If a king knew his glass was poisoned, would he ever dare drink it? No, the king would turn it away to protect his life because he knows the glass is deadly. He would not even dare to sip from the cup. The poison would not only be rejected, but the king would execute whomever introduced such a threat. In this moment, the king applies his knowledge of the contents of his glass and makes a wise decision.
This king’s decision to shun the poisoned cup is an example of worldly wisdom. As Christians, we must add a key distinction to how we define wisdom. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge with a view to God’s glory. What knowledge especially should we then apply to walk wisely as we live our lives amidst this corrupt world? All the decisions we make should be guided by one sovereign principle: the will of God’s command. God gives his eternal commands regarding how we must walk as his children. In order for us to make wise decisions based on God’s will, God must write his word in our hearts.
When Abraham and Lot decided to go their separate ways, they had to choose where to live. Lot consciously bore a responsibility to God to separate from the world and live as a pilgrim and stranger. As Lot looked upon all the land, he saw a fertile plain, but within the plain “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:13). The men of this wicked city walked in ways totally contrary to God’s law. They rejected creation’s testimony of God and walked contrary to their consciences. Yet Lot foolishly walked toward and eventually dwelled in the city.
Is this not how we too see sin enter into our lives: first a glance, then a look, then eventually the realization that we have fallen headlong into a sin? With Lot, we reject knowledge, walk foolishly, and thereby look like the world (Sodom) a lot of times. We should strive to run like Abraham, with our eyes turned away, “keep[ing] the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19).
In many ways, Lot began to value his own personal pursuit over God’s command and revealed a heart corrupted with sins from Sodom. He chose greed over God’s prescribed generosity and took the plains of Jordan for his cattle because “it was well watered every where” (Gen. 13:10). Despite knowing of the exceeding sinfulness of Sodom during his wandering, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. Now Lot could live in a plentiful plain and have his cattle well-fed. Surely all would go well. However, this viewing of Sodom set Lot on a steep slope on which he slid to ultimately dwell within the city and live in opposition to God’s warnings. Quickly Lot became caught up in the wars of Sodom, taken as a prisoner, and saved by Abraham (Gen. 14). In his capture, God taught Lot of the corruption of Sodom, yet Lot still returned. There he defiled God’s institution of marriage and the call to chastity, and he offered his daughters to prevent the grosser wicked homosexual desires of the Sodomites. Finally, despite being directly told about the destruction that would come upon Sodom, Lot “lingered” and finally had to be pulled away to safety by the angels (19:16).
Abraham starkly contrasts Lot. He pursued a righteous walk in keeping God’s commands and lived according to the knowledge and wisdom God had given him. Abraham humbly offered Lot whatever land he preferred and graciously allowed him to take the most fertile plains (Gen. 13:8–9). Then Abraham formed a weak army with his servants to save Lot from wicked men’s hands, knowing that God, the Almighty, would give him the victory (14:14–16). Abraham then refused to be rewarded lest any man should think his blessings came from the men of this earth. Abraham rightly acknowledged that all glory must be to “the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,” not to these wicked men (v. 22). When Abraham heard of the judgment of Sodom, where his nephew Lot lived, he virtuously pleaded that the righteous be not destroyed with the wicked (18:23). In all his ways, Abraham walked wisely by seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
Let it be said of us that we too walk in wisdom according to the knowledge God has given us and that we too seek first the kingdom of God. As a distinctly Reformed body of believers, God has blessed us with his doctrine and preserved and refined us through countless assaults, and many of us are privileged to have been taught this doctrine in our homes, under the preaching, and in the catechism classrooms from the days of our youth. The devil will tempt us to think God’s word is inconvenient or that there is a better way. Do I really need to stay separate from the world? Do I need to confess all of God’s glory? Must I ALWAYS be patient, even when my friend refuses to apologize? Looking at Lot’s example, we heartily answer, “Yes, yes, yes,” and “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently” (Ps. 119:4).
Heed the warning we see in Lot’s life. Do not be destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Study the scriptures, for they are profitable so “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Paul speaks directly to us “youth” in 1 Timothy 4:12–13, 16, encouraging us as we walk in a dark world to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” and “in doing this [we] shalt both save [ourselves], and them that hear [us].” There can be no room for us to slide closer to Sodom or the world around us. The antithetical gap should only grow more pronounced through time as we remain steadfast and increase in our knowledge of God’s word while the world continues to cultivate its sinful darkness. Test yourself with these questions:
How do I look different from the world?
Do my coworkers see the hope that is in me?
Are my friends worldly?
Do I speak like the world?
Am I actively learning God’s law and doctrine, and living according to them?
Do I have the passions or motivations of the world, such as Lot’s greed?
There is great reward and blessing in this holy walk. For those who walk after God’s commands, God says, “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Ps. 119:2). Pray to God that you might “receive power” of the Holy Ghost to live this way (Acts 1:8). It is only by him we are given the wisdom to live the antithesis. Through him we perform these works and enjoy the blessings of living in the light of Christ apart from the darkness of Sodom.
Originally published January 2021, Vol 80 No 1