Sunday Service 18th June
When being good isn’t good enough
Call to worship
Hymn 154(JP): Let us with a gladsome mind
Time for all
Hymn 252(JP): The wise man built his house upon the rock
Reading: Genesis 19: 1- 26 Amanda
Hymn 264: Judge eternal
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 476: Mine eyes have seen the glory
Welcome to our reflection for 18th June.
Often the Bible has many levels of understanding.
Like today...if we read this passage on its own it is very easy to see good guys and bad guys. Lot is the good guy and he survives the destruction of Sodom. His wife is the bad guy, she looks back instead of looking forward with God and she dies, turned into a pillar of salt.
And although that is a decent message, ‘Don’t look back, if you make a decision to move forward then just move forward as turning back all the time will undermine our decision’...does that really make Lot’s wife the bad guy?
Remember Lot was willing to hand over his daughters to be gang raped...how does that make him the good guy?
So we will be reflecting on this after Amanda leads us in our prayer and reading for today.
Remember, if you are struggling and you would like our prayer group to pray for you then please contact us at revjimalvakirk@gmail .com
So here is the standard message for this passage;
if you make a decision to go with God then don’t look back, it will undermine your decision and come back to bite you.
That’s what Lot’s wife did and look how that turned out.
When God gives us an ultimatum then we have follow it, if we give everything to it we will be saved.
And that is a affair enough interpretation.
You then get the counter argument about fairness.
How is it fair to portray Lot’s wife as the bad one who deserves to die for her bad decision?
What about Lot’s bad decisions?
When the men of Sodom are threatening the strangers Lot doesn’t offer himself to be sacrificed to save the men, Lot offers his daughters to be gang raped.
How does Lot get to make bad decisions like that and he isn’t punished?
Compare those two decisions.
One; turns round to look back at the place she has made home...
Compared with; offers daughters to be gang raped...
Which would we say was the more serious mistake?
And I have seen modern theologians talk about how this is just another sign of the Bible’s misogyny; a prejudice against women by a male dominated society. The Bible then becomes a book that is written by men for men and undermines women and puts men above women.
Women’s sins are always more serious then men’s sins and are punished more.
Men’s rights are always put above women’s rights.
I think the writers of the Bible were a lot more subtle than that.
Sure the Bible was written by men in a patriarchal society, but these men, given the responsibility to write the Bible, were inspired by God often in ways they would never have understood.
So I would suggest that that there is a very more nuanced message going out here; the message of the wise and foolish builders.
There is a subconscious theology that we want to believe; there are good guys and there are bad guys...and our job is to become one of the good guys. In this theology if we are not bad, then by definition we are good...and that means we are all right. So we spend our life trying to be good as much as possible.
It is completely anti-Biblical, but we want to believe it because it gives us some control of our destiny. And it is hard not to try to live it, even at a subconscious level. What harm can being good do? The problem with it is that if we spend our time trying to be good, we may not be spending our time trying to be what God wants us to be.
Jesus reflects on this in his parable of the wise and foolish builders.
Not, as you may notice, his parable of the good and evil builder, the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
In this story everything between the two builders is the same.
They both build a house, the storm comes to both of them, and the difference is what matters.
The wise builder does the harder thing, build his house high up on the rocks where the floods can’t reach...and he stays safe.
The foolish builder, probably because there hasn’t seen a flood in decades, takes the easier option, and then the floods return and his house is destroyed.
Knowing how inspired the writers of Genesis were, I was wondering if the story of Lot is just half of this story, the other half being the story of Abraham we read last week.
The two stories are right beside each other in the Bible, as if we are meant to compare and contrast the two stories.
If that was the case the there would be many similarities, and the differences would be what we then need to hone in on; like in the parable of the wise and foolish builder.
There are strangers that appear.
The Abraham and Lot both see these strangers and go out to meet them.
Both Abraham and Lot bow down before the strangers and invite them to a feast.
The strangers give warnings about Sodom and Gomorrah.
Both wives doubt.
Sarah’s doubt is shown in her laughter.
Lot’s wife’s doubt is shown in her looking back.
Something significant happens to the spouses of Abraham and Lot. Sarah is given new life in becoming pregnant, Lot’s wife dies by being turned into a pillar of salt.
So the question then should be asked...
like the parable of the wise and foolish builders, what is the difference that makes one ending good and the other disastrous?
Remember there is a subconscious theology that we want to believe; there are good guys and there are bad guys...and our job is to become one of the good guys. In this theology if we are not bad, then by definition we are good...and that means we are all right. So we spend our life trying to be good as much as possible.
God has been fighting that theology from the beginning of time.
In the parable of the wise and foolish builders there is no indication that the foolish builder is evil. He hasn’t used slave labour to build his house, we presume he bought the land legally, we can presume that he has done nothing wrong.
The only mistake he makes is presuming that his own wisdom is enough.
And Jesus is saying to the people of his own time; don’t just trust in your own wisdom, don’t trust that just being good is good enough, because it isn’t.
There are things going on in your life,
things that will happen in your future that you cannot predict or comprehend,
and you need to trust in someone bigger, wiser, to prepare you for what is ahead...and that person is God. Listen to God; let God be part of your life.
That is exactly the same with this parallel story of Lot and Abraham.
Sarah lives and Lot’s wife dies.
Abraham becomes the ‘Father of faith’ and his descendants become a blessing for the world, Lot’s descendants get lost in history and are never seen again.
And it is not because one is good and the other is evil.
Sure Lot makes some awful choices; he offers his daughter to be gang raped and the angels have to intervene to stop him.
But Abraham offers to sacrifice his son and God has to intervene to stop him.
How is Abraham’s choice any better a choice than Lot’s?
Abraham’s life becomes a blessing for others, Lot’s doesn’t...and it is not because one is a good guy and the other is a bad guy.
The phenomenal truth the Bible hits us with again and again is that often good people make terrible decisions.
We cannot depend on our goodness to save the world; we cannot depend on our goodness to save OUR world, because our goodness is just not good enough.
Samson was meant to be a hero, and again and again he made terrible decisions that ended up with lots of people being hurt...you can read that in the book of Judges.
David was meant to be the hero king, the best of the best, and he again and again made terrible decisions that ended up with lots of people being hurt...you can read that in the book of Kings.
It has never been about good guys and bad guys, because good guys just aren’t good enough.
So what is the difference then?
What is it that gives us hope that our life can be a blessing?
What is the difference between Abraham and Lot?
And the difference is God.
Abraham had a conversation with God.
Lot did not.
And it wasn’t that Abraham became perfect because of that conversation.
The Bible is full of Abraham having doubts and mucking things up
and not trusting God at times
and making lots of bad decisions.
In that sense he was no different from Lot who often mucked things up and made heaps of bad decisions.
The difference was that having God in his life slowly changed Abraham.
Abraham wasn’t defined by his mistakes because God give him the insight to reflect, to change, to make different decisions.
We see Lot make a mistake, and the compound the mistake, and then compound the mistake again, and each time things get worse and worse.
We see Abraham make a mistake, then learn from that mistake, then grow and change, then make a new mistake, then learn from that mistake, then grow and change.
The difference is having God in his life seriously affected Abraham in a way that not having God in his life seriously affected Lot.
Lot’s life then was just his life...Abraham’s life became an example and a blessing to others.
There is a subconscious theology that we want to believe; there are good guys and there are bad guys...and our job is to become one of the good guys.
In this theology if we are not bad, then by definition we are good...and that means we are all right. So we spend our life trying to be good as much as possible.
But that was Lot, Lot tried to be a good guy, and his life was defined by his mistakes.
What about us?
Are we willing to give up the struggle to try to be good,
no matter how counter intuitive that sounds,
and instead of spending our life trying to be good, spend our life trying to listen to God?
The truth is that having God in our lives will change us, just as it changed Abraham.
We will still make mistakes, we will still struggle,
but with God in our lives our lives can reflect on what we have done, and what we should have done, and so become a blessing to others.
It has never been about being good or bad, because our goodness isn’t good enough.
It’s about the place of God in our lives.
Let us pray
We get suckered into the good guy, bad guy thing.
We are the good guys, we make decisions from a good place,
isn’t that the justification we give to ourselves when we make such awful decisions, ‘Oh but our heart is in the right place.’
If our heart was in the right place then why is there so much pain?
What is worse we get so judgemental on other people.
Because we want to believe that good people make good decisions and bad people make bad decisions.
So from our moral high castle we judge the politicians and social workers and teachers and doctors and police and the neighbours and even family when they make bad decisions, because that must mean they are bad people.
While they try to justify themselves by saying, ‘But our motives are good, our heart is in the right place.’
Father, is that not our greatest flaw, our greatest weakness, believing that being good is good enough?
For we never know all the factors involved, we never truly understand all our motivations,
we can never fully predict all the consequences of our actions.
And the burden of being good becomes the burden of trying to be perfect.
Help us instead to follow another path.
To walk Your way;
to walk in the rhythm of the One who created past, present, and future.
to walk in time to Your heartbeat, to live at Your pace,
to live in love, and be Your love to the world.
And as we try to listen to you whisperings,
and as we try to follow your guidance,
may You, the God of our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows
bless us and help us to be a blessing to others,
now and forever.