It sounds really bad to say, but I wonder if often the first verses of Proverbs haven’t been a bit of a “throw away” for me in the past. Not the verse that says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”, verse 7, but the next section, verses 8 through 19, that warn about being recruited by a street gang. Not much there that I can relate to . . . until this morning.
Easy to skim over this section because I’ve never been recruited by a gang. Can’t even imagine being tempted to join up with a bunch of hoods and commit armed robbery. Never come near to even associating with the type of guys that are excited by the thought of jumping people in a dark alley, killing them if necessary, in order to grab whatever money and valuables they may be carrying. So when the father warns, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent,” it’s really no big deal for me to say, “Of course not! No worries! Let’s move on!”
But not so quick, says the Spirit this morning. Look at the heart behind the recruiting and maybe there’s a great warning to heed. A warning to beware of ambushing your own soul.
. . . 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 1:18-19 ESV)
While this fictitious gang thinks they can hide in the shadows, lying in wait for some pour unsuspecting sap so that they can realize some illicit gain, in reality it is they who are being mugged, they who are being ambushed. And the culprit is greed.
Sure, in this case, it’s greed to nth degree. Greed that compels them to step way over the line. But I’m thinking this morning there’s a warning here to everyone about all the ways in which greed might manifest itself. That beyond just the type of greed that results in violent crime, wisdom cries out against all manner of covetousness. Warning that any great desire for possessions will take away the life of the possessors. That it will ambush the soul.
Don’t ambush your soul. Sounds like, “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot” or, “Don’t become your own worst enemy.” Here it means, don’t be greedy, resist the temptation to covet.
What a warning for those of us who have live in neighborhoods of plenty. For those whose dictionaries have dropped the word “greed” and replaced it with “the American Dream” (or “Canadian Dream” if you like). For those who view the accumulation of wealth simply as fulfilling their potential. Who believe that getting more stuff is just the way to happiness.
That’s the insidious enticement here. Not some punk gang member, but our own heart’s greed. Not the thrill of violence, but the siren’s call from a culture of covetousness. Not the desire to shed blood, but the desire to get rich quick.
In a land of plenty, there are plenty of voices beckoning us to want more. In our pursuit of happiness, many signs that say it is found in the amount of treasure we possess. And when we heed those voices and follow those signs, when our hearts are driven by greed and covetousness, then we ambush our souls. And we lose our way, even our lives, while we try to find them in our stuff.
. . . my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths . . .
(Proverbs 1:15 ESV)
And so Wisdom cries in the street. And I would do well to heed the warning.
Because of the grace He has shown . . . that His glory would be known.