TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

II. Riches and Sex

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Chapter 38  Part II

Riches and Sex

Riches and sex are both good in themselves; in fact they are blessings from God. However they both are easily and often misused, bringing ill effects for both ourselves and others. Indeed, few things have the capacity of riches or sex for both good and harm. So it should be no surprise that they feature so prominently in the Bible’s teaching on our relationships with others and moreover our relationship with God.

Riches and Godliness

See also:

Riches are a barrier to a relationship with God

Matt 6:19-21, 24  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rusty destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ▤ 24“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.z ▤ 

y Or worm; also verse 20

z Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions

Matt 13:22  As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. ▤ 

Similarly, Luke 8:14 says of such people in their response to God’s word: “… they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life …”

Mark 10:21-25  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it isa to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” ▤ 

a Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches

Note the reference to the rich in particular in the text note on v. 24 (cf. AMP).

Col 3:5  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:b sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ▤ 

b Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

Here “covetousness” is identified with “idolatry” because it involves devotion to earthly things rather than to God – illustrating that desire for riches or possessions is a barrier to a relationship with God.

Rev 3:17-18  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. ▤ 

The Laodiceans’ material success – demonstrated notably by their gold, textile trade and a noted eye salve or ointment – had resulted in a self-reliance and limp spirituality. In v. 18 Jesus Christ figuratively exhorts them to instead obtain from him spiritual riches, provisions and insight.

Job 22:23-26  If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, 24if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, 25then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. 26For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. ▤ 

This has parallels with the well-known words of Jesus above in Matthew 6:21, 24 and Mark 10:21. One’s delight should be in God; he should be our most treasured possession (vv. 25-26). Riches have an innate tendency to captivate us and become our delight and priority, rather than God. As such we should take measures to counteract this, even getting rid of our riches (v. 24). Note that despite the wisdom of Eliphaz’s word, they were inappropriately spoken to godly Job.

Isa 2:6-7  For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. 7Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. ▤ 

The inclusion of the people’s massive stock of silver and gold amidst a listing of their sins (cf. vv. 6-8) implies that this had contributed to their poor spiritual condition.

Hos 12:7-8  A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppress. 8Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” ▤ 

Verse 8 indicates either that the wealth of the people of Ephraim had deceived them into thinking that they were without sin in their labors – which was certainly not the case (v. 7) – or they thought that with their wealth they would be able to cover up their sin. Both possibilities illustrate that riches can be a barrier to godliness and thus to a relationship with God.

Riches draw one away from God . . .

Deut 8:11-14  Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, … ▤ 

Deut 32:15  But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. ▤ 

The first half of the verse portrays Israel as growing affluent.

Prov 30:8-9  Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. ▤ 

As reflected in Deuteronomy 8:11-14 above (cf. Rev 3:17 ), riches can lead to self-reliance – instead of trusting in God – which in turn can lead to forgetting God (v. 9).

1Tim 6:9-10  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ▤ 

Ezek 7:19  They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. ▤ 

. . . Contrastingly, the poor are given prominence as recipients of the gospel and God’s kingdom

Luke 4:18  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, … ▤ 

Luke 7:22  And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepersc are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. ▤ 

c Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

Luke 6:20-21  And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. ▤ 

Note that some commentators do not think that “poor” is here referring exclusively to those who are materially poor, claiming that it also has a spiritual application (cf. Matt 5:3). Such commentators may have a similar view of the above references from Luke.

James 2:5  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? ▤ 

It would appear that James is making a generalization, as obviously not all who are poor are rich in faith, and presumably some who are not poor will have a part in the kingdom.

James 1:9-11  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grassd he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. ▤ 

d Or a wild flower

The term “exaltation” (v. 9) appears to refer to an exalted position in God’s kingdom, although many commentators think it refers to the exalted position of simply being in the kingdom. In contrast the rich brother is in a low position – “his humiliation” (v. 10) – because he and what he has will pass away. James’s application of “boast” (v. 9) to the rich possibly has in view that the rich should “boast” or take pride as being in a low or humble position itself is a good thing. Alternatively, James may be applying “boast” to the rich in an ironic sense, as one who is rich is in fact in a low position in or in relation to the kingdom, destined to fade away.

Luke 1:53  … he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. ▤ 

Mary may be referring to God’s past deeds. But given the context, with the impending advent of the Messiah, this could refer to or encompass the poor being filled with the spiritual blessings that God’s kingdom offers – in contrast to the rich being sent away from the kingdom, devoid of its blessings.

  • God chooses the lowly:

1Cor 1:26-29  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,e not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human beingf might boast in the presence of God. ▤ 

e Greek according to the flesh

f Greek no flesh

In v. 28 Paul expands on the previous verse, saying that God has chosen the lowly, the despised and those seen as nothing, to reduce to nothing the things that are important in the eyes of the world. God does this so that no one can be in a position to boast before him (v. 29), with one’s standing before God having nothing to do with what one was previously.

Desire for riches can lead to mistreatment of others

See also:

In addition to harming our relationship with God, a desire for riches can also lead us to mistreat other people.

Prov 18:23  The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly. ▤ 

Despite the poor’s pleas for mercy, the rich are often unmerciful in their pursuit of increased wealth.

James 2:6-7  But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? ▤ 

Not all rich people do such things, but such things are normally done by rich people, or those desiring riches. Note that in v. 7 James may be speaking of these rich people slandering the name of Jesus indirectly through their mistreatment of his people (James’s readers), or in addition to this mistreatment.

2Pet 2:3  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. ▤ 

Isa 5:8  Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. ▤ 

This condemns those who acquire assets – in particular property – to the detriment of others.

Acts 16:16-23  As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servantsg of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. ▤ 

g Greek bondservants

The desire for riches of the slave girl’s owners led them to exploit her (v. 16). Additionally, when they lost this source of riches, their desire for riches led them to vindictively take vengeance on Paul and Silas (vv. 19-23).

Acts 19:24-29  For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 28When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. ▤ 

So, do not love money . . .

See also:

Heb 13:5a  Keep your life free from love of money … ▤ 

Ps 62:10  Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. ▤ 

1Tim 3:2-3  Therefore an overseerh must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,i sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. ▤ 

h Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1

i Or a man of one woman; also verse 12

1Tim 6:9-10  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ▤ 

Eccl 5:10  He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. ▤ 

The final clause refers to the uselessness or emptiness of loving money, a desire that can never be satisfied.

Luke 16:14-15  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. ▤ 

The final statement may refer to or be inclusive of money and the love of it (v. 14a), although Jesus may primarily be speaking of the Pharisees’ pretentious public image (v. 15a).

Prov 23:4  Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. ▤ 

This is a warning against wearing ourselves out trying to get rich (cf. AMP, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). Such “toil” is indicative of a love of money, and is unwise.

Prov 28:20, 22  A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. ▤ 22A stingy manj hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. ▤ 

j Hebrew A man whose eye is evil

The punishment in view in v. 20 may well be punishment for dishonesty, a constant temptation for “whoever hastens to be rich”.

. . . Be content with what you have

Heb 13:5  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ▤ 

1Tim 6:6-8  Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, andk we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. ▤ 

k Greek for; some manuscripts insert [it is] certain [that]

Luke 3:14  Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” ▤ 

Phil 4:11-13  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ▤ 

A number of commentators point out that the word translated as “content” can be understood as meaning “self-sufficient”. Paul had learned how to be self-sufficient and content in every circumstance, not being reliant on things of this world, through the strength that Jesus Christ gives (v. 13).

Eccl 4:6-8  Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. 7Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business. ▤ 

Verse 6 is saying that it is better to have a small amount with “peace and quiet” (NIrV®) – associated with being “content” (NCV™) – than having more from toil and futilely chasing an ever-increasing amount, as v. 8 elaborates. For those who endlessly toil after riches are “never satisfied” (v. 8) with what they gain (cf. Eccl 5:10 ).

Eccl 6:9  Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind. ▤ 

It is better to be content with and enjoy what you have – that which your eyes can see – rather than to crave what you do not have.

Prov 19:23  The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. ▤ 

This indicates that fearing God is a key to being content.

  • The psalmist’s contentment with God:

Ps 73:25-26  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strengthl of my heart and my portion forever. ▤ 

l Hebrew rock

The rhetorical question (v. 25a) implies that not only did the psalmist not have anyone nor anything else in heaven, he also did not long for such. In saying that God was his “portion forever” (v. 26) the psalmist appears to be implying that God was all he ever needed (cf. GNT) or wanted.

Note: Wealth ultimately comes from God

See also:

Bear in mind that the knowledge that wealth ultimately comes from God is no reason to keep it for oneself. Rather, one must use wealth wisely, remembering that: riches give one great potential for good (cf. 1Tim 6:18 ) – for God’s kingdom and helping others; and there are grave potential pitfalls associated with accumulating riches (as the other subsections in this and the following section indicate). Also note that the knowledge that wealth ultimately comes from God rather than our own efforts, should encourage us to not be focused on chasing wealth.

Deut 8:17-18  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. ▤ 

Note that the promise of material wealth for those who obeyed God and kept his covenant was a promise of the first covenant (v. 18b). Under the new covenant, spiritual and eternal blessings are stated as the rewards for God’s people.

1Sam 2:7  The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. ▤ 

1Chr 29:12  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. ▤ 

Prov 10:22  The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.m ▤ 

m Or and toil adds nothing to it

Wealth without trouble is a gift from God – as is wealth and the enjoyment of it (cf. Eccl 5:19 ).

Eccl 5:19  Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. ▤ 

Gen 26:12-13  And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. ▤ 

This and the following verses do not actually say or necessarily imply that wealth in general ultimately comes from God. But as examples of God giving wealth, they illustrate and even allude to this.

2Chr 32:29  He [Hezekiah] likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. ▤ 

Job 1:10b  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. ▤ 

Hos 2:8  And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. ▤ 

  • God provides us with everything – including riches, which should be used for the good of others:

1Tim 6:17-19  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. ▤ 

The teaching in v. 18 that the rich should use their riches for the good of others, may have in view the fact that they only have such riches because of God’s provision (v. 17b).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Further Warnings about Riches

See also:

Riches are not secure . . .

See also:

Prov 23:4-5  Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. ▤ 

Prov 27:24  … for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? ▤ 

The reference to the insecurity of “a crown” parallels and accentuates the aforementioned insecurity of riches.

Matt 6:19  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustn destroy and where thieves break in and steal, … ▤ 

n Or worm; also verse 20

1Tim 6:17  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. ▤ 

James 5:2-3a  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded … ▤ 

Eccl 5:13-14  There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. ▤ 

. . . and we do not know what the future holds

We do not know what the future holds, for ourselves or our riches.

Prov 27:1  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. ▤ 

James 4:13-14  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. ▤ 

Eccl 7:14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. ▤ 

The thought appears to be that as our circumstances are of God, we cannot know what the future holds.

Eccl 8:7  For he [man] does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? ▤ 

Ecclesiastes 10:14b is very similar: “… no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?”

Eccl 9:1, 11-12  But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. ▤ 11Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them. ▤ 

The last statement of v. 1 appears to mean that no one knows whether they will experience “love or hate”; both are possible. This “love or hate” is presumably from other people, but some interpret it as referring to God’s “favor” (cf. NIrV, NLT) or lack thereof. The phrase “his time” (v. 12a) refers to a time of disaster, not necessarily death.

Eccl 11:2, 6  Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth. ▤ 6In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. ▤ 

Verse 6 and the following two verses are not so readily applicable to the insecurity and questionable worth of riches in view of the uncertainty of the future. But they do further illustrate that one does not know what the future holds.

Acts 20:22  And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained byo the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, … ▤ 

o Or bound in

Gen 27:2  He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. ▤ 

  • One’s endeavors contain risks:

Eccl 10:8-9  He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them. ▤ 

The meaning of these verses is debatable. One possibility – the reason for their inclusion here – is that they are referring to “the risks of life” (NLT), illustrating that rather than advancing one’s circumstances, one’s endeavors may in fact lead to harm. Other possibilities are that: they warn of the wisdom needed to avoid calamity; and, particularly v. 8, they speak of malicious activities bringing harm to the perpetrators (cf. AMP).

Life does not last and the dead cannot take their riches with them

See also:

Ps 37:35-36  I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.p 36But he passed away,q and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. ▤ 

p The identity of this tree is uncertain

q Or But one passed by

The second clause in v. 35 implies that it is a rich wicked man in view.

Ps 39:5-6  Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah 6Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothingr they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! ▤ 

r Hebrew Surely as a breath

The “shadow” metaphor (v. 6a) appears to allude to one or more of the following aspects of human existence: brevity (v. 5); instability; and futility. Verse 6b teaches that working hard to heap up wealth is a vain exercise, as one’s wealth must be left behind to someone else when one dies.

Ps 49:10-14, 16-17  For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. 11Their graves are their homes forever,s their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. 12Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. 13This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts.t Selah 14Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. ▤ 16Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. 17For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. ▤ 

s Septuagint, Syriac, Targum; Hebrew Their inward thought was that their homes were forever

t Or and of those after them who approve of their boasts

The clause “they called lands by their own names” (v. 11b) refers to land that they had owned (“lands of their own” – GNT, cf. CEV, NLT) – i.e. part of their wealth. The context suggests that the rich are primarily in view in vv. 13-14 as well as in the other verses here.

Eccl 2:18-21  I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. ▤ 

A consequence of people not being able to take their riches with them when they die is that they must leave their riches for others who have not worked for them (v. 21) and who may even use them foolishly (v. 19). This situation renders the accumulation of riches an essentially meaningless exercise.

Eccl 5:15  As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. ▤ 

Luke 12:16-21  And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” ▤ 

Verse 21 indicates that the plight of the rich fool (v. 20) is applicable to all who store up things for themselves and are “not rich toward God” (v. 20). Not being rich “toward God” probably refers to not having spiritual riches – “not rich in God’s sight” (GNT, cf. CEV). Unlike one who has been “rich toward God”, such people will have no equivalent replacement for their riches in the afterlife.

1Cor 7:29-31  This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. ▤ 

The instruction that “those who buy” goods should treat them “as though they had no goods” (v. 30b) has partly in view the transience of life and of life as we know it (vv. 29b, 31b) – coupled with the fact that we cannot keep material possessions beyond this life.

1Tim 6:7  … for we brought nothing into the world, andu we cannot take anything out of the world. ▤ 

u Greek for; some manuscripts insert [it is] certain [that]

James 1:10-11  … and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grassv he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. ▤ 

v Or a wild flower

Hoarding riches will bring ill consequences in the afterlife

See also:

Luke 6:24-25  But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. ▤ 

Luke 16:9-12  And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,w so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? ▤ 

w Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13

One must use worldly wealth for the benefit of others (v. 9), as opposed to hoarding it. Those who have not used worldly wealth – comparatively “very little” (v. 10) – as they ought to have, will not be given the “true riches” (v. 11) of God’s kingdom – i.e. “much” (v. 10) wealth. Note that in v. 10, “unrighteous” (NASB) and “unjust” (NKJV) are alternative translations to “dishonest”.

Luke 16:19-26  There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.x The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. ▤ 

x Greek bosom; also verse 23

As alluded to in other references in this subsection, the rich who ignore the poor face eternal condemnation – characterized by torment (vv. 23-24).

James 5:1-5  Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. ▤ 

Note that v. 4 implies that this passage was primarily aimed at people who were wicked as well as rich (cf. v. 6). In v. 5, “a day of slaughter” denotes a day of God’s judgment – not necessarily the final judgment day, but applicable to it.

  • People who covet have no inheritance in God’s kingdom, and instead face God’s wrath:

Eph 5:5-6  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ▤ 

The phrase “these things” (v. 6) refers to the sins mentioned in v. 5 including covetousness, which is essentially being “greedy” (CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NRSV). The “wrath of God” (v. 6) may not primarily be referring to the eschatological wrath of God, but it is most probably at least inclusive of it.

Other shortcomings of riches

Prov 11:4  Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. ▤ 

The “day of wrath” possibly refers to death (cf. GNT, NCV), but may more specifically refer to a time of divine retribution (cf. Zeph 1:18 ).

Prov 13:8  The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat. ▤ 

Prov 15:16-17  Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. 17Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. ▤ 

Spiritual things are better than wealth, particularly where the latter is accompanied by trouble. Possibly these verses also imply that wealth tends to create such troubles.

Prov 18:11  A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. ▤ 

This hints at the shortcomings of riches for providing security. Rich people tend to trust in riches for security, seeing them as a wall that cannot be overcome. However this is a mistaken notion, merely what they imagine.

Prov 27:7  One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. ▤ 

Particularly in light of the latter part of the verse, the first part may well be implying that those who have plenty do not appreciate things.

Prov 28:6  Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. ▤ 

It is no good being rich if one’s ways are crooked.

Prov 28:11  A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out. ▤ 

This implies that having riches tends to lead a rich man to think that he is wise, but a discerning poor man can see him for what he really is.

Eccl 7:12  For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. ▤ 

This indicates that while wisdom and money both provide significant protection, money is less able to preserve one’s life.

Eccl 5:11-13  When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. 13There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, … ▤ 

Verse 12b appears to figuratively refer to the excessive wealth of the rich causing them worry. Verse 13 complements the thought, pointing out the irony that wealth sometimes brings harm to its owner.

Zeph 1:18  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. ▤ 

  • God will punish the rich who acquire assets to the detriment of others:

Isa 5:8-10, 17  Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. 9The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10For ten acresy of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” ▤ 17Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich. ▤ 

y Hebrew ten yoke, the area ten yoke of oxen can plow in a day

z A bath was about 6 gallons or 22 liters; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; an ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters

Note: Advantages of riches, as opposed to poverty

Prov 10:15  A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. ▤ 

Prov 14:20  The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. ▤ 

Prov 19:4, 7  Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend. ▤ 7All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.a ▤ 

a The meaning of the Hebrew sentence is uncertain

Prov 22:7  The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ▤ 

Eccl 10:19  Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. ▤ 

There are many interpretations of the final clause. Quite possibly the verse is saying that just as a feast (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV) provides laughter and wine provides merriment, so money provides everything (cf. NLT) – or so people think (cf. NIrV).

  • The equality of rich and poor before God:

Prov 22:2  The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. ▤ 

Here the phrase “meet together” is akin to “have this in common” (GNT, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Sexual Sin

Avoid sexual sin . . .

Acts 15:28-29  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. ▤ 

Rom 13:13  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. ▤ 

1Cor 6:18a  Flee from sexual immorality. ▤ 

Eph 5:3  But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. ▤ 

Col 3:5  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:b sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ▤ 

b Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

The terms “impurity” (cf. Eph 5:3 ) and “passion” appear to be primarily referring to such things associated with sexual immorality, with the Greek for “passion” also translated as “lust” (GNT, NIV, NLT).

1Thes 4:3-6  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:c that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own bodyd in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. ▤ 

c Or your holiness

d Or how to take a wife for himself; Greek how to possess his own vessel

Note that the first clause of v. 6 appears to be speaking against sexual sin with a brother’s wife (cf. NLT).

Heb 12:16  … [See to it] that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. ▤ 

John 8:3, 11  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst ▤ 11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ▤ 

. . . Be pure

See also:

Most of the following verses are not necessarily speaking of being pure in contrast in particular to being sexually immoral, but this is quite possibly at least partially in view in all of them.

2Cor 7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of bodye and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ▤ 

e Greek flesh

1Tim 5:1-2, 22  Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ▤ 22Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. ▤ 

Titus 2:5  … to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ▤ 

Heb 13:4  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. ▤ 

2Tim 2:22  So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. ▤ 

The “youthful lusts” (AMP, NASB, NKJV; cf. NLT) Paul refers to presumably include sexually immoral ones.

1Pet 1:22  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, … ▤ 

Ps 119:9  How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. ▤ 

  • Rather than being impure, God calls us to be holy:

1Thes 4:7-8  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. ▤ 

In v. 8, “disregards this” refers to the preceding commands to avoid sexual immorality (cf. vv. 3-6 ).

Sexual sin has ill consequences

See also:

1Cor 6:9-10  Or do you not know that the unrighteousf will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,g 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ▤ 

f Or wrongdoers

g The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts

Note that this verse and the following two references (Eph 5:5; Rev 2:14-15), also pertain to the following subsection, as missing out on involvement in God’s kingdom is also part of God’s judgment.

Eph 5:5  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. ▤ 

Rev 22:14-15  Blessed are those who wash their robes,h so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. ▤ 

h Some manuscripts do his commandments

The sexually immoral, along with other ungodly people, will miss out on participating in the new Jerusalem of the afterlife.

1Cor 6:12  “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. ▤ 

Paul seems to be quoting some of the Corinthians who apparently – in order to justify their sexual sin – claimed that everything is permissible for Christians to do, presumably in reference to not being under the OT law. Paul argues that while in one sense this might be true, obviously it is not a good idea to do things that are harmful. For like all sin, sexual sin is not beneficial and it can master or have control over a person (cf. 2Pet 2:18-19 ; Eph 4:19).

1Cor 6:18  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sini a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. ▤ 

i Or Every sin

In contrast to other sins, sexual sin involves the misuse and mistreatment of one’s own body. Moreover, Paul seems to imply that sexual sin adversely affects the body or one’s being in a deeper way than any other sin (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).

Rom 1:24, 27  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, ▤ 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. ▤ 

Verse 24 shows that sexual sin is dishonoring. As such it is “shameful” (CEV, GNT, NLT) and so brings shame. The concept of such sin having intrinsic ill consequences is apparent in v. 27b, which appears to refer to some kind of spiritual and/or emotional harm.

2Pet 2:18-19  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slavesj of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. ▤ 

j Greek bondservants

The false teachers promised that their immoral way would bring freedom, but ironically they themselves had become subject to and controlled by such depravity (v. 19; cf. 1Cor 6:12 ). In light of v. 18, it appears that sexual immorality was one thing primarily involved in both their promise of freedom and in the depravity that had mastered them.

Prov 6:25-26  Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,k but a married womanl hunts down a precious life. ▤ 

k Or (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate) for a prostitute leaves a man with nothing but a loaf of bread

l Hebrew a man’s wife

Prov 31:1-3  The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him: 2What are you doing, my son?m What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows? 3Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings. ▤ 

m Hebrew What, my son?

Harems in particular may be in view in this warning given to a king. A life focused largely on sexual desire is a waste of one’s energy and leads to ruin.

Sexual sin ultimately results in God’s judgment

See also:

Col 3:5-6  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:n sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming.o ▤ 

n Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

o Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

1Thes 4:3, 6  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:p that you abstain from sexual immorality; ▤ 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. ▤ 

p Or your holiness

Heb 13:4  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. ▤ 

2Pet 2:9-10a  … then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,q and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. ▤ 

q Or temptations

Jude 1:6-7  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,r serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. ▤ 

r Greek other flesh

Verse 6 may be referring to the actions of “the sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-4, who improperly took wives from the daughters of man.

Rev 21:8  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. ▤ 

1Cor 10:8  We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. ▤ 

Rev 2:20-23  But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servantss to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. ▤ 

s Greek bondservants

The term “her children” (v. 23) refers to those who followed this self-proclaimed prophetess Jezebel in practicing immorality – her “spiritual” children.

Further insights on sexual sin

1Cor 6:13b-17, 19-20  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joinedt to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. ▤ 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ▤ 

t Or who holds fast (compare Genesis 2:24 and Deuteronomy 10:20); also verse 17

The last pair of phrases in v. 13 appears to imply that our bodies are to be used for the benefit of the Lord, just as the Lord acts for the benefit of our bodies (and selves). The subsequent verse (v. 14) reinforces Christ’s and God’s concern for the body, with the reference to God resurrecting us.

Eph 4:19  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. ▤ 

The phrase “have become callous” indicates that the consciences of these ungodly people had been so dulled that they no longer had any “feeling of shame” (GNT, NCV). This is generally characteristic of those who persistently indulge in sexual sin and long for more.

Gal 5:19  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, … ▤ 

Sexual sin is a prominent product of the sinful nature, “the flesh”.

Rev 2:14  But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. ▤ 

Sexual immorality is indeed “a stumbling block” and so is something that Christ’s servants ought to be wary of being led into.

Note: The sexually immoral who believe and repent are forgiven and granted righteousness

Matt 21:28-32  “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. ▤ 

Verse 32 indicates that like the first son (v. 29) the prostitutes (and the tax collectors) changed their minds and did “believe”. In so doing they chose “the way of righteousness” (v. 32a) and were entering the kingdom of God (v. 31b).

Luke 7:37-50  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49Then those who were at table with him began to say amongu themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ▤ 

u Or to

In being described as “a sinner” (vv. 37, 39), the woman was probably a prostitute. In v. 47a, Jesus is saying that her great love (vv. 37-38) showed that her many sins had been forgiven – rather than saying that it was the reason for why they were forgiven; for it was her faith that saved her (v. 50). One can infer that the love she showed Jesus was an expression of her faith – and presumably of her repentance as well – which led to her forgiveness and salvation.

John 8:3-11  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ▤ 

Jesus’ command to repent (v. 11b) implies that in not condemning the woman (v. 11a) – possibly implying that he forgave her – he required her to repent. Note that the Jewish authorities were hoping to be able to accuse Jesus of either: not upholding the OT law; or apparently – if he did endorse stoning – of being unmerciful and/or contravening the Romans who prohibited the Jews to impose such penalties. One can only guess what Jesus may have written on the ground (vv. 6, 8). In view of v. 7, possibly it was other commandments, to point out the hypocrisy of the woman’s accusers in condemning her for one sin while being guilty themselves of breaking other ones – including ones punishable by death under the OT law.

1Cor 6:9-11  Or do you not know that the unrighteousv will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,w 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ▤ 

v Or wrongdoers

w The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts

Undoubtedly those spoken of had repented and come to faith – and thus received forgiveness and were justified (v. 11), and so made righteous.

Heb 11:31  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. ▤ 

James 2:25  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? ▤ 

By her action in the cause of God and his people (cf. Jos 2), the prostitute Rahab was justified. Above in Hebrews 11:31 her actions are deemed to be ones of faith, resulting in her escaping the judgment of those who “were disobedient”. Thus her action can be understood as indicative of belief and repentance, for which she was seen as righteous and in effect forgiven.

Rev 2:20-22  But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servantsx to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, … ▤ 

x Greek bondservants

The implication is that if the false prophetess Jezebel had repented (v. 21) she would have avoided the judgment (v. 22a) – indicative of being forgiven – as was the case for those who had followed her ways (v. 22b).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Prohibited Forms of Sex

See also:

Lust

Job 31:1  I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? ▤ 

Job speaks of making a covenant with his eyes, effectively himself, not to look lustfully at young woman.

Matt 5:27-29  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. ▤ 

Gazing longingly at a woman with sexual desire, is committing adultery in one’s heart and in a spiritual sense. The instruction in v. 29 is not meant to be taken literally. It is hyperbole, emphasizing that one should do whatever is needed to get rid of sin, here lust in particular.

Col 3:5  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:y sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ▤ 

y Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

Here and elsewhere in this subsection, “passion” refers to or at least encompasses “lust” (GNT, NIV, NLT).

1Thes 4:3-5  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:z that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own bodya in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; … ▤ 

z Or your holiness

a Or how to take a wife for himself; Greek how to possess his own vessel

1Pet 4:3  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. ▤ 

2Pet 2:9-10a  … then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,b and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. ▤ 

b Or temptations

2Pet 2:18  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. ▤ 

This implies that lust is a product of sinful human nature.

1Jn 2:16  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. ▤ 

The phrase “the desires of the flesh” encompasses – if not primarily referring to – sexual desire or lust. The subsequent phrase, “the desires of the eyes”, likely denotes coveting of worldly things in general. Being of the world rather than from God, such things are to be avoided.

Prov 6:25  Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; … ▤ 

  • It is better to marry rather than to burn with lust:

1Cor 7:9  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. ▤ 

Obviously people should marry someone whom they are also compatible with, rather than simply someone for whom they “burn with passion”.

Fornication

See also:

“Fornication” is used in this subheading as referring to sexual relations involving two unmarried people. Used in a more general sense it also encompasses adultery. (The latter is also a prohibited form of sex, as indicated in the above cross reference.)

Ex 22:16-17  “If a man seduces a virginc who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-priced for her and make her his wife. 17If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins. ▤ 

c Ex 22:16 Or engagement present; also verse 17

Two unmarried people having sexual relations required them to get married (cf. Deut 22:28-29) – unless the father refused. Even so the bride-price was a few years’ wages and so was a very substantial consequence. This indicates that God’s people are not free to have sexual relations outside of marriage.

Deut 22:20-21  But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ▤ 

Despite the use of “whoring”, which may be hyperbole, most likely it is the act of sex before marriage which is in view (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT). Note that the death penalty for prohibited sexual acts is not advocated by the NT (cf. Note: The sexually immoral who believe and repent are forgiven and granted righteousness). However its inclusion in OT references such as this does serve to underline the seriousness of such sins.

Matt 15:19  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ▤ 

The Greek terms for “sexual immorality” and “the sexually immoral” in this and the following references are translated more specifically as “fornication” (or “fornications”) and “fornicators” in the NASB and NRSV, suggesting that fornication is primarily in view. Moreover, the listing of “sexual immorality” in addition to “adultery” in this verse, strongly implies that sexual sin outside of marriage is in view here, i.e. fornication.

Acts 15:20  … but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. ▤ 

1Cor 6:9  Or do you not know that the unrighteouse will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,f … ▤ 

e Or wrongdoers

f The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts

Heb 13:4  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. ▤ 

The reference to “the sexually immoral” alongside of adulterers points to the fact that “fornicators” (NASB, NKJV, NRSV) are in view.

  • Living together does not constitute a marriage:

John 4:17-18  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” ▤ 

The “one you now have” implies that the woman was living with a man (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).

Prostitution

Lev 19:29  Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. ▤ 

Deut 23:17-18  None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dogg into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God. ▤ 

g Or male prostitute

Ezek 43:9  Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever. ▤ 

The reference appears to be to spiritual “prostitution” or unfaithfulness to God. But the imagery still serves to indicate the wrongness of prostitution.

1Cor 6:15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! ▤ 

Prov 6:25-26  Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,h but a married womani hunts down a precious life. ▤ 

h Or (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate) for a prostitute leaves a man with nothing but a loaf of bread

i Hebrew a man’s wife

If the rendering in the text note is to be preferred, v. 26a is saying that a prostitute can bring a man to poverty (cf. NIV, NLT; 29:3). As it is, it serves to highlight the gravity of the consequences of adultery.

Prov 23:26-28  My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observej my ways. 27For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteressk is a narrow well. 28She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind. ▤ 

j Or delight in

k Hebrew a foreign woman

Verse 28 appears to apply to both the prostitute and the wayward wife (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV).

Prov 29:3  He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. ▤ 

Hos 4:10-14  They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish 11whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. 12My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. 13They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. 14I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. ▤ 

In v. 12 “a spirit of whoredom” probably is comparing the people with a prostitute, or those who use them, in their unfaithfulness to God – while also alluding to their desire for prostitutes (cf. CEV). Verse 14 may be implying that the men punished their daughters for turning to prostitution, punishment which God would take no part in, as the men themselves hypocritically used prostitutes.

Jer 13:26-27  I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen. 27I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean? ▤ 

Spiritual prostitution is again at least partly in view, with such imagery indicative of the ungodliness of prostitution. Note that physical prostitution was often involved in such spiritual prostitution as worshiping other gods.

Homosexual acts

Lev 18:22  You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. ▤ 

Lev 20:13  If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. ▤ 

Under the old covenant, in Israel the law requried the death penalty for certain prohibited acts, including adultery and other sexual sins (cf. vv. 10-16). The New Testament does not advocate for the death penalty, including for sexual sins (cf. John 8:1-11).

Rom 1:26-27  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. ▤ 

This points out that homosexual relations are contrary to nature. In v. 27, as noted earlier, “receiving in themselves the due penalty” implies that the committing of such acts carries its own natural consequences.

1Cor 6:9-10  Or do you not know that the unrighteousl will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,m 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ▤ 

l Or wrongdoers

m The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts

1Tim 1:9-10  … understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,n liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to soundo doctrine, … ▤ 

n That is, those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery

o Or healthy

The passage implies that the practices listed in vv. 9b-10a are against the law (v. 9a) and sound doctrine (v. 10b) – and that the unrighteous terms in v. 9a apply to those who commit these practices.

  • The forbidding of cross-dressing:

Deut 22:5  A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. ▤ 

This prohibition may have had in view marginalizing God-ordained distinctions between males and females, or ungodly sexual practices that may involve or are associated with wearing clothing of the opposite sex.

Incest

Lev 18:6-13  None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the Lord. 7You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. 9You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. 12You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. 13You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. ▤ 

The expression “uncover the nakedness” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Note that in view of the reference to one’s mother in v. 7, v. 8 appears to refer to a stepmother (cf. 1Cor 5:1 ) or another wife of a father in a polygamous marriage. Clauses such as “it is your father’s nakedness” (v. 8), refer to violating or disgracing a person.

Lev 18:14-18  You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive. ▤ 

As is the case in a sense at least in vv. 7-8 above, these prohibitions speak of in-laws (cf. vv. 7-8 ). Thus they go beyond basic incest laws regarding blood relatives, which are in part due to medical concerns regarding any offspring. They may partly have in view the vulnerability of women to sexual abuse when living in close proximity to other males in an extended family. Regarding the prohibition in v. 16 (cf. Lev 20:21 ), some commentators claim that it applies even to marrying a deceased brother’s wife. If this is the case, the inheritance rights of children of the dead brother may be in view. A divorced or widowed woman and her blood relatives appear to be spoken of in v. 17.

Lev 20:17, 21  If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. ▤ 21If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity.p He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless. ▤ 

p Literally menstrual impurity

  • Condemnation of sleeping with one’s stepmother:

1Cor 5:1  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. ▤ 

A man’s “father’s wife” appears to refer to his “stepmother” (CEV, GNT).

Bestiality

Lev 18:23  And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion. ▤ 

Ex 22:19  Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death. ▤ 

Lev 20:15-16  If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. ▤ 

Deut 27:21  ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ ▤ 

  • Do not mate different kinds of animals:

Lev 19:19a  “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Epilogue: Be Wary

See also:

Believers are to be wary of such things as the “pitfalls” spoken of in this chapter, and of any other sin or thing that would compromise our life of faith.

Be sober-minded

See also:

1Thes 5:6-8  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. ▤ 

In being “sober” we are to be “calm, collected, and circumspect” (AMP), in contrast to being drunk (v. 7b).

2Tim 4:5  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ▤ 

1Pet 1:13  Therefore, preparing your minds for action,q and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ▤ 

q Greek girding up the loins of your mind

In conjunction with being sober-minded, we ought to prepare our minds for action.

1Pet 4:7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ 

1Pet 5:8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ▤ 

  • Be alert:

Acts 20:31  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. ▤ 

Watch yourself . . .

1Tim 4:16  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ▤ 

1Ki 2:4  … that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lackr a man on the throne of Israel.’ ▤ 

r Hebrew there shall not be cut off for you

David’s descendants needed to watch how they lived so that they would stay faithful to God, as per 8:25 – “… if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.”

Acts 20:28  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,s which he obtained with his own blood.t ▤ 

s Some manuscripts of the Lord

t Or with the blood of his Own

1Cor 16:13  Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. ▤ 

“Be watchful” is applicable to watching ourselves and also to watching out for spiritual threats, to both our own spiritual lives and those of others.

Deut 4:9  Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— ▤ 

The command to “keep your soul diligently” (cf. Prov 4:23 ) is akin to “watch yourselves closely” (NIV®, NRSV).

Prov 4:23  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. ▤ 

“Watch over your heart with all diligence” (NASB), carefully guarding your thoughts (cf. CEV).

. . . Watch and guard yourself against sinning

See also:

Deut 4:15-16  Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, … ▤ 

Ps 39:1  I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” ▤ 

Prov 16:17  The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life. ▤ 

Particularly in the light of the first half of the verse, the second half probably alludes to guarding one’s way so as not to follow evil. This is also the case in 22:5 below.

Prov 22:5  Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. ▤ 

One who guards themself against wickedness will keep away from its traps and/or consequences.

Mal 2:15-16  Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?u And what was the one Godv seeking?w Godly offspring. So guard yourselvesx in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,y says the Lord, the God of Israel, coversz his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” ▤ 

u Hebrew in it

v Hebrew the one

w Or And not one has done this who has a portion of the Spirit. And what was that one seeking?

x Or So take care; also verse 16

y Hebrew who hates and divorces

z Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or “The Lord, the God of Israel, says that he hates divorce, and him who covers

To “guard yourselves in your spirit” (vv. 15b, 16b) involves watching and evaluating such things as one’s attitudes, motives and conscience – effectively one’s thoughts.

Matt 16:6, 11-12  Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” ▤ 11How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. ▤ 

Matt 26:41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. ▤ 

Luke 12:15  And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” ▤ 

Gal 6:1  Brothers,a if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ▤ 

a Or Brothers and sisters; also verse 18

2Jn 1:8  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what web have worked for, but may win a full reward. ▤ 

b Some manuscripts you

Further to watching against sin, we should watch out that we do not fall away from God altogether, forfeiting our reward.

  • It is not easy to discern one’s own sin:

Ps 19:12  Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. ▤ 

Examine and evaluate yourself

Ps 119:59  When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; … ▤ 

Lam 3:40  Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! ▤ 

We should “examine and probe our ways” (NASB).

Hag 1:7  Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. ▤ 

Note that this verse is actually the beginning of a strong reprimand.

2Cor 13:5  Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! ▤ 

Paul is quite possibly asking the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were living in accordance with the faith (cf. AMP, CEV, NCV, NRSV). Alternatively, some understand Paul to be speaking of them needing to assess if they were in fact genuine believers (cf. NIrV, NLT).

1Cor 11:27-29, 31  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. ▤ 31But if we judgedc ourselves truly, we would not be judged. ▤ 

c Or discerned

The references to “judgment” (v. 29) and being “judged” (v. 31b) are to the Lord’s disciplining of believers. The phrases “the body and blood of the Lord” (v. 27) and “the body” (v. 29) probably refer to Jesus’ sacrifice of himself – along with what this accomplished – but some would contend that his body the church is also or alternatively in view (cf. 10:16-17). To participate in the Lord’s Supper is to symbolically and spiritually participate in these things, and we must take part appropriately in recognition of this. Thus we need to examine our readiness for taking part and our approach in doing so, examining and judging ourselves (vv. 28, 31).

Ps 4:4  Be angry,d and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah ▤ 

d Or Be agitated

The second part of the verse appears to be an exhortation (possibly aimed at David’s enemies) to examine or “search” oneself – quite possibly in particular in regard to the issues relating to the aforementioned anger. Note that the meaning of the first part of the verse is also open to debate (cf. CEV, GNT, NASB).

Gal 6:4-5  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5For each will have to bear his own load. ▤ 

We should evaluate our own actions without making comparisons with others, as it is for our own actions that we are responsible (v. 5).

Prov 20:27  The spirite of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts. ▤ 

e Hebrew breath

This appears to be making an observation that our spirit – presumably in part with the light of our conscience – tends to examine our innermost character, attitudes and thoughts. It may also be implying that we should consciously seek to do this.

  • Ask God to examine you:

Ps 139:23-24  Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!f 24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!g ▤ 

f Or cares

g Or in the ancient way (compare Jeremiah 6:16)

Here David asks God to examine him, presumably with a view to God enlightening him about his spiritual state. Similarly in Psalms 26:2 David prays, “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”

Keep a clear conscience . . .

Acts 23:1  And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” ▤ 

Acts 24:16  So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. ▤ 

Paul strove to keep his conscience clear not only before God but also before others, trying not to do anything wrong in the eyes of anyone.

1Tim 3:9  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. ▤ 

2Tim 1:3  I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. ▤ 

1Pet 3:20-21  … becauseh they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

h Or when

In being baptized one effectively makes “an appeal to God for a good conscience”. Subsequently one should live in keeping with a good conscience.

Heb 13:18  Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. ▤ 

. . . A good conscience is vital for governing ourselves in pleasing God

A good conscience is vital for governing ourselves in pleasing God for it helps us to evaluate our actions.

Rom 2:14-15  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them … ▤ 

Though they did not have the law, the Gentiles’ consciences bore witness to its requirements and so they themselves could judge their own actions. Similarly, when we are unsure whether some action meets God’s approval, a clear conscience is a good guide.

Rom 9:1  I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit ▤ 

As one having the Holy Spirit, Paul’s conscience under the guidance of the Spirit confirmed to himself (cf. 2Cor 1:12 ) that he was not lying.

2Cor 1:12  For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityi and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤ 

i Some manuscripts holiness

Their consciences confirmed to them that they had acted rightly.

1Tim 1:5-6, 18-19  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, ▤ 18This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, … ▤ 

In conjunction with a pure heart and along with a sincere faith, a good conscience produces love of others (v. 5), manifested in actions. Verses 6, 19 both indicate that a good conscience is critical to maintaining one’s faith (cf. 1Tim 3:9 ).

1Pet 3:15-16  … but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. ▤ 

Peter implies that keeping a clear conscience helps ensure one’s behaviour is good, thus foiling the slander of opponents.

Evaluate all things

See also:

1Thes 5:20-21  Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. ▤ 

Lev 10:10-11  You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses. ▤ 

The priests needed to be able to make such distinctions – closely linked here to their role of teaching the people the law (v. 11). Similarly Christians need to evaluate all things and distinguish between what is holy or acceptable to God and what is not.

Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ▤ 

Job 34:2-4  Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; 2for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. 4Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good. ▤ 

This points to the need to evaluate what people say (v. 3; cf. 1Cor 10:15 ; 1Cor 14:29 ) so as to discern and learn what is right and good (v. 4).

1Cor 10:15  I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. ▤ 

1Cor 14:29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. ▤ 

Do not be deceived, nor deceive yourself

See also:

1Cor 6:9-10  Or do you not know that the unrighteousj will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,k 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ▤ 

j Or wrongdoers

k The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts

1Cor 15:33  Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”l ▤ 

l Probably from Menander’s comedy Thais

Gal 6:7  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. ▤ 

James 1:16  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. ▤ 

This appears to be referring to the incorrect notion that temptation originates from God (cf. v. 13), when in fact it comes from ourselves (cf. vv. 14-15). By contrast, from God come all “good and perfect” things (cf. v. 17).

1Jn 3:7  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. ▤ 

1Cor 3:18-19  Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” ▤ 

Gal 6:3  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ▤ 

1Jn 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ▤ 

James 1:22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ▤ 

James 1:26  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. ▤ 

Jer 49:16  The horror you inspire has deceived you, and the pride of your heart, you who live in the clefts of the rock,m who hold the height of the hill. Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s, I will bring you down from there, declares the Lord. ▤ 

m Or of Sela

Beware: Sin is deceptive

See also:

Heb 3:13  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ▤ 

Rom 7:11  For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. ▤ 

This appears to mean that the law allows sin the opportunity to deceive, as the law presents truth and – being contrary to the law – sin deceives us in regard to its truths.

Eph 4:22  … to put off your old self,n which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, … ▤ 

n Greek man; also verse 24

One’s “old self” has been infected by sin. Thus in keeping with sin’s deceitfulness, one’s “old self” (or sinful nature) has become “corrupted by its deceitful desires”.

1Tim 2:14  … and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. ▤ 

Thus alludes to the deceitfulness of sin and in particular its chief instigator, Satan – ‘The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”’ (Gen 3:13b)

  • Sin also clings:

Heb 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, … ▤ 

Note that sin’s deceitfulness may be partly in view, with the writer quite possibly having in mind how “deftly and cleverly” (AMP) sin operates.

Warnings against complacency

We are to avoid complacency in living our Christian life. One aspect of this is that we should avoid being complacent in regard to God’s coming judgment, when we will receive his payment for our actions. A number of the passages below (including the extracts from the OT prophets) have this aspect in view, speaking of the complacency of the wayward or ungodly amongst God’s people.

Prov 1:32  For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; … ▤ 

Isa 32:9-11  Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech. 10In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come. 11Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and tie sackcloth around your waist. ▤ 

Presumably these women were ungodly. In their complacency they were unconcerned about their actions and oblivious to God’s judgment that would befall them and their people.

Amos 6:1-7  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! 2Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory, 3O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? 4“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, 5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, 6who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 7Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.” ▤ 

The meaning of v. 2 is debatable. One possibility is that Amos was using the cities in question as examples of cities that once had appeared secure but now were destroyed; as such they served as a warning to his people. In v. 3 Amos appears to indicate that his people had put off all thoughts of the coming day of judgment, while by their evil activities they effectively hastened its coming (cf. AMP, GNT, NIrV, NLT).

Zeph 1:12  At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent,o those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’ ▤ 

o Hebrew are thickening on the dregs [of their wine]

1Cor 10:12  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. ▤ 

Heb 2:1-3a  Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ▤ 

As opposed to being complacent, we must pay careful attention to the gospel message (v. 1) and not be indifferent to it (v. 3a).

Heb 6:12  … so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. ▤ 

Do not become “spiritually dull and indifferent” (NLT).

  • Be very careful how you live:

Eph 5:15-16  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ▤ 

The phrase “making the best use of the time” refers to making the best out of every situation we can for the cause of God’s glory and his kingdom.

Pray for persecuted Christians