Guarding against moral degradation

We must protect ourselves against falling into old, destructive patterns.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 – Do not be deceived: “Bad associations corrupt good moral habits.” Come to your senses and stop sinning; for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame.

The text here speaks of bad associations; those companionships and conversations that have little to no redeeming value. In our association with these types of relationships and interactions, the apostle Paul warns that we are in danger of becoming deceived. We need to demonstrate vigilance in our activities among those who are ignorant about God as we can be led into sinful areas.

While we certainly need to interact with those around us who may not presently know God, we may sometimes feel that our remaining involvement with them, especially those closer acquaintances and relationships, can help to pull them toward God. However, I once received some sage advice from a former pastor. He mentioned how if someone is standing on a chair, it is much easier for a group of people to pull them off of the chair than for the person on the chair to pull others up.

Proverbs 13:20 – He who walks with the wise will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

While these cautionary admonitions apply to those around us, the same logic holds true for those who may be within our congregations. We may feel more confidence that those inside our local groups can be reliable companions. However, earlier in the same epistle to the Corinthians, Paul has some similar advice.

1 Corinthians 5:6 – Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough?

Paul here uses the analogy of how yeast can overtake an entire batch of dough with just a little bit of time. In Hebraic thinking, an unleavened batch of dough that is left to itself can absorb yeast particles from ambient conditions and become leavened in as little as a day or two, sometimes only a matter of hours. In this sense, we need to guard ourselves and our local believing communities from those who could potentially bring in harmful ways.

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 – I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.

While we can’t escape all worldly influence in our daily lives, we can certainly be vigilant with those who claim to be believers and yet persist in ways that are ungodly. Our role then switches from one of shared companionship to one of accountability.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 – For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.

While we are not in a position to be judgmental of how those in the world conduct themselves, Paul says ultimately God judges them. In closer relationships with non-believers, we can distance ourselves when we see that our familiarity with them is not bearing fruit, and we ourselves may be in danger of falling into old, destructive patterns.

Within our congregations, however, our responsibility is to ensure that we are not associating with those who claim to be believers but are unrepentant. Then we do have the right, and the responsibility, to confront their sinfulness.

Ultimately, with all of our interactions in life, we need to be vigilant about maintaining truth and following Yeshua in sincerity and obedience. When we do so, we can be led to further areas of wisdom and understanding.

Proverbs 9:6 – Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.


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The momentum of integrity can keep one on the right path

The momentum of actions, good or bad, create a path of life that can define us.

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, But wickedness overthrows the sinner.

Proverbs 13:6

There are a lot of rich words in this short proverb that convey a wealth of helpful information for those who are seeking the motivation and wisdom to live with integrity.

Righteousness is a word conveying right actions, or just decisions that a ruler might make. This word is used of those who follow and pursue the torah or instruction of God. This proverb begins by telling us that righteousness guards or preserves from danger, watches over and keeps close the one pursuing it. As a watchman on the wall of a city is always looking out for possible intruders, this guarding takes place because of the righteous actions.

The way of a person is their path or their habits, manner of life, course of their character. If that way of life is blameless or full of innocence and simplicity, complete in integrity, then their right decisions protect their way from the danger of straying from the truth.

However, the caution of this proverb is that wickedness, a moral, ethical, or religious straying from the right path can distort, twist, turn upside down the one who sins, that is, who is an offense to God.

What is interesting is that the emphasis in this proverb is on the actions of the individuals, and how their habitual actions keep them on one path or the other. We typically are inclined to think that good or bad people do good or bad things. This proverb, though, is implying that the actions of the individuals actually define who they are and keep them doing so.

The wicked person’s actions work in a way to prevent them from doing right. By contrast, the righteous actions of the person of integrity act as guardrails to keep them on right path. From this we can learn that the momentum of actions, good or bad, create a path of life that can define us.

My hope for all those seeking God is that they would remain motivated to continue to live in the ways of righteousness; following righteousness and integrity is a powerful protector for those who are continually seeking him.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Who can attain to the ideal of the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31?

If Proverbs 31 is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people, we can be encouraged to collectively attain its lofty ambitions.

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Proverbs 31:27

The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs contains a famous passage providing the characteristics of a “noble” or “virtuous” woman. Many a wife has reviewed this passage with trepidation, as the ideal set forth in these verses can indeed be intimidating.

However, instead of describing the ideal woman and holding wives to an unreachable standard, this passage can be viewed from a different, and perhaps more attainable, perspective that aligns with the middle-eastern propensity to couch word pictures and ideas in parabolic language.

Especially in the prophets, God has revealed himself as desiring his people as a husband desires the pure love of a faithful bride. He is equally disappointed when that love is not returned to him, but is instead wasted on the idolatry of the nations around them.

“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.

Hosea 6:4

But he holds out the promise of renewed faithfulness and marital fidelity for the people of Zion.

Never again will [Jerusalem] be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

Isaiah 62:4-5

This theme is echoed in the book of Revelation:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.

Revelation 21:2-3

If this noble woman in Proverbs is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people as his prophetic bride, then it begins to make sense of the overall passage lining out the expectations God has for his people, not just wives.

One of the characteristics God expects of his people is the vigilance with which this woman watches over her family, that nothing is outside of her purview. She carefully looks ahead to the needs of her family, identifying dangers ahead of time, like a watchman on the walls of a city.

This vigilance is contrasted with laziness, or more literally the eating of “the bread of idleness,” as one who sits idle, concerned only with their own appetite and nothing else. In today’s terminology, they might be considered a “deadbeat mom.”

However, we have the opportunity to view the passage in its entirety of what God expects of his people, and his goal for us is not to remain trapped in the idleness of our own selfish passions, but to be ever watchful, caring for the welfare of those of our “family.”

As an ideal for wives, Proverbs 31 can be intimidating and unattainable. However, viewed as an ideal for all believers, collective attainment of its lofty ambitions suddenly becomes more applicable and practical. We would do well to imbue our lives with her character of vigilance for her family in respect and honor of our Husband and Provider.