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Last week we learned that when we hang out with wise people, we get wise. When we hang out with smart people, we get smarter. We must and should follow people that follow God, but we must be careful because the opposite is also true. When we hang with people that are not walking with God, we also tend to not walk with God. That’s why discipleship is so vital in our walk with Christ. This morning, we’ll see that God is relentless.
Grab your Bible and read Pro. 13:21-25 so you can follow along.
The hunt is on! “Adversity pursues sinners.” You’re never going to avoid labels. We’re often identified by labels. Applications are filled with them: race, ethnicity, sex, age, religious preferences, etc. We’re good with labels that are part of our personal characteristics or heritage, but introduce a label that has to do with choice, and people start screaming. Sinner can be an offensive label in our times because of the changing morality of people. No matter how fast or how far you run, God is there. God is a relentless pursuer of sinners. If you remember the message from a couple of weeks back, I said that you must have a standard on which to formulate your beliefs or they will shift or change with the circumstances. So we need to evaluate sin from an unchanging standard so we don’t get caught up with the ever changing attitude of people and society. I think one of the root causes for this ever changing standard of ethics and morality has been the general departure from the Bible and the standards found therein. We’ve shifted priorities from God and eternity to self and the here and now. We’ve filled the time we used to spend in the Bible with other pursuits that while not bad or sinful, prevent us from doing what God would have us to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can have it all and do it all just like everyone else. That’s why I continuously talk about getting back in the Bible. That’s where we get our standards and the interesting thing is the Bible even predicted a deviation from Scripture would develop. Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about this. Two passages that really highlight this are found in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Take the time to read these insightful thoughts.
So don’t lose heart. “Adversity pursues sinners.” We must look at the Bible to determine what a sinner is. In its simplest form a sinner is one who commits sin. The person who says, “We’re all sinners,” as a justification for his sin is likely the same one that has no standard to begin with and will certainly not like being told there is absolute truth. If we really believe that God is unchanging and thus His Word is unchanging, then the standard for life is the same today as it was before humanity was created. If murder has always been wrong, then it will always be wrong. You can plug in anything you want, but understand the entire teachings of God. Please don’t bring up eating shellfish or pork, the washing of hands, etc. as justification for how outdated the Bible is. The ceremonial aspects of the law were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and the moral aspects of the Law have been repeated in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the answer before humanity and He remains the answer today. Being a sinner is what Christians were, but are no longer. The adversity Solomon mentions is always on the heels of the wicked one. There may be short term prosperity or happiness, but again, we must think eternally. And that’s exactly what Solomon says, “But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”
Solomon’s next point is deeper than what you might think. Verse 22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Some would use this as a proof text that you need to work hard to make sure your kids and grandkids are well supported after your death. It’s much deeper than that. The idea is when wisdom is at the forefront of who you are and what you do, the wealth accumulated will be passed down from generation to generation because it’s handled with wisdom. For the sinner, which Solomon uses synonymously with wickedness and unrighteous, there is no inheritance to be passed down because there is no wisdom and therefore anything gained is lost. An even more important principle is passing down the faith of the righteous from generation to generation. “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” This is a challenging verse. The best I can offer is this refers once again to the diligent work ethic Solomon has told us about. The poor man that is righteous diligently works his land, no matter how small it is, to the best of his ability. As a result, he will have an abundant harvest. The second part of the verse gets tricky. “Swept away by injustice” is also translated, “For want of judgment.” Given the contrast formula used so often by Solomon, it seems likely this refers to the mismanagement of resources by the wicked. To put it in a modern context, management overextends the company, too many employees are hired, too much money is borrowed, too much equipment is purchased and all is quickly swept away. A story published in the New York Times on July 31st highlights this principle perfectly. Let me talk about verse 25 briefly because it goes hand in hand with this verse. The key word is enough. God will provide what is needed. Often He provides more than we need, but we will always have enough. We’ll see later in Proverbs that Agur prayed that he would have enough: neither too much nor too little, but enough.
And now for a total deviation from what you might expect next. Like many verses we’ve seen to this point, the next verse seems out of place. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Your wonderful newborn baby has something lurking within them that is difficult to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. In some it is stronger than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, etc. that parents are all too familiar with. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not here. Here, Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here and that’s the direction I’m coming from. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. This is going to be painful for some folks to hear including me. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. If you are prone to gossip, it’s going to be difficult to get your child to understand why gossiping is wrong. If you’re prone to lying, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why he gets punished for lying. If you are prone to neglect your study of God’s Word or your reading of God’s Word, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand the value of God’s Word. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important. If you sporadically attend church, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why it’s important. That’s why we must go to the standard of our faith. Some people, even in the church, do not see the value of good, solid, Bible teaching in the home. They want their kids to find their own way. They somehow have missed the importance of training their kids. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. We’ve come to believe that we will irreparably damage their psyche if we discipline our kids. Not every child will respond to a spanking. Not every child responds to a time out. Not every child is the same. One thing is the same. Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result.
Also, teach your kids to listen to other adults. It can be very disrespectful to have an eight year old tell me, “My mom says I don’t have to listen to you.” One final thought on this as we’ll get to a score of other parenting principles later in Proverbs, as adults, understand that each parent trains their child to not do things that annoy them. Every person has different annoyances. Also understand that every parent is at a different place in their walk of faith. When you lovingly correct your child, you’re demonstrating how much you love and care for them. There must be the same diligence in this area as in our other endeavors. Don’t neglect this crucial area of the family.
Trouble always pursues the sinner. They may think they won’t be caught, but God will catch them and He can do it anytime He wants. Don’t misunderstand short term worldly “success” as God’s approval. Demonstrate love for your children by teaching them and holding them accountable. Know this, God will relentlessly pursue you as He seeks to transform you into the image of His one and only Son.