Continuing from last week’s study of how we should not walk with sinners, Solomon continues:
‘For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.’ (Proverbs 1:17-19)
Quick recap: what are we talking about?
The ‘for’ at the beginning of this passage should cause us to ask what came before, and we’ve basically just been warned not to allow our attitudes and actions to be affected by non-Christians’ attitudes and actions.
Setting a trap
Solomon’s picture here is a little silly, and that’s intentional. He says that if you set a trap for a bird where it can see it, you won’t catch the bird. In contrast to this, sinners set their own trap! It’s a bit like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon where he feels the need to test the trap he’s set for Road Runner. Solomon is basically saying that committing sins is foolishness. If I break one of God’s laws, I’m setting myself up for a fall. The apostle Paul catches onto this truth in his letter to the Romans 1:18-32 (I’m just picking out the key phrases here, but I’d encourage you to read the whole thing:
‘…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…his invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived…So they are without excuse…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…and [they are] receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.’
In essence, Paul is saying that sin, in part, is its own punishment. Committing adultery against your wife is sin, and common sense tells us that it’s simply a bad idea. It could mean the loss of your marriage, it could have impacts on your finances, on your relationship with your parents and children, and on your emotional state. Only a fool would do such a thing. That’s Solomon’s point. Sinners are setting their own trap, blinded by Satan’s lies about sin to the immediate consequences, whether obvious or more subtle.
The ultimate consequence
The argument back (from the very fools Solomon is warning against) at this point would be that the adultery in itself didn’t cause the bad consequences. In reality, if no-one ever found out about your unfaithfulness, your marriage could very well continue. But that’s not where the passage ends. Solomon says that chasing after sin in this way ‘takes away the life of its possessors.’ Again, Paul talks about this in Romans 6:23: ‘For the wages of sin is death.’ So sin has bad effects on our earthly lives, but sin has bad effects eternally as well. Solomon’s warning is a desperate scream to a child who is about to jump off a cliff to see if she can fly: ‘STOP! STOP!’
All of Scripture points us to Jesus of Nazareth, the man who was God, the man who took upon himself that ultimate consequence so that we might live. I’ll close with the words of a song by Matt Redman called For The Cross:
When you were broken, you were beaten,
You were punished, I go free
You were wounded and rejected
In your mercy – I am healed