Published April 18, 2013
Bible Studies for Life, April 28
Marlon Brando played boxer Terry Malloy in the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront.” The storyline of the movie reveals that Malloy could have been a championship fighter. One day, however, he gave in to the mob’s request to intentionally lose a fight he could easily have won. Sadly, he was encouraged to throw the fight by his mobster brother, Charlie.
His decision cost him everything he hoped for: a successful career, notoriety, and the pride of achievement. Instead, Malloy himself eventually became a part of the mob.
In a revealing conversation between Malloy and his brother, Charlie tries to shift blame for Malloy’s failures on the trainer. In disbelief Terry responds, “It wasn’t the manager. It was you, Charlie.”
Then Terry lashes out in regret, “I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody! Instead of a bum, which is what I am!”
Ultimately, though, it was Malloy’s own choice that led to his demise … and his anguished regret at what could have been.
Contrary to what the world preaches, our decisions do have consequences. You wouldn’t know that, however, by observing the media-driven culture we live in. Our society is self-absorbed, lust-infested, pleasure-worshipping, and material-consumed. Not only is this type of lifestyle practiced, it is celebrated.
Almost 3000 years ago, Isaiah summarized our day well: “Come,” they say, “let us get wine and let us drink heavily of strong drink; and tomorrow will be like today, only more so” (56:12). Jesus captured this folly when telling the story of the foolish rich man, who built bigger barns to house his bounty and then topped it off with a gluttonous party: “Take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19).
The prevalent attitude signifies that we can live however we want without concern over consequences. Drink all you want; just call a cab. Fornicate; just do it “safely.” Pregnant? Take this morning-after pill. Overextended on your credit because you had to have one more flashy possession? The government will bail you out. Don’t worry about trouble at school; your parents will fix it. Our society fights hard, not to curtail dangerous attitudes and actions, but to create a consequence-free world.
Try as they might, such pursuits are futile. So when the church warns of the consequences of man’s behavior, the world is aghast. Suddenly, we become the problem. But warn we must.
Leviticus 26 serves as a megaphone that pronounces the law of cause and effect. The Lord announces that a man’s (or a country’s) actions will be recompensed, whether good or evil. He assures them that if they follow His commands, He will reward their righteousness (26:3-13, 40-45). However, He also warns that if they disobey, He will assess the penalty for unrighteousness (26:14-39).
Such a declaration is consistent with God’s character and promises as revealed in His Word. God lamented, “They would not accept my counsel. They spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil” (Prov. 1:30-33).
The apostle Paul confirmed this truth as an example of the impartiality of God: “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil … but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good” (Rom. 2:9-10).
A continuous illustrative thread throughout Scripture is the agricultural process of sowing and reaping. In essence, what you plant is what you’ll harvest. “Those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it” (Job 4:8). Hosea declared that the wicked “sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (8:7) but those who “sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness” (10:12).
Paul continued this illustration in the New Testament, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:7-9).
The fact that Paul wrote Romans and Ephesians from the vantage point of grace proves that the precepts of Leviticus 26 are still intact. Assuredly, we reap eternal life if we are in Christ. However, as John MacArthur states, “The believer is not thereby exempt from all the consequences of his own sowing. He will never reap the ultimate consequences of sin, which are death and judgment, because his Lord already reaped those consequences for him. But he continues to reap the earthly heartaches, wounds, shame, and pain of his sins and foolishness. God’s law of cause and effect still operates in the lives of His children.”
Wise Solomon had experimented with everything the world had to offer and found it empty. He also came to understand the concept of sowing and reaping, cause and effect. Upon reflection over his experiences, he said, “Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes.” It is at this point that the world would like for him to end Ecclesiastes. Indeed, this may be the perfect motto for the culture. But then Solomon bursts the bubble: “Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things” (Eccl. 11:9). Recompense is coming.
Many have likened the Christian life to a train. As long as the train is on the tracks, life is good for that train. But the moment it leaves the track, great damage is inevitable.
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