Do You Want A Fireproof Life?

Do You Want A Fireproof Life?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

In Proverbs 6, Solomon offers five items of advice. These five protective measures encompass everything from financial decisions to sexual purity. 

In verses 1-5, Solomon advises his sons not to take on someone else’s debt. Please remember that this is not a reference to the compassion God expects from His people. This guidance isn’t even about assisting a family member in need. The crucial distinction occurs in the second verse. According to Solomon, this is an example of speaking before thinking. The victim fell into a trap he created with his own words. One can only speculate why someone would make such a hasty pledge. It could be for appearances or because you believe the other person will do something good for you in the future. 

This warning makes me think of what Paul told the young preacher Timothy. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin”  (1 Timothy 5.22 NASB1995). We should remember that if we praise someone before we know what kind of person they are, they may hurt our reputation if they turn out to be less than good. “Guilt by association” is something that a lot of people think is true. Think about the damage that someone else’s debt can cause. If they don’t pay, you’ll be on the hook for a debt you never owed in the first place! The person who doesn’t do what he needs to do could ruin your finances. 

Solomon says to go immediately and ask the other party to remove you from the pledge. It would be best if you didn’t go to sleep until the other person lets you out of the promise. Solomon even says that if you have to, you should beg. Then, even though it’s unpleasant, you deliver yourself like a prey escaping the hunter. (This part of Proverbs 6 makes me want to talk about the “entitlement mentality” and how helping others isn’t always best for their personal growth, and how they should live within their means, but I’ll be good and stay on task.) 

In verses 6 through 11, we are told not to be lazy. In this passage, Solomon tells us to look at the ant. Solomon praises the ant’s tenacity in the absence of a leader. Even though ants have a queen and use pheromones to talk to each other, this doesn’t change Solomon’s point. If you’ve ever watched ants, you know that they don’t need taskmasters to watch over them all the time. The ants take charge. Whatever the queen tells them to do, they do it right away. The bigger ant doesn’t crack his whip to make the smaller ones work harder. Even the Greek Aesop noticed this, using an ant as the main character in one of his stories. The ant worked hard to prepare for winter, while the grasshopper (originally a cicada) preferred to play. When winter came, the ants were happy, but the grasshopper came to ask for food. (It’s important to note that the ant showed no kindness in the early versions of the story. The grasshopper, or cicada, got to “reap what he had sown.”) 

Again, the New Testament has a cousin to our text. Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that people who don’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Laziness creates poverty. Solomon says that if one is “twiddling his thumbs,” poverty appears as a “vagabond.” As an American, I prefer to use the term “hobo” rather than “vagabond” because it conjures a more familiar image for my fellow citizens. I don’t know if hobos still exist today, but there were many of them during the Great Depression. Trains took these (mostly) men all over the country. They would never “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” They even made a hieroglyphic language that they left for other hobos. These symbols told you which houses would give you food, which would share food in exchange for work, and which places would give you food if you talked about religion. (In some respects, I cannot help but compare this to the recent “Great Resignation. The hobos decided to take advantage of the economic downturn to abandon society. In some ways, the same is true of those who choose not to report to work after COVID-19 disruptions.) 

In verses 12–15, Solomon tells us to look out for bad people. Solomon says you can find “tells” about these people if you look for them. Most of the time, we use the word “tell” in the context of poker. If someone gets a good hand, he might make a specific face. In the same way, other players know when he has a good hand. The same is true for his facial expressions or body language when he gets a bad hand. The wicked’s body language may show they want to do bad things. Their offensive language can also show who they are. As another implication, tells can also be used to talk to a partner. For example, a bad guy might communicate to a partner how to best ambush you. Solomon has already said we should avoid these situations at all costs.  

Now we get to the part of Proverbs 6 that most of us know: the seven things that God hates (6.16-19). These sins are interesting because they start in the heart and take over the sinner’s actions. A haughty expression means more than just arrogance. It means that a person thinks he or she is better than others. And if he is better than other people, his will comes first. Even his whims are more important than what you need. So, his pride, shown by his eyes, comes out in his lying tongue. People who lie do it to get the upper hand in a situation or avoid getting in trouble if caught. See how arrogance leads to lying! Because people often tell lies to save their necks, the sinner shows that he cares more about himself than his neighbors. So, if he has to shed the blood of innocent people to help his cause, he will.

Once a sinner gets to this point, he plans to do bad things and is willing to put in whatever effort is needed to make them happen. After that, he will tell any lie, even if it means lying about someone else. Lastly, this sinner is ready to ruin other people’s relationships to get what he wants. You’ve probably heard that all seven of these sins were done by those betraying Christ, giving Him to the Romans. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Can you think of Caiaphas? He said that Jesus should die instead of the entire nation of Israel (John 11.47-53; 18.14). Caiaphas, Judas, and the religious leaders of the Jews all do things that are on the list of seven things that God hates. It may take more thought to put the pieces together, but I’m sure other sins will follow the same pattern (e.g., abortion). 

The remainder of Proverbs 6 is devoted to sexual immorality. We’ve already said that young men like the thrill of new experiences that a “strange woman,” like a prostitute or an adulteress, can give them. Solomon spends some time here explaining why adultery is the more expensive of the two encounters. Although he does not condone illicit relationships with prostitutes, adultery is worse than those relationships. Adultery is a sin against God, the lawful spouse, the adulterous woman, and oneself. Prostitution is a sin against God, the prostitute, and oneself. (Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.18-19 that sexual immorality is a sin against oneself. We don’t always think of ourselves as people who could be hurt.) “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (6.27). Of course, this is not true. Any sexual sin will hurt him. 

But the young man pays a different price for his extramarital sex. Most English translations use awkward language in verse 26, making it hard to understand what Solomon meant. “…for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life,” says the English Standard Version. In other words, a meeting with a prostitute is a transaction, meaning one exchanges goods or money for “services.” Solomon says that the prostitute will only cost you a loaf of bread, by comparison. But how can you make things up to the man whose wife you slept with? Sadly, the answer is that you cannot. The Law said that if the young man stole property, he had to pay back the total amount. But he can’t compensate for what he stole by sleeping with another man’s wife. Maybe this is why God made adultery a crime punishable by death in the Law. 

In chapter seven, Solomon warns his sons about “Lady Folly.” We’ll look at this chapter again next time, Lord willing. 

Illustration from Aesop’s “Ant And The Grasshopper”
Purloining

Purloining

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Today I walked in on someone purloining. I told them that I would think of some ways that they could recompense the situation, but the only way I could think to forgive them was if they were willing to give me some money as a propitiation. 

Did that sentence confuse you? Then you’re in luck because in this article we are going to be covering a very confusing word. The Bible is the most valuable possession we can have here on earth. So our goal should be to understand what it says. If I’m honest there have been times that I’ll read verses that use some confusing words, and instead of trying to understand what it means, I just skip over it and keep reading. 

There are some valuable insights that we can gain from looking more in depth at these words. 

Let’s define this biblical term “purloining” using scripture. Titus 2:10 says, “not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” 

The Greek word “nosphivo” is only found 3 times in New Testament and only translated as purloining in one verse. It’s defined as, “to put aside for oneself, to keep back, to steal.” It was actually a term used as a description of what Roman soldiers would do when they were looting. They would be tempted to hold back treasure for themselves. And that’s exactly what this word means. 

Going back to this verse, what does it mean in context? Verse 10 is the launching point for the rest of Paul’s point in chapter one. When he says purloining, he’s referring to bondservants and their attitude towards their masters. Rather than pilfering and stealing, they should show faith in God to take care of them. 

In essence this verse is an appeal to live in accordance with the teachings of God in everything. 

Servants who were not Christians would steal and cheat their masters at any chance they could get. Paul’s appeal for these servants to keep from purloining is still relevant today. We can be tempted to slack off and do as little work as possible. This mentality is the same as stealing since our employers pay us to do a job. If we are lazy and avoid working, that is a form of stealing. As Christians we are to have a faith in God to provide for us, not stealing and being dishonest.

In summary, if you were to use this in everyday conversation, you could say…

“I have never purloined in my life,” “Purloining is wrong,” and “I’m going to teach my kids to be honest and not run around purloining.” 

P.S. Or you could just say “steal” or “withhold.” 

A Land Where You Get Paid A Sign-on Bonus To Flip Burgers

A Land Where You Get Paid A Sign-on Bonus To Flip Burgers

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

One of the tedious but necessary items we pay attention to on the news is the economic reports. No, we do not do so out of love for money, but because we desire to be good stewards with the resources with which God has entrusted us. But unfortunately, the SARS-COV-2 virus has had quite an impact on our economy. In addition, we are coming up on the third anniversary of the pandemic shutdowns. So, it is safe to say that things have yet to return to where they were before March of 2020.  

Some industries, like the hospitality industry, have been decimated. For example, as of January 2022, the National Restaurant Association found that about 80,000 restaurants have closed because of COVID.1And those restauranteurs with an open business have difficulty staffing themselves and obtaining supplies. Here locally, I noted a combo KFC and Taco Bell franchise offering an $500 sign-on bonus in January 2021 to rectify the labor shortage. I have since read of other fast-food restaurants across the nation likewise offering large sign-on bonuses to perform what is considered non-skilled labor.  

Now, I do not call any work in which one employs himself to be beneath anyone’s dignity, despite the technical designation of some jobs as being “non-skilled.” On the contrary, these are routine jobs suitable for teenagers seeking their first job experiences or seniors needing to supplement their retirement or stay active. But something has happened because of the pandemic. Whether large or small, one factor that keeps people away from gainful employment is the CARES Act, passed in March 2020. With this piece of legislation, one could argue that our federal government incentivized the acceptance of unemployment payments that, for many, exceeded the salaries earned at jobs from which COVID displaced them. In contrast, we might point out that those states doing better economically today wised up quickly and took away those incentives to stay out of work. 

And now, we are hearing a strange new phrase on newscasts: “The Great Resignation.”2 Since there are more jobs than workers, people dissatisfied with their current occupations opt to quit. You have likely heard the real estate terms of “buyer’s market” and “seller’s market.” The former is a real estate market where buyers have the upper hand. As a result of various circumstances, there is more inventory than demand. As a result, the buyer has greater leverage to ask for price reductions from the homeowner. In a seller’s market, you have the opposite conditions. There is less inventory available. So, a buyer will pay more to purchase a house or land because other potential buyers are waiting in the wing. With the Great Resignation, the thought is that we are basically in a “worker’s market.” These job-shoppers know that employers need workers so desperately that they will do things like offering $1,000 to entice them into accepting the position they offer. 

As anecdotal evidence for this “worker’s market,” I will offer a repeated observation from my lengthy hospital stay in 2021. There is no doubt that doctors and nurses have had it rough during the pandemic. Thus, we rightly call their actions heroic. But among the nurse technicians, I heard a few of the “lesser heroic” ones talking about how they loved the current climate because they could just quit abruptly and walk down to the next hospital to take advantage of the better incentive package they offered. Before someone thinks I am being too harsh, I will tell you more. These individuals said they could bounce around, even returning to the hospitals that they had left to game the system. Their “loyalty” was to the highest bidder.  

What has this to do with Christians or theology? I will put the question to you this way. What kind of a society is born from our current environment with people choosing to stay at home and collect benefits for not working or taking advantage of desperate employers? Does this mindset end with work, or does it spill over into all of one’s life? Is there an immoral cause? Paul cautioned the Thessalonicans: “…if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (2 Thessalonians 3.10 NASB1995) In addition, idleness poses a danger. An idiom pairing well with 2 Thessalonians 3.11 is “idle hands is the devil’s workshop.” Paul said the nonworkers within the Thessalonican church made themselves busybodies, living undisciplined lives. Ouch.  

Remembering one’s actual Employer resolves a part of this problem. Paul reminds us: 

“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3.22-24 NASB1995)   

Though not “slaves” in the same sense as those recipients in the first century (most people living in the Roman Empire were slaves to someone), we see how we are fángnú (Chinese for “mortgage slaves”) today. God expects us to be industrious. Even the inaugural pair placed in paradise had to “cultivate and keep” their garden home (Genesis 2.15). A nation where people work doesn’t have time to riot, loot, play keyboard warriors, “cancel” others, or push agendas on other people’s children. We are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom first and foremost but let us not participate in those shortcomings here that create a land where you get paid a sign-on bonus to flip burgers.    

Sources Cited 

1 Ruberg, Emma. “Covid Created Difficulties for Restaurants, but Supply Chain and Labor Issues Worsened Them.” Michigan Radio, Michigan Radio, 26 Jan. 2022, www.michiganradio.org/economy/2022-01-26/covid-created-difficulties-for-restaurants-but-supply-chain-and-labor-issues-worsened-them

2 Pickert, Reade. “Great Resignation Increased in Eight U.S. States in December.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 17 Feb. 2022, 11:08, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-17/great-resignation-worsened-in-eight-u-s-states-in-december

Further Reading 

Antoni, E.J. “Paid Not to Work: How Supplemental Unemployment Insurance Benefits Decreased Employment from 2020 to 2021.” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Public Policy Foundation, 9 Feb. 2022, www.texaspolicy.com/paid-not-to-work-how-supplemental-unemployment-insurance-benefits-decreased-employment-from-2020-to-2021/. [Click the link at the bottom of the page to read the .pdf file.] 

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By the way, this is the picture I took from January of 2021.

WHO IS A SLUGGARD?

WHO IS A SLUGGARD?

Neal Pollard

The slothful or sluggard man is condemned many times in Proverbs. God treats laziness with contempt. God says the sluggard is so lazy he buried his hand in his food and won’t even bring it back up to his mouth (Prov. 19:24; 26:15)! Since he knows all the answers, he has no need for work (cf. Prov. 26:16). Notice how Proverbs describes him.
HE HAS NO INITIATIVE (Prov. 6:6-11). He lacks the ambition to work, the foresight to plan, and the desire to provide necessities. He is the one who constantly needs a fire lit under him. He cannot conceive of the idea of being a “self-starter.” No doubt, he has difficulty finding and keeping employment. He constantly seeks out the easy way. He is lethargic. A Christian should never lack determination, for there is great purpose in Christ and His love should motivate us to act (Gal. 5:6).
HE’S UNRELIABLE AND IRRESPONSIBLE (Prov. 10:26). He cannot be entrusted with a task. His word means little. His effort is sub par. The verse says, “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” Are there ever sluggards in the church, who promise involvement, pledge support, talk up church plans, but never or irregularly produce? They make promises, but people quickly learn not to expect of them. The sluggard forgets that his or her words mean something (cf. Matt. 12:36-37). Too, Jesus says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16,20).
HE HAD RATHER WISH THAN WORK (Prov. 13:4). He is long on cravings, short on diligence. Therefore, he spends his life in a dream world. Someone said, “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” The lazy man is a poor steward of his time (Eph. 5:16) and his mind. Dreams alone are vanity (cf. Ecc. 5:7).
HE WANTS BENEFIT WITHOUT INVESTMENT (Prov. 20:4). He wants something for nothing. This proverbs says that the sluggard goes hungry because he won’t hitch up the team in plowing season. He wants to eat, but he doesn’t want to work for it. Paul suggests that such should not be allowed a spot at the dinner table (cf. 2 Thess. 3:11-12). What about churches that want growth without evangelism? Or individuals who want success without self-discipline? Anything worthwhile requires effort!
There may be a bit of sluggard in us all. The tendency to slough off is often tempting. The devil will surely use idleness to try and defeat the cause of Christ. What sagacity is found in doing with all the might what the hand finds to do (Ecc. 9:10)!