2 Peter 2:4-21
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.
Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgement from the Lord. These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand, and when those creatures are destroyed, they also will be destroyed, suffering the penalty for doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the deepest darkness has been reserved. For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them.
I would be lying if I didn’t say this passage didn’t make me a little bit uncomfortable.
I’m not one of those who takes pleasure in reading words of judgment in the scriptures. I’ve heard too many judgments heaped upon people in this world without an ounce of self-reflection and self-awareness to revel in scorning the unrighteous. I know what I am, how sinful and broken I am, and how wounded all of us are. I do not take joy in judgment, especially the kind of joy that it seems that the author of 2 Peter is taking.
However, despite how apparently disdainful the passage is, I can’t say that it doesn’t ring true in many ways. What I see this passage is addressing is something that this age most definitely struggles with, and that is greed.
Greed is one of those sins that bleeds into all kinds of other bad thoughts. It’s a demon of emptiness. When greed gets a hold of someone , it’s horrifying to watch, because it’s like there’s a black hole in that person’s heart, never satisfied, always wanting more. We all have a hole like this, a hole we want to fill with things and material possessions; some people just have bigger ones than others.
It’s funny how it manifests in different degrees. Peter would describes it as something that corrupts completely, and turns us into nothing more than mindless animals. Perhaps for some it does, but never on the surface.
This nation has more than it’s fair share of greedy people. All one needs to do is look at Wall Street for just a moment and you will see what kind of wasteland it can create. In the end, consumerism will always consume those who partake in it to excess; such is the nature of the beast. I always found it interesting that the sign of a good market was that of the bull. It conjures up the image of the biblical golden calf; something originally thought of as a good thing, but then revealed as nothing but simple and cold idolatry. We worship our money, and it is that worship that turns us into mindless creatures.
I’m fascinated with that turn of phrase Peter uses, because it turns my mind to the modern allegory of consumerism, something quite popular these days. Of course, I’m talking about zombies.
I’ve talked about zombies a couple of times here on this blog, simply because they are an excellent point of cultural reference. However, think about what they are. Shambling, mindless, empty husks, things that look like people but are driven only by one thing: hunger. Insatiable hunger. Hunger that drives them ultimately to violence and then self-destruction.
We fear the zombie, partly because they remind us of our mortality, but also because they remind us of the excesses of our culture, our cultural greed. Greed will turn anyone into a zombie, driven only by the desire to acquire more.
In Lent, we are asked to take up the practice of fasting, of letting go to those things that distract us from God. One of those things we all need to think about letting go is our materialism and greed. Greed turns all of our energies inwards and consumes us from the inside out. What we can do in this season is work to detach ourselves from our greed, our starvation for things, and work to make space for God to fill that black hole we all carry within ourselves.
Greed consumes, but God renews. I hope that, in this Lent, I can let go of my own greed, and replace it instead with reliance on the Living Water.