My son, who also keeps several snakes, recently informed me that he has purchased an Orange Baboon Tarantula (OBT). Fortunately, he doesn’t live at home any more! I’ve handled tarantulas before (I’ve never kept one!), but the OBT, also known as the Orange Bitey Thing, is a particularly ornery and intensely defensive spider. And while its bite will not likely kill a person, it may make him wish he were dead. Some on the internet claim that the bite is worse than that of a rattlesnake, pain-wise. I’m not entirely sure why one would allow themselves to get bit by both, but who am I to judge, right? The bottom line is that these are nasty creatures who just happen to look very beautiful.
I assume that most people who keep such cantankerous arachnids understand the risks associated with such a venture. They obviously believe that the rewards outweigh the risks. It got me thinking about how we, as Christians, take risks all the time that have even graver consequences.
Perhaps you can recall a time in your youth when you felt the need to test your parents’ limits. You wanted to see just how much you could get away with. Then you had found a clear boundary. If you were anything like me, you then took up the art of walking a tightrope, balancing yourself on that fine line between “freedom” and punishment. But is it freedom or rebellion that draws us to the edge of the abyss. Are we living, or playing with fire?
Do we choose our activities based on our faith, or on what we feel we can get away with? “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23, ESV). Lately, I’ve been convicted about some of the things I watch on the television. “It’s basically a good show, except for….” “I mean, sure, they don’t paint Christians in a good light, but that’s just reality for the world we live in.” “Yeah, there’s a lot of sexual sin, but that just advances the main story line.” “Sure, the language is bad, but that’s how people talk.” All the while, our spirits are being desensitized to sin. All the while, we move closer to that line. And all the while, the line is becoming more and more blurred.
Maybe we’re ignorant of what we’re doing. Maybe we realize what’s happening, but, as long as we don’t overstep the boundary, we don’t care. David penned these words, “I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to You, O Lord, I will sing praises. I will give heed to [ponder, ESV] the blameless way…. I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes” (Psalm 101:1-3, NASB, emphasis mine).
And just so there’s no confusion, I’m not just talking about television, some of which is good. When we listen to gossip, even if we don’t spread it, we are setting a worthless thing before our eyes. When we complain, even with reasonable cause; when we make unwise, extravagant purchases; when we consider ourselves more important than others; we are setting a worthless thing before our eyes.
Many years ago I was preparing to burn leaves in my backyard. I had a nice stack of loose, dry leaves. I poured gasoline over the pile. When I tried to light the match it broke. By the time I lit the second match the leaf pile had filled with gas fumes. While still standing close to the pile, I tossed the match. The leaf pile exploded into a giant fireball. The hairs on my face and arms were all singed, but thankfully I was unhurt. “If you play with fire”, the saying goes, “you’re gonna get burned.”
I know that a wonderfully-beautiful, dangerously-contrary spider opened my eyes a little bit to the precarious situations I intentionally put myself in when I allow the lure of the world to influence me more than God’s Word. Hours of questionable television over minutes with my Bible. Time spent around the water cooler discussing things without value. Pushing the boundaries to find out what I can get away with. The tightrope is no place for a Christian. Instead, “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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
Don’t play with fire.