Don’t Play With Fire!Fr. Barnabas Powell
I was a firebug when I was younger. Fire fascinated me, that is until one day when I burned myself playing with fire. It’s amazing how instructional pain can be if you let it!
But why is it we keep insisting on learning life’s lessons the hard way? Why do we so consistently find ourselves ignoring wisdom for the prideful notion that “the rules don’t apply to me?” I’ll tell you why, or at least why I keep struggling with this: it’s because I’m forgetful and I allow life to inebriate me into believing I’m the exception. Oh dear, have I said too much?
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 6:20-7:1:
My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adventuress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life. Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. Do not men despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry? And if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation, nor be appeased though you multiply gifts. My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you.
It is always a joy to be able to spend some time in Proverbs because these short shots of wisdom invite me to wake up to all the places I forgot about in my own life. In fact, I recommend that Proverbs be a regular part of our reading of Holy Scripture AND a regular part of your reading of scripture to your children. A vital part of being Orthodox on Purpose is helping your children not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to life experiences and embracing sound wisdom for their lives!
Notice please how wisdom protects us:
- When we walk, Wisdom Leads Us
- When we rest, Wisdom Watches over Us
- When we wake, Wisdom Speaks to Us
And wisdom allows us to avoid being burned by a life that has ignored the consequences of its actions. The powerful imagery of asking “can a man carry fire in his bosom and not be burned” is a striking picture of someone who ignores the warnings of wisdom and sets himself on a destructive path.
And yet, the Faith offers me the Way to have the very God of heaven come and make His home inside me! Our Lord is said in Hebrews to be a “consuming Fire.” Mary, the Theotokos is imaged as the “burning bush” that Moses saw in the wilderness, and though it was burning, it wasn’t destroyed. The Fire of God’s Presence in our lives is very much different than the false fire of the passions that threaten to destroy us. God’s Fire reveals us for who we really are! God’s Fire burns up everything that isn’t like Him in our lives and purifies all the talents He’s given us to become like Him. One fire, the fire of the passions, destroys us; the other Fire, the Fire of God’s love, makes us free! And Wisdom enables us to tell the difference!
Today, have you been burned by life? Perhaps you also know the warmth of God’s Fire kindled in your heart when you learn to love. Either way, the path of Wisdom preserved in God’s Church invites you today to avoid the destructive fire of the passions and embrace the lifegiving Fire of being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. (Prostration) But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant. (Prostration) Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)