Have you ever been suckered into something? Maybe a credit card offering a T-shirt or a discount at your favorite store. My parents once sat through an hour-long timeshare sales pitch after receiving a “free” cruise from a relative. (You can’t see my air quotes, so you’ll just have to imagine them.) I was the recipient of a “free” calling card in college. Oh, by the way, they needed my credit card to start my subscription to their phone service, which I could totally cancel later.
Hey Bethel, this is Sarah Landon, and we’re taking a look at Proverbs 23 today. How do we get ourselves into these messes?
Even Solomon seemed to understand, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” So he warns us to have our eyes wide open and hold a proverbial knife to our throat if we so much as think about ingesting the little delicacies offered by a powerful person. Yikes. Why all the hyperbole? What’s the big deal?
Pastor Jason has been talking a lot about life inside the box. And Ecclesiastes keeps reminding us that life inside the box is pretty much useless: all our running around, stressing out, and getting all worked up.
Our scripture in Proverbs 23 shows us how we can be tempted in lots of different ways to entangle ourselves with the world and spend our lives inside the box.
- First is the guy who tempts with food and power
- Then comes the temptation of wealth
- We see food again with the stingy man (it’s never just about the food though, am I right?)
- Then pride with instructing the foolish
- We’re tempted by greed, moving boundary markers
- We’re tempted to avoid conflict with our children and just let them do what they want
- We’re tempted to envy sinners and their “easy” life, and the list goes on…
- We get enticed by our desire and like James explains in chapter 1 verse 15 of his letter to the New Testament churches, “desire, when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” That sounds pretty bad.
- So now that we’ve been warned, what do we do? It seems like there’s temptation lurking around every corner. Is there any hope for us? I’d rather not live life with a knife to my throat thankyouverymuch.
Proverbs 23 actually points to our answer.
In verse 12, the teacher says to “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” Notice it doesn’t say, “Apply your mind to instruction…”
“Apply your heart to instruction…” What does that even mean?
I’m so glad you asked… If you look up the words and at different translations, you’ll find that you could also say, “Give your heart to discipline.” Basically your heart is unruly, keep it in line. And you might have also noticed that the teacher has a lot to say about the heart. Verses 12, 15, 19, and 26 all have to do with what we should do and all have to do with our hearts. And whenever we talk about our hearts, I feel like I’ve got to play the Jesus card.
Jesus is the only one who can heal our hearts, change them, forgive them, redeem them. He’s the one who can take these broken, tempted, wayward hearts of ours, see our sin, love us, forgive us, and point us toward what is true and meaningful.
He is the strong Redeemer who pleads the cause of the fatherless and we can join him and his outside the box existence. If we humble ourselves, see how much we need him, and reach out for his help. Not just on the day we first believed, but every day: in all the challenges, in the face of each temptation, when it’s hard. If we humble ourselves, see how much we need him, and reach out for his help. We need Jesus every day. I need Jesus every day. You need Jesus every day.
When I give Jesus control of my heart, I can stand up against temptation and he will direct my heart in the way.
Rather than chase the temporary and focus on the things money can buy, may we pursue the eternal and accept the gift freely given at the costliest price.
Would you join me in prayer?
Lord, our hearts are tempted in so many ways. Help us to see the danger and call out to you for help. We can’t do it on our own, but you haven’t left us on our own either. Thank you for your heart-changing, chain-breaking, never-stopping, life-saving power that works in us. Amen.