Do Not be Careless in Your Faith

“Keep your footing as you go to the House of God; come near to listen instead of giving the fool’s sacrifice. For they have no idea the evil they are doing.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:17 {5:1 in English Bibles})

Solomon shifts from his bit of introspection and begins looking at one’s vertical relationship with God and how that is lived out. Verse 17 (or 1) provides us with a bit of a transition, and recognizing that Solomon fell into idolatry with his many wives, sacrificing to their gods as well as to his own, it is easy to see how he is yet tapping into his own experience. 

So, what is this “fool’s sacrifice” of which Solomon speaks? Certainly, we know from Solomon’s father, David, that the fool is the one who says there is no God (Psalm 14:1). David will continue to observe that because the fool does not believe in God, he does many wicked things (there is no restraint when you fear neither God nor man). Yet, if you do not believe in God, why sacrifice? One sacrifices because that is what was expected of him in the ancient Hebrew culture.

Let’s bring this forward a few millennia and apply this notion today. I think that it is fair to say that nearly every church in the land has both genuine believers and unbelievers filling the pews. The believers come for the obvious reasons — they want to worship God by drawing near to him through his word. Unbelievers, though, come for a variety of other reasons: that’s how they were raised, they are friends with the people, they think of church membership as a kind of “insurance” against the fires of Hell, or perhaps they like the business contacts or community visibility that comes from being part of a church body.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is good to have such people coming to church on Sunday. They sit under the preaching of the word and who knows, God may use that to shine light into their souls. Even apart from that, and if for no other reason, those who attend church will be taught morality and truth that will shape the earthly life of all who will put it into practice. The danger only comes to the church when such unbelievers are raised up into leadership.

Back to Solomon. So, what is he saying to us? What he is saying is that when you are on the way to the Temple to make your sacrifice — or, while you are going to church to lift a sacrifice of praise — take care that you take seriously what you are doing. Come prayerfully. Come having examined your heart. Do not just come casually because you will stumble along the way. Take care dear friends, take care and examine the state of your soul first.

God says in Deuteronomy 29:19-20 that God will not forgive the sin of those who sin casually, thinking that God will forgive them anyway. No, God expects that your repentance is a sincere and heartfelt turning from sin — you thought one way about such things, but now you think differently and pour hate and not love on those things that displease God. How often it is that people come to church, partake of the sacraments, pray, and do good works in the context of the church, all without thinking of why or of the Savior they serve. To such as these should echo the words — keep your footing and do not offer the fool’s sacrifice. You have no idea the evil you are doing.

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