if we succeed in that area and still fail to instill in families a determination to know God and his righteousness. I think the Proverb still holds true in the spiritual arena as well. And if we understand the true nature of what it means to follow God—that all of life is to be done for the glory of God (Col. 3:17)—then we will understand that even if we are chopping down a giant sycamore tree for the sake of honoring a promise made to a couple of hounds, we are mandated by the love and grace of God to give it our absolute best! Poverty and scarcity are scary enough when we are talking about physical needs. How tragic would it be to wake up one day only to realize that spiritually we or our children are impoverished and living in scarcity!?
      So how about it? Will we honor our word and finish the jobs we’ve committed to? (I’m thinking of a few projects that have been on my “honey do” list for far too long!) Will we hold our children accountable to finishing the things they have committed to? Will we teach them to be as diligent in their work, studies of scripture, and pursuit of righteousness as we teach them to be with their sports? Will we bail them out of a jam because we can’t stand to see them fail or will we challenge, assist and encourage them to finish what they started because we believe they are capable of it and because that is what a man/woman of God does?
After all, sometimes chopping trees is good for a person. “It goes a long way in his life.”