Posts tagged bad
There are positive forces and negative forces in this world. Good and bad, evil and holy, clean and unclean. And there’s a certain stickiness to the unclean things. Pouring clean water into a pitcher of dirty water doesn’t make it clean. And yet, pouring dirty water into a pitcher of clean water makes the whole thing dirty.
When you think about it, even the incredible goodness, rightness and holiness of Jesus did not make this world good, right or holy. There is, it seems, a grime that sin leaves behind that can’t be bleached away by any amount of good. And this is the point that God makes in Haggai 2:
If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”
The priests answered, “No.”
Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”
“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.” (Haggai 2:12-13)
The consecrated meat doesn’t make other things consecrated, but the defiled person does defile others. This, I believe, is why the Bible warns us about the kind of company we keep. It’s not that we are to isolate ourselves from “defiled” people, but we are to be very intentional about all of our relationships – understanding the dynamics at play. Is this person likely to tear me down or build me up? That’s no judgement on the person, just an observation of my own likelihood of being sucked into whatever it is and away from God.
Sin is sticky. And it’s contagious. Goodness and righteousness, on the other hand, are a little more elusive. Righteousness must be pursued, but it’s easy to simply fall into sin. Righteousness takes effort. Sin doesn’t.
And so, God, in Haggai 2, decided that he will put forth some effort in hopes that his people will return the favor. He has already tried removing things from them – making their lives more difficult. But they didn’t recognize it as such. Sure, they knew times were hard, but they didn’t understand why they were hard or that they didn’t have to be hard.
But aren’t we the same way? We ignore the sin issues in our lives that keep us from being fulfilled human beings and instead blame that lack of fulfillment on our schedules, our kids, out spouses, our jobs and any other scapegoat we can find. But the truth is, we’re stuck in our own sin and, until we admit that and work toward righteousness, we will stay stuck – never understanding the fullness of God and his desires for us.
Each of us is a complicated mess. In every person you meet, there is some good and some bad, something holy and something evil. That may sound a little extreme, but consider David. Here is a guy who has proven himself to be not only an upstanding citizen, but also a loyal follower of God and a man who honors others.
Sure, he’s killed many people, but all at the instruction of and for the honor of God. The armies that David fought against were those who opposed God’s people. This time, however, things are different. That little spark of evil that resides in David is fueled by lust for a beautiful woman. That lust not only leads to an inappropriate relationship with this married woman, but, ultimately, leads to a contract murder of one of his own men.
This is a guy who, not long before, had embraced the disabled (and culturally outcast) son of his former enemy. He had no problem following the instructions and wisdom of God, even at the expense of his own convenience or reputation. What could have possibly happened then to cause David to fall so hard, so fast?
I think we can take a clue from verse 1 of chapter 11 (emphasis mine):
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1)
This was a time when kings typically went off to war. David, however, chose not to go off to war himself. Instead, he sent Joab, the commander of the army out on his own. David stayed in Jerusalem. Now, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the seeds of evil rarely do. What David had actually done was to become somewhat lazy or complacent. He had in mind to become “fat and happy” as king, rather than doing the job he was supposed to do. Now, he may have never put it in those terms, but his actions here (and forthcoming) speak for themselves.
So, while David’s army is out fighting, this newly lazy, complacent king has a lot of time on his hands – time, evidently for more carnal pursuits. He becomes a bit of a peeping Tom and spies a pretty lady on a rooftop taking a bath. Now, for a king with plenty of wives and concubines, adding one more wouldn’t have been a big deal. And so, David set his mind to do just that. There was only one problem: Bathsheba, the beautiful woman on the roof was already married.
And this is how evil takes root. You see, David probably didn’t know that Bathsheba was married when he first saw her, or when he sent for her. And by the time he discovered this little fact, his lust had already taken over. He had imagined himself being with her. It was a done deal in his mind. And so, he would ultimately be with her, setting of a chain reaction of events that would leave two people, Bathsheba’s husband and later, her son, dead.
How could all of this have been avoided? Well, David could have gone off to war like he was supposed to. Or, he could have occupied himself with something other than gazing out his window. Or, he could have avoided the temptation of watching the woman bathe (he could be forgiven for accidentally stumbling upon the scene if he had simply averted his eyes). He could have resisted the urge to send for Bathsheba, resisted the temptation to sleep with her, and on and on. But as you see, the temptation gets harder and to resist the further into the mess we go. And that’s how people find themselves ensnared in all kinds of moral failure.
It has been said that idle hands are the devil’s playground. In the life of David, that seems to be true. His entire, disastrous, affair with Bathsheba may have been avoided if David had simply chosen to not be lazy and to simply lead his troops in battle as he had done so many times before.
It’s part of our conditioning, I guess. When we’re young, our parents establish a “norm” with us that when people do what they are supposed to do, good things happen. And, conversely, when people do bad things, bad things happen to them in return. It’s understandable, then, why Moses is a little miffed at God. (By the way, take note of Moses’ special relationship with God throughout the book of Exodus. He dares to say things and ask questions that most of us would never consider. There is something about that relationship that is unique.)
“Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?“
That’s Moses’ question to God – he’s trying to understand why, even though he did the “right” thing – the thing that God asked him to do, the people are now being worked even harder than before. Why did Moses doing “good” result in the people of Israel being on the receiving end of even worse behavior by the Egyptians. It’s a valid question!
And it’s a question we still ask today: Why do bad things happen to good people? The long answer is probably more complex than we can ever fathom. The short answer? Because people are broken and God isn’t. He gives us free will and then works through the decisions that people make. It makes for a messy situation sometimes, but it’s what makes us human. And only when we have a chance to step back (or, rather, many years forward) and see things from a different perspective that we can see how God uses both the good and the bad in order to facilitate his plan for the world. I guess we should just be glad to have a part to play!