No matter how hard you try, you find yourself continually choosing behaviors and patterns of living unbecoming a Christian. This battle rages in your thought life, spilling over into sinful desires and deeds. The proper, theological phraseology for what goes wrong in our minds is “the noetic effects of sin,” but what preaches is the simple phrase, “Sin makes us stupid.” We know a problem exists, but we lack the ability to solve it.
When a child of light becomes partners with and lives like children of darkness (Eph 5:7-8), he decides to live paradoxically, in dichotomy. The mind, once born in sin, then renewed in truth, but once again justifying sin, discerns good and evil with decreasing accuracy. Deception begins to cloud the mind of the believer, and Lot stands as an example of an Old Testament believer seeming unable to deal with his sin. In him, you can begin to see the issue in your own battle with sin.
Remember, God considered Lot to be a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7), just as He considered Abraham to be (Gen 15:6). Yet, he serves as a literary foil for Abraham—he followed Abraham out of paganism, but eventually moved away from Abraham onto a path of one questionable decision to another. Unlike Abraham, the friend of God, Lot was the friend of the world, and he discovered through experience that whoever “sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8a). We will see his love for the world in that he treasures its goods, thinks its thoughts, and needs to get taken from it.
The friend of the world treasures worldly goods.
The children of Israel at Mt. Sinai needed to hear this story from Moses as much as we do. When famine first came to the Promised Land, Abraham and Lot fled to Egypt (Gen 12:10). In an account with undeniable parallels to the Exodus, the Lord intervened, and Pharaoh and his servants forced them out of Egypt (vv. 17-20). Like in the Exodus account, Egypt left an impression on Lot’s heart. Lot chose to separate from Abraham to the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah land due to its lush nature that was “like the land of Egypt” (Gen 13:10).
James 4:1-4 explains that competing desires and passions cause quarrels and fights. It sobers us; “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Lot’s men fought with Abrahams’s because their divided hearts desired the riches left in Egypt, but were unable to return. Lot doesn’t leave Abraham out of professed rejection of Yahweh, but of a new treasure that grew in his heart during his sojourn in Egypt.
He inched his tent closer toward Sodom (v. 12), even though he knew that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (v. 13). By the time God allowed an army to rise up against the people of Sodom (14:12), Lot had moved into the city. He even moved back after Abraham saved him.
When we see Lot again in Chapter 19, he sits at the gates, a position of prominence in the community. The unrighteousness vexed his righteous soul, as the KJV records (2 Pt 2:7). Even so, he was planning to marry his daughters off to men of Sodom in Genesis 19:14 (by way of further contrast, in 24:3, Abraham wanted none of the Canaanite women for his son, Isaac).
When Lot’s true treasure is about to vanish, he lingered (v. 16). Forcibly removed from the city by the angels, Lot desired living to which he was accustomed and argued with his deliverers for it (vv. 18-20). Once more, if his wife is any reflection of Lot, that she turned back indicates their lingering desire to preserve their lives in Sodom (v. 26, cf. Luke 17:32-33).
In other words, righteous Lot loved the things of the world.
This friend of the world thinks worldly thoughts.
In Genesis 18, Abraham was hospitable to his angelic visitors and prepared them a feast. They accepted from him, but when Lot offered them the same in chapter 19, they initially rejected it. Why? Lot’s friendship with the world corrupted his value-system, twisting a noble endeavor like hospitality into something ugly.
Consider the spiritual state of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course, there existed the obvious sin of homosexuality in these cities. Yet, they were also proud gluttons, greedy and inhospitable, and arrogant and abominable (Eze 16:49-50). They indulged, craving more sinful behavior (Jude 7). Proud about their sin, they had a “look on their faces bears witness against them,” proclaiming and not hiding it (Is 3:9). They, like the latter prophets of Jerusalem, “commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil” (Jer 23:14). In short, they become a picture of righteous judgment (Is 1:9; 3:9; Lam 4:6; Zeph 2:9; 2 Peter 2:6ff); homosexuality was simply an outgrowth of the narcissistic spirit of the age.
Consider now how Lot thinks to be hospitable. With the unassuming travelers under his roof, the men of the city began to come out, “young and old, all people to the last man” (v. 4) seeking the visitors to (as the NIV translates it) “have sex with them.” None of them seem sheepish or reflective, but all seem together united in unfettered passion. If ever a time called for a moral declaration, this one cries forth in every righteous soul.
So, righteous Lot steps out of his door, faces the danger of the mob, and says, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly” (v. 6). Perhaps not the kind of spiritual fortitude you expected—he calls them brothers and asks them politely to lessen their sin. What’s more, in a twisted defense of his guests, he offers their lusts his yet-unmarried daughters—a sin apparently not so wicked as homosexual immorality.
Now we see why the angels were weary of Lot’s hospitality: worldly thinking tainted it. His mind now thought of sin in terms of a sliding scale, justifying, “This is too wicked, do this sin instead, even to my daughters.” No, this situation called for clearer thinking, a mind that understood immorality to be immorality and sin to be sin. When the time came to stand for righteousness, Lot found his posture compromised. Sadly, we see that his worldliness infected his daughters’ thinking (more on this in a moment). Far removed from the altars of Yahweh, the fire in this righteous man waned.
It is worth noting that even the little light he shone on their sin threw the men of Sodom into a rage, and they call him judgmental. Perhaps, in times past, he had tried to temper the moral storm raging in this community, but all efforts had now failed—even the offering of one sexual object for another. They pressed hard against him and were about to break down the door. Even blindness couldn’t halt their uncontrollable lust! Let this be a lesson to potential Lots: the world will never accept even mild rebukes for righteousness sake from its friends.
There is one more point to be made here, for this is not as a story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but the story of Christ rescuing even the least desirable of believers. This brings us to our final point:
This friend of the world gets taken from a worldly situation.
Lot receives a different revelation than Abraham. Whereas God promised to bless His friend, He now warns this friend of the world of coming judgment. Even though God rescues Lot’s immediate family, they do not all escape with their lives. Consider one of Jesus’ sermons on judgment (Luke 17:22-37); He addresses His disciples, not to Pharisees or vile sinners, telling them to remember Lot’s wife and not love the ways of the world. This, along with cases such as that of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, reminds us that the Lord takes this admonition so seriously that He will intervene.
Unfortunately, the account does not end here. It seems that Lot repented at some point, for he “was afraid to live in Zoar” and departed to the mountains (v. 30). All that was left of this once illustrious family was destitute Lot and his two daughters who learned worldliness from him. We see the same twisted sense of morality in them in verses 31-38, for they sleep with their father to preserve his lineage. What history records as a lineage is that the Moabite and Ammonite peoples raided the people of Israel and tempted them to sin. What a sad epilogue to the life of a man we will meet in heaven.
Lot’s folly began with a single sin: covetousness. He was unable to return to pharaoh, so he settled for Egypt-lite. With that, the world took root in his heart, leaving God a vestigial appendage to his soul. Though unworthy, Lot found himself removed from the world so that he would not face its destruction, but he suffered great loss in the process.
The irony of the Lord is that the lush, attractive valley of Sodom and Gomorrah now lay in ruin. Even today, the earth is salted; nothing grows there, and nothing lives in the water of the Dead Sea. The world passes away (1 Jn 2:17), and only the results of Lot’s sin remained for the children of Israel to deal with. Some Christians, like Lot, will be saved “yet as by fire” (1 Cor 3:15).
Is worldliness underlying your struggles with godly living? All of us are born into the world’s system, which permeates the air we breathe. Yet, even after the fresh breeze of the gospel offers us the oxygen, against all reason, nostalgia for those old stenches grows. The Spirit tells us in Paul, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm 12:2). He provides Christians hope for freedom in His Word; “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pt 1:3).
There is one other consideration for you. Perhaps you find yourself worse than Lot, having never believed God or seeking righteousness through Him. Perhaps you’ve trusted your own reasoning, and find yourself in the Romans 1 spiral—those who continually fail to honor God and become “futile in their thinking” (v. 21), darkened in their hearts, and foolish in general (vv. 21-22). Perhaps you see yourself in passages like Ephesians 2:1-3 but not in the verses that follow. Know this: you who walk in darkness find light in Christ; you who are dead find new life in Him (vv. 4-5). For by grace you can be saved through faith, not of your own doing; “it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (vv. 8-9). Today, trust in Him and Him alone for salvation.