Spoiler Alerts for Your New Decade
I went for years, happily not flossing. What ruined it for me was the dental hygienist. The conversation went something like this:
“No, I don’t really floss.”
“Oh, well then you’ll probably get heart disease.”
“Yeah, many heart related diseases are directly related to how well you care for your teeth. By not flossing, you very well could die early of heart disease.”
Since that day, I have flossed regularly. The hygienist ruined the fun of not flossing by telling me how the story ends. It’s like when you try to tell a favorite joke, and one of your friends interrupts with, “Oh, is this the joke about the cow who ends up talking?”
They spoil the fun by telling the ending.
A new decade holds many surprises. As C.S. Lewis experienced, I hope you find yourself “surprised by joy,” as you walk with God and enjoy His goodness.
But you will also find that certain events are just as predictable in this decade as they have been in every decade. These events should never be seen as surprises, even if they do baffle the clueless. Why are they so predictable? It’s because the Bible makes all sorts of end-of-the-story predictions that follow particular actions. If you have a Bible—especially if that Bible includes the book of Proverbs—then you have no excuse for not knowing what’s going to happen if you make certain choices.
If you don’t want to know what action leads to what consequence, then you might want to stop reading. Consider yourself warned:
Choice: I’m going to continue to be an angry person in 2020. I will show no mercy for those who harm me. I will show no patience toward those who annoy me.
Result: “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Proverbs 30:33). In other words, if you continue to be an angry person, you won’t be able to get away from the fighting, even when you want to. And you’ll end up saying and doing things you’ll regret.
Choice: I think I will have an affair.
Result: “As a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:23). In the end when all is counted up, the cost will be hellish. No wound toward one’s spouse could be crueler. And you couldn’t do a better job of shattering your child’s trust in you if you were to pound it with a sledgehammer.
Choice: I’m going to keep tuning out the people who try to speak wisdom to me.
Result: “…When terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you” (Proverbs 1:27). When they persistently refused to listen to His warnings, God permitted His beloved, chosen people to be decimated at the hands of various empires (Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans). “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Choice: I’m going to keep trusting my own wisdom and following my heart.
Result: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). True story: I know a preacher whose pride started kicking in as he was changing the marquee sign for his church. Aware that cars were driving by, he just knew the drivers were admiring his clever work. Finished with the sign, he pivoted to walk back to the church when he tripped and fell on his face. The freshly finished sign said, “Be humble, lest ye stumble.”
The movie The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, is about the making of a mob hit man. Based on true events, it follows the spiral of Frank Sheeran: his early years as a truck driver, his rise in the Bufalino crime family, his decade in a prison, and his elderly years in a nursing home, from where he narrates the story.
The Irishman didn’t feel like three and a half hours. It was well-written and well-acted. But although it didn’t need to be cut any shorter, it also didn’t need to be a full three and a half hours in order for us to already know how it would end, if we knew he would live as long as he did. Estranged from his daughter? No surprise there. Lonely and paranoid? We saw that coming. Regretful over betraying and murdering a friend? Surprise, surprise.
If I could summarize the Bible’s many spoiler alerts, I would say, “Sin is boring.”
You tell me the sin, and the Bible can tell you how the movie ends. For something that is supposed to be exciting, sin is remarkably predictable and boring.