Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The DEEP

Easy Money and Wild Women

The shrimp boat “Miss Paige” makes her way home on the May River in the South Carolina Lowcountry The shrimp boat “Miss Paige” makes her way home on the May River in the South Carolina Lowcountry Matt Richardson

On the road to wisdom there is no such thing as a free lunch

Proverbs 2:10-17

10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,

11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,

12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,

13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;

14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;

15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;

16 To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,

17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.

Ah, the South Carolina Lowcountry. The region in which I live is the flat coastal plain along the coast between the city of Charleston and the city of Savannah, which lies across the state line in neighboring Georgia. 

This is a region of sunny beaches, ancient live oaks covered in Spanish moss, stately southern homes and delicious, fresh caught seafood. No wonder it attracts thousands of vacationers every year–and feels like a paradise in which to live.

Things were not always so. In the late 1970’s, the Lowcountry was comprised of mostly small villages and coastal towns where fishing was the main industry and a quiet way of life out on the rural, isolated Sea Islands saw few tourist dollars and even fewer opportunities to grow. 

Legend has it, that a few locals came up with an unconventional way to change their lot in this cash-poor life. They had realized the value of an unprepossessing plant growing in South America. They had discovered marijuana–and how to make millions getting it home.

Several young men, most in their twenties and feeling the pull of a bigger life than the hard work of fishing, hatched a plan to smuggle the illegal drug into the United States doing what they did best: piloting fishing boats and shrimp trawlers through the intricate marshy waterways of the Lowcountry coast. 

For a few years these “gentleman smugglers” were very successful, eluding law enforcement and bringing in tons of “pot” to sell at higher profits than shrimping ever promised. They were getting rich, having fun and had not a care in the world other than the thrill of the next haul.

Journalist Jason Ryan describes the freebooting atmosphere of American culture at the time in his book “Jackpot:”

Without excusing the smugglers’ crimes, I essentially make the argument that the men and women in Jackpot represent a golden age of drug smuggling, when violence was rare and adventure and camaraderie were in good supply. Nowadays, guns and money seem to rule drug trafficking, which isn’t healthy for smugglers, cops, or our society.–Jason Ryan

However, time–and the law–eventually caught up with them and there was a high price to pay. Prison sentences, ruined reputations, broken families, seized boats, and dashed dreams soon took the shine off this golden age. 

One of the participants, Bobby Graves, after running his share of drugs–and running afoul of the law–changed his ways significantly as a result. He became a pastor and for years has worked to counsel children and the victims of drug abuse. 

Bobby, now in his 70’s, continues to shrimp the Lowcountry waterways on his shrimp boat Miss Pollyanna off St. Helena Island. He is quoted in a recent edition the local paper:

"I was an outlaw fisherman who has become a 'fisher of men,' that's what I am. I fish for a living, but I live to fish for God's children." –Bobby Graves in “The Beaufort Gazette” newspaper

Most of those caught in that web of crime and punishment readily acknowledge that the experience–especially the first decision to tag along or play a part–was the worst mistake of their lives. They discovered that sometimes the easiest money can bring the greatest cost.

In the second chapter of Proverbs, Solomon seeks to convey this same message to his son–and to you and me.  

Proverbs Chapter 2 is written as a sort of acrostic using the Hebrew alphabet and comprises of two main sections. The first, in verses 1-11 sets down the expectation of the son or daughter of God to seek and retain the wisdom and righteousness of the Heavenly Father. The second section, in verses 12-22 focuses on the change that this wisdom produces in life. 

Commentator Bruce Waltke describes this as the “root and the fruit” of wisdom in how it produces discretion in the heart and the true protection of God. As a child of God, He has invested His love in you and will be faithful to protect and preserve what is His:

10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,

11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,–Proverbs 2:10-11

Solomon wonderfully describes the working of wisdom in the heart as a sweet sensation. Like the prophet Isaiah describes of the message of the Word of God:

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”–Isaiah 52:7

Have you ever experienced the joy of discovering a passage in scripture or finding truth in a book of theology? The feeling of relief and happiness can almost overwhelm as the Spirit awakens your heart to God’s wisdom. 

This sort of good pursuit is often what the world, the flesh and the devil will seek to entice you away to a dead end of despair. 

Like any good parent, Solomon wants his child to pursue wisdom so that they will make good choices, but more than this he is exhorting his son to learn to avoid the allure of an easy choice. Waltke describes Proverbs 2 as a warning against the two main traps of life: “easy money and easy sex.”

Easy money comes in the form of those who entice the innocent with promises of great gain with little pain–but the truth is quite the opposite:

12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,

13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;

14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;

15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;–Proverbs 2:12-15

Now you and I both know what it is like to be “fleeced,” “hornswoggled,” “bamboozled,” or otherwise tricked out of hard-earned money by a slick salesman or con artist. You may even feel this way when it comes to pay taxes every year.  Solomon’s warning to his son (or daughter) is that the best way to avoid scoundrels is to not admire or consider the life they promise even worthy of a child of God. 

The temptation for this is not hard to understand. Everyone wants an easy life in some way or another. Even those who work hard prefer happiness to hardship and most often just having money seems to be the key. Our western culture is rife with it. Artist Barrett Strong’s classic Motown hit “Money” is almost an anthem of modern life: 


The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I need money (That's what I want)
That's what I want…

You seek to raise your sons and daughters to in safety and health, with hopes that their lives will be even better than yours. Solomon is saying that greater than any gift of money, the gifts of wisdom and discernment to avoid ill gotten gains–or just a life pursuing the hollow happiness it produces–is the true treasure. 

This world twists any goodness of its treasures and the hearts of those who pursue it. John Steinbeck captures this in his 1945 novel “Cannery Row.” Here, the character Doc is debating the nature of success:

The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.–John Steinbeck, “Cannery Row”

As you grow in wisdom you will want to not just do what is right, but prefer it. This will not only protect you from the criminal mind–it will protect you from the spiritual and even the physical death it promises.

There is no “free lunch” in this life, and as Solomon continues, there is no free sex:

16 To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,

17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.–Proverbs 2:16-17

The second pillar of sin’s deceit is that you should deserve easy sex–or the emotional fulfillment of its charms without any work. There are the obvious connections here to prostitution and pornography, but a youth will be assailed by a highly sexualized culture that warps and poisons relationships–and can bring lifelong suffering and regret.

Even the average marriage experiences trouble when it comes to intimacy. Different expectations, power struggles, and broken promises can build walls between a husband and wife. Like a blessed garden, a good relationship requires work to maintain–and the allure of enjoying the fruit without the labor will lead to heartache.

God calls the young person, a loving husband and wife, and the single adult to pursue wisdom, for He will keep you safe from an adulterous generation. 

If you struggle with these things–unhappy you do not have an easier financial situation or seeking fulfillment in empty promises of the flesh–your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. He sends help to those who call on him:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.–James 1:5

In this, Waltke reveals the true blessing of the book of Proverbs as we see unfold in this chapter: 

Proverbs promises a successful life, a life of wisdom and without regret, but it will be realized fully only by the work of the Spirit of Christ in a heart redeemed by Christ and in one who knows the joy of forgiveness of sins and of freedom from sin.–Bruce Waltke

In this broken world there really are no “gentleman smugglers,” only fools and those who pursue wisdom. As a son or daughter of the King, the hope of your heart is that, although bent by sin and the suffering of this world, you will know safety in the arms of the One who shines His light on your path–and can bring you back even when you stray into the darkness. 

 

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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