Foxes on the Road to Hell
My good friend is concerned about a grandchild’s response to that old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The child’s reply: “A celebrity.”
While we may smile momentarily at such a reply and can make a certain allowance for a child’s lack of maturity concerning what life is all about, nevertheless my friend is rightly troubled by this response. This is a Christian child in a Christian home. How is it that one surrounded by constant biblical teachings and lives that reflect those teachings is still drawn to such a worldly aspiration?
The answer to that question involves a potentially dangerous trait of human nature and is the focus of what follows here in this writing.
We human beings have a frightening tendency to focus on trivialities and ignore matters of monumental, life-and-death importance. How else do you explain how some politicians get elected? Or how the media rush to cover every little antic of those politicians, as well as those of actors and other celebrities? They would not do this unless there was a market for such coverage. People are drawn to the lives of famous people for a variety of reasons, some good and some not so good. This was true even of the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus quickly gained attention in his ministry here on earth. After all, it’s hard to stay hidden when you heal the sick and raise the dead (Mt. 5:14). Even kings became aware of him. “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known” (Mk. 6:14 NIV).
Nevertheless, Jesus did not actively seek to make himself known; it was simply the natural result of who he was and what he did. In fact, Jesus normally sought just the opposite, hiding himself from public visibility (Mk. 7:33, Mk. 9:25). Such an attitude is often not understood by those of this world; it goes against the standard mindset of human beings focused on this world.
“Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world'” (Jn. 7:3,4 NIV).
But Jesus said to them: “‘You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.’ Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret” (Jn. 7:8-10).
Nevertheless, as was mentioned, it is impossible for one who did the miracles which Jesus did to remain hidden. As his name became more and more well known and the crowds increased, Jesus called to himself those whom he chose to help him minister to the increasing crowds. He taught them the principles of the kingdom of God and they were immersed in heady circumstances of healing the sick, casting out demons, and performing other miracles in the name of Jesus (Lk. 10:17). The disciples rejoiced in the amazing feats they were able to do through their association with Jesus and his name. But what was Jesus’ reply to their joy and response?
“Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20 NIV).
Again and again in Scripture we see that God is far more interested in who we are in him than in what we do for him. This does not mean that what we do for him through the power of his Son is not important; Jesus himself sent out the disciples for that very reason, to minister to the people (Lk. 10:3). But besides ministering to a hurting people, the deeds of God’s servants are simply an outflowing of who they are in Christ; that is the foundation, the key goal which God has in mind: that they–and we–become like him.
“We . . . reflect the Lord’s glory, . . . being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV).
“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose” (2 Cor. 5:5 NIV).
This purpose, however, is not achieved instantly upon coming to Christ for salvation. It is a process that is worked throughout a person’s life (Ph. 2:12). That process, however, can be marred, even thwarted, by the actions of human beings through the use of their free will to pursue courses of action other than that which God has designed for their lives. And such actions are not always big, dramatic events in those lives, but, far more frequently, consist of a series of little acts and deeds that, in themselves, may seem inconsequential or insignificant, but when taken together over the course of one’s life add up to that final act of rebellion. These are the foxes on the road to hell.
In the Song of Solomon, chapter two, there is a description of the many wonderful blessings which the loved one enjoys from being with the one who loves her. That description begins with a statement that she lives in a beautiful, protected environment.
“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens” (SS 2:1,2 NIV).
Is this not a poetic way to describe our situation in this world? I think of my friend’s granddaughter, safe in a godly home, enjoying all the benefits and protection of such an environment, safe from the dangers of the world to a degree. As she grows and blooms into adulthood, however, along the way she will encounter the enticements of the world that may not immediately cause a turning away from the Source of the blessings of a godly home, but can influence future choices and paths that lead one away from God. These are the foxes that must be dealt with.
“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (SS 2:15 NIV).
Another example from Scripture regarding this is found, again, in the disciples. After much exposure to the Lord Jesus himself for three years, following him around and enjoying their association with such a famous figure, their ministry is about to take a dramatic and demanding turn. Now the authorities are seeking to put Jesus to death and possibly anyone associated with him as well (Jn. 12:10). After enjoying miraculous protection from the storms of nature (Mt. 8:24-26) and man (Jn. 17:12), the disciples now encounter the moment when all of this nurturing and training is put to the test. How would they do? Have they made all those “little” choices in their lives that prepare them for such a monumental confrontation with the evil in the world? Or were they careless in those little choices, those little foxes, that steal away their firmness in their Lord? This last supper was the telling moment. And what did it tell about them?
Well, we know of one of those disciples who had made wrong choices, who had let the foxes slip into his life and steal away the precious gifts given to him by Jesus: Judas. A woman had come into an earlier gathering and poured out expensive ointment upon Jesus. As the fragrance lifted up to the air, Judas was incensed:
“‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages’. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (Jn. 12:4-6 NIV).
Judas’ reaction to this act was not something that suddenly manifested itself out of a vacuum; it was the culmination of how he had allowed himself to be molded by his evil desires. He had grown used to dipping into the ministry’s money bag as a matter of course, a small act that was apparently unnoticed by the others–with one singular exception.
Jesus knew all along, of course, who it was who would betray him. When he made the announcement to the disciples that one of them would do this, some of them, also knowing that he knew who it would be, asked him to show them who was the one.
“Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon” (Jn. 13:26 NIV).
How appropriate and ironic that Jesus should make his act of revelation to mimic the very act by which Judas had arrived at his point of betrayal: dipping. Judas had let himself become accustomed to performing a sinful act that appeared to have no consequences, that of dipping into the money bag and stealing. Now the same act of dipping revealed how the little foxes along the way were leading him down the wrong path, the path to hell.
But before we come down too hard on Judas and perhaps feel that we would never do such a thing ourselves, we should pay attention to two other telling details listed in Scripture’s account of this last supper and the events leading up to it. The first is that Judas was not the only one who objected to the seeming waste of ointment upon Jesus by the woman earlier in the time leading up to the last supper. Others also voiced their displeasure at this.
“But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment thus wasted? For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.’ And they reproached her” (Mk. 14:4,5 RSV).
Apparently other disciples, like Judas, had allowed foxes of worldly assessment of things to color how they viewed what happens in this life. Of course, it was a good coloring; after all, they had been taught by Jesus himself to minister to the poor. So of course it was only right that they should object to this waste of expensive oil. Of course.
But Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (Jn. 12:8 NIV).
There is good and then there is best. It is good to help the poor and others in need. But Jesus dares to demand that our affections, the best of our heart, be reserved for him alone.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37 NIV).
Jesus is worthy of our best–and of having that best “wasted” upon him whom the world thought so little of that it wasted him upon a cross. Nor is that all. The second telling point to which we need to draw our attention in these last scenes of Jesus’ life is stated to us in Scripture’s depiction of the last supper:
“Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest” (Lk. 22:24 NIV).
Even in this their last free moment together, after wondering who it was who would betray Jesus (Lk. 22:23), even his own disciples reverted back to that common human desire for recognition, to be celebrities.
Yes, this was one of the discussion points of their evening supper with the Lord of the universe!–even as his time with them was very near the end and he needed and yearned for their support. This is what they were concerned about. Little foxes, like the human desire for recognition and honor, ignored and left unconfronted and dealt with in the early stages of one’s life, lead inevitably to huge and dangerous confrontations with evil in the end. They can even lead one to that most disastrous and evil end of all: eternal darkness.
“As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night” (Jn. 13:30 NIV).
The night of this earth is fast approaching. Do not be fooled into complacency about your own relationship with Jesus and the Father. There is little time left to take care of any sins or distractions that separate you from your beloved Lord. Do not ignore anything the Holy Spirit brings to your attention that needs to be taken care of. Do not ignore the foxes of sin or lack of love for God and others. These are the foxes on the road to hell.