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Twisted Logic

August 25th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 2: 12-15 (NLT)

12 Wisdom will save you from evil people,
      from those whose words are twisted.
 13 These men turn from the right way
      to walk down dark paths.
 14 They take pleasure in doing wrong,
      and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil.
 15 Their actions are crooked,
      and their ways are wrong.

 

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

 

Most of the major injuries in life have occurred while playing basketball.  Twice I’ve had broken ribs from hostile elbows.  I’ve had busted lips and rolled ankles more times than I can count.  I’ve collided with other players, fallen down and bloodied my knees on scorching hot concrete, and have had dirty fingers poke deep into my eye sockets and leave them stinging from my opponents’ perspiration (I know, it’s gross.)  I’ve taken point blank shots to the nose by lightening fast chest passes and have stubbed my fingers to the point that I’ve wanted to cry.  Yeah, it’s amazing that I still play at all.  Obviously, I’m the picture of athleticism and coordination.

The worst basketball injury that I can remember, though, occurred on a Sunday afternoon when Laura and I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee.  I was youth pastoring (as usual) and brought home a group of students to our little apartment after church to hang out.  Some of the guys and myself ended up at our local health club for a pick-up game.  Unfortunately, this particular club didn’t have a conventional basketball court and had mounted a goal in one of their vacant racquetball courts.  It was a place I had played many times before, so I thought nothing about it.

The game was going fine until I dribbled left and pulled up for a turn-around jump shot from the corner. Inadvertently, instead of jumping straight up off the floor, my foot planted in the corner where the floor and the wall met.  I don’t recall everything that happened next, except that I heard and loud and distinct “snap” in my ankle and I instantly fell to the floor in a heap.  Oddly enough, I also remember that I actually made the shot . . . the last shot I would attempt for a long time.

To say that my ankle was twisted is the understatement of the decade.  It instantly swelled up to the size of a gargantuin grapefruit.  Sure, I tried what every would-be macho man tries: walking it off– another huge mistake.  When it was all said and done, my students had to help me walk back to the van and I had sustained the worst “twisted” ankle of my life.

Some seven years later, I still have phantom pain in my ankle if certain weather conditions are met.  That twisted ankle has left me with a lasting pain.

We must continually remind ourselves of the nature of these first few chapters of Proverbs.  This is a father speaking to his son.  He’s not trying to be politically correct.  He’s not trying to win any popularity contests. He’s not running for office.  No vagueness.  No pulled punches.  Just fatherly truth spoken in raw candidness.  

Also notice the adjective he uses more than once: “twisted.”  The passage is about the possible detrimental influence of others.  “But that’s judgemental!”  Yeah, go ask a few prison inmates if who they hung out with influenced their decisions in life.  For that matter, just ask yourself.  Like it or not, we are who we hang out with.

The focus of this passage isn’t just judging “evil people,” but rather avoiding the things that evil people do. Notice Solomon’s progression of thought: “words (verse 12) . . . paths (verse 13) . . . actions (14-15).” That’s really an accurate portrayal of how quickly we can snap a spiritual ankle.  

Words are the most obvious evidence of who we hang around.  Just be around the guys from my band for a couple of hours and you’ll quickly learn that we’ve created our own language complete with inside jokes, imaginary words, and substitutional expletives that are more acceptable in our culture.  If you have close friends, I bet you can name a few words that are only used in your circle.  There’s nothing wrong with this, unless we’re speaking words that are contrary to our connection with God.  We may not be “doing” anything wrong per se, but we’re definitely talking the the talk.

Talk will lead to action every time.  What we say is a reflection of who we are, thus a preview of what we will eventually do.  Sound too simple?  Again, most people don’t just jump into the wrong thing . . . they begin by spending time with someone who’s doing the wrong thing, then talking about doing the wrong thing, and then leaning towards that wrong action.  That’s the next stage: the “path” (verse 13.)  This stage doesn’t indicate that we’ve arrived at the wrong place just yet, just that we’re now on the path that will eventually lead us there.

Paths don’t have to be negative.  You can’t get a degree from a university without first “talking” to a advisor and then signing up for a certain “path” of courses that will lead you to your goal.  The path is the middle ground.  It’s the place where fences are ridden and excuses are made.  Why?  Because you may not be actually “doing” anything wrong.  However, from where you’re standing, it’s hard to distinguish between you and those who are actually doing the action.  Hey, put me on a college campus with a hoodie, shorts, backpack, hat, and sandles– most people will assume that I’m a college student.  Why?  Because I’m walking the same path as the other students.

The final stage is “action” (verse 14-15.)  We talk about it enough, hang around on the path around it enough, soon we’ll be engaging it in action.  The result?  “Twisted” life.  Often, we surprised when we look up to realize what we’re doing– that’s the deceptive nature of the progression.  It’s like the frog placed in the kettle of lukewarm water who will remain there if the temperature is turned up gradually.  Eventually, he’ll boil to death . . . unaware of danger because he’s so comfortable in the water.  But Godly “wisdom” will save us from this pain.  

My injury was caused mainly because I jumped from a non-level spot.  That’s all Solomon is saying to his son (and us): live on the level spot, not in the place where life can get twisted.  And remember, our choices in who we allow to influence us will affect how we talk, what path we walk on, and eventually our very actions.

Take it from a battered basketball veteran: you don’t want these things getting twisted.  And trust me, when they do, it’s not that easy to just walk it off.  Use wisdom now before the injury happens.

 

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