“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Years ago, there was a radio program called “Truth or Consequence!” What I most remember is that dishonesty always resulted in certain consequences.
On today’s edition of guidelines, I’d like to share three words or concepts with you which provide guidelines for living. Those three words are choices, conditions, and consequences. Put another way, your choices in life produce the eventual conditions of your life, which, inevitably result in certain consequences which you may bitterly dislike but cannot cancel.
Example: You don’t comb your hair for a few days. The result: Your hair gets matted and tangled, and the consequences result in some discomfort or even pain as you finally take that brush and comb out the tangles.
A person abuses his body with a substance—such as alcohol or drugs. The result: a body which sustains liver damage. The consequences: living with pain or facing possible surgery.
Now, why say all of this? We are living in a day that denies that your choices write the scenario of your future circumstances. Then when we don’t like the results of our choices, we want to nullify the consequences. And that is impossible, no matter how hard you may try.
Today’s guidelines are well illustrated by the story which Jesus told about a young man who decided that waiting for his inheritance was much too difficult. He made a decision. “I want it now,” he told his father, who reluctantly agreed to give him his share of the inheritance. And with his money, he left for a distant land. His choice eventually determined the conditions of his life, which were as follows. Jesus explained that the young man quickly lived up his inheritance, spending it on women, wine, and song.
When his money was gone and his friends deserted him, he had to take employment. Not finding anything to his liking but getting hungrier every day, he eventually went to work for a pig farmer, feeding the swine.
No, he didn’t foresee all of this when he said, “Dad, I want my half of the money and I want it now.” But he should have. That’s where we often go wrong. We don’t think beyond the immediate. We don’t want to face the consequences of our decisions. There is a phrase in this story which always speaks to my heart. Here’s the text: "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” He came to his senses. It’s amazing how hunger or danger clears your mind and helps you realize what a stupid thing you have done. That’s when we want to go back to the GO position on the boardwalk of life and start over.
In this story, the young man repented, did a turn-about face, and came home. And did he escape the consequences of his action? Not really. The family fortune had been reduced by 50%. His brother was angered, and father’s heart had been broken. Yes, the dad forgave him which speaks of the largeness of God’s grace; but he lived with the memory of his failure and a broken relationship with his brother.
There is a phrase which so aptly describes our dilemma: Old so soon, smart so late. Can we learn from the mistakes and failures of others? Or are we condemned to make the mistakes of our forebears, thinking that we are too smart to reap the consequences? “There is a way that seems right to a man,” says Proverbs 16:25, which quickly adds, “but in the end it leads to death.” Never forget your choices in life produce the circumstances which, for good or evil, bear certain consequences. It’s still true today.
Resource reading: Luke 15:11-32