Articles

Articles

Some Things Just Tend Toward Evil

Lot was abundantly blessed by God to have been raised by his faithful uncle, Abram and his half-sister wife, Sarai (Gen. 12:5). Abram was not a perfectly sinless servant of God and his lies regarding the real identity of his wife must have been known to Lot, since Lot accompanied Abram and Sarai into Egypt (Gen. 12:10; 13:1). Lot knew that his uncle Abram was blessed materially by Jehovah, as he himself had also prospered in their time together (Gen. 13:2, 5). Eventually, the possessions of the two relatives became so large and prosperous that they could no longer dwell in the same place (Gen. 13:6). To avoid a battle between brethren, Abram made a proposal to Lot. “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Gen. 13:9). Uncle Abram demonstrated a magnanimous spirit, fueled by his desire to have peace between kinsmen. Lot apparently agreed with Abram’s suggestion and made what seemed to be a wise choice. Any man with large flocks and herds would be looking for ample water supplies and lush pastures of grass, wouldn’t he? What could possibly be wrong with the choice to locate in the well-watered plain of Jordan? In view of Abram’s “blank check” to Lot, how could anyone accuse Lot of selfishness? And who could doubt Abram’s genuine gesture? Certainly, if Abram had not wanted Lot to exercise the option of moving near Sodom he would not have made that choice available to him. The planned separation occurred, apparently without any rancor or bitterness between the uncle and nephew and their herdsmen. “Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.” (Gen. 13:12).

The choice to live near Sodom, however, proved to be a life-altering decision, filled with negative spiritual ramifications. The Holy Spirit emphasized the foolishness and lack of wisdom in the decision by saying, “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” (Gen. 13:13). The word, “But” says it all. It flashes like a warning lamp to tell us that Lot would have been better off making a different choice. A choice which took into consideration the character of the neighborhood in which he would decide to live. Lot was getting away from Abram alright, and he avoided a family squabble, but he ran right into a larger moral mess. There is a lesson in all of this for us. There is the principle of “wrong tendency” involved in Lot’s sad experience. Because Lot first dwelt near Sodom and eventually within the wicked city itself (Gen. 19:1) the influences of this moral quagmire took its toll on his family. Consider Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters to the mob (Gen. 19:8). Can we possibly believe that this offer was in anyone’s best interests spiritually? His daughters who were spared the physical destruction of Sodom were ultimately destroyed spiritually by their incestuous relationships with Lot (Gen. 19:30-38). It may have been that Lot could dwell in Sodom without committing sin per se, but who could argue that his choice did not tend toward sin? There are just some things we should question because of where those things can lead us. Brethren sometimes reject the idea that some things are wrong because of what could come from them, but Lot learned this lesson the hard way. Maybe we should learn from him, instead.

Some of our brethren have grown tired of worshipping in church buildings with larger groups of Christians in a “formal” setting. They choose to separate from us and meet together in family houses, community rooms, or neighborhood clubhouses. No one denies that a local church could meet in these places with the Lord’s approval. But why do brethren think this is the solution to building intimacy among brothers and sisters in Christ? When they leave our church buildings for their own settings, where does that decision eventually lead? Will their children grow weary and frustrated with their parents’ choices and go further than Mom and Dad would go to achieve this ostensibly deeper level of spirituality? Abram was not perfect, and improvements were needed in his personal devotion to the Lord, to be sure. But Lot went where Abram would not go. Lot’s daughters did not stop where Lot stopped. They went into what everyone recognizes as sin. Some of our brethren want the Lord’s Supper to be more personal, celebratory and meaningful with additional time given to its observance than what “traditional” congregations typically devote to communion. They fancy that this can be achieved by manufacturing a more relaxed atmosphere in an intimate, if not casual setting, like a family house. No one known to this writer would oppose a more thoughtful and careful remembrance of the Lord’s death, even if in “traditional” and “formal” congregational settings such as a church house. But where do we go from there? Is it really impossible to commemorate the Lord’s death as Jesus intended if we sit in pews in a church building while observing it? One brother suggests ridding our meeting places of the pews and circling ourselves together, if not reclining together as we “celebrate” the Lord’s Supper. Will such rearrangements of the furniture really accomplish the Lord’s will for the communion of the body and blood of Jesus, or does it simply appeal to the emotional desires of a few of our brethren who are not willing to be bound by “Church of Christ” conventions? If we travel down this road, where will it lead? Just what will be our final destinations? Remember, some decisions may not be sinful per se, but the outcome tends toward sin.

Incidentally, as further illustration of the “tendency principle”, Paul warned of the tendencies of riches and money (1 Tim. 6:9, 10). He did not indict every wealthy brother as a sinner, but he acknowledged that the love of money was the root of all kinds of evil, “for which some have strayed from the faith ...”. Some strayed, some did not. But the love of material wealth tends toward unfaithfulness. Take the warning seriously and avoid that path in your life choices. Enough said.

Before choosing a spiritual route to travel, it is essential to ask, “Does God approve of this choice?” (Col. 3:17). Even if the choice itself is acceptable, is my attitude toward the brethren correct? We must be cautious if brethren are disturbed by our choices, or existing churches are disrupted, or if we needlessly compromise our good influence with brethren we have respected (1 Cor. 8). We do not have the right to arrogantly disregard concerns for our faithfulness expressed by our brethren.

—Mark White