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Ambush of the Greedy

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“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we shall all have one purse” — my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” ~Proverbs 1:10-19

In the rest of the first chapter of Proverbs, the voices of fools (as defined by Proverbs 1:7) are set opposite the voice of wisdom and shown as contrary to it. Those who are described as greedy men are said to entice by their words, connoting secretive subversiveness, while wisdom is represented as openly and freely speaking in all public places. Even as sinners actively plot bloodshed and transgression of the law of God, wisdom calls out, reproving, warning them from their folly, and even threatening them with death — a sentence carrying with it no opportunity to repent, for the guilty were not ignorant of the laws they were breaking.

What laws were these, that they were breaking and planning to break? The commands of God against murder, against theft, against covetousness — these in particular stand out to me. In the remainder of the chapter, Wisdom gives them no quarter, charging them with ignoring her counsels and hating knowledge. In all this, there is an unspoken assumption of real guilt and of sin as defined by the law of God.

But in verses 10-19, in particular, I noticed that this is an example of the life-consuming nature of greed and lust. Not only would these sin, committing murder and robbery due to their covetousness, but they, uncontent with their own sin, would have Solomon’s son join with them in their transgressions. Hence, the king carefully warns his son, telling him of the end result of such a way of living — that these men are only lying in wait for their own lives. And it is never good to be a companion of those who take delight in the things that God hates. The greedy man is not a strong man, nor unafraid. Such people bind themselves together in their iniquities by having one purse — thus necessarily sharing the responsibility as well as the sin, even though this does nothing to mitigate their guilt before the Lord. No confederation of sinners is any stronger against the Lord God than a single individual.

When analyzing a situation, it has often been said, “Follow the money.” Because power is the desire of lust and pride, money is a very tangible object pursued by the discontent and covetousness — whom the apostle Paul identifies as idolaters (Colossians 3:5). These men are predators, villainously taking the easiest prey unawares. In this, they are wittingly imitating death, desiring power from Sheol in order to gather riches for themselves. To them, sin and death is the way to beautifying their homes and persons — but, in truth, they are only committing suicide and planning their own demise. They thus prove themselves more foolish than the beasts, which will avoid a trap if they observe it being laid. The love of death so blinds a person as to make him his own ambusher, his own assassin, his own murderer — in the very face of the warnings of wisdom. A fool who despises the wisdom of God is under the wrath of God; and his own greed will kill him.

In the light of this, the voice of wisdom stridently warns the child of the covenant to consistently refuse to consent to their temptations. And if the Christian does find himself attracted to the voice of such foolish and subversive plotting, he is already wandering from the ways of wisdom and justice. Such wicked plans as are laid forth in Proverbs 1:11-14 are odious to the one who fears the Lord.

Such is the way of temptations. We are bid to be aware of them, seeking insight and understanding instead. In doing so, we will not be attracted to the many things that greedy men entice us towards, for we will be able to see beyond the moment, perceiving the end of those things. But unless we fear the Lord, we will not know to depart from evil, but rather will accompany it and oversee our own deaths, far from the Lord. Solomon is showing his son that the beauty laid before his eyes by the devious and twisted reasonings of greedy men is no true beauty at all — nor is it to be desired. Rather, we are called to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” ~Romans 13:14