Proverbs 24:12 If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,” won’t he who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t he who protects your life know? Won’t he repay a person according to his work?
In 1957 a visiting beekeeper accidentally released some aggressive African bees into the wilds of Brazil, and the unintended consequence resulted in what we know today as – killers bees. Invasive species of animals, reptiles, bugs, and plants in most cases are the result of people not thinking things through as they introduce these species from other countries into the local environment. The resulting havoc has brought monstrous problems to certain parts of the world. Burmese pythons in Florida. Cane toads in Australia. Snakehead fish in California have created difficulties for the domestic species in these areas and are causing great budgetary cost to eradicate the unwanted invasive species.
In most cases, the innocent small action of the people who released these invasive species did not intend to create a national disaster or set out to destroy the ecological environment of local species that are now on the verge of extinction. However, the unintended consequences have hurt a lot of people and the natural habitats of many diverse creatures.
Everything we do has an effect on someone or something. When we choose to sin we do not just hurt ourselves. The unintended consequences can have far-reaching implications that reach out and touch many. We only have to look to the first recorded sin to see the truth of the matter. Gen. 3:17 And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
We read the story of a young prophet who was sent by God to bring a judgment against the altars of Bethel. King Jeroboam invited the prophet back to his palace, but the prophet said he could not go with the king because God had given him specific instructions. 1Kings 13:9 For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’ The word was clear and the young prophet was heading out in another direction according to the word he had received.
There was an older prophet from Bethel who went after the young man and lied to him saying, “God had instructed the young prophet to come and eat at his house.” 1 Kings 13:18 And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. I have no idea why a prophet of God would lie to another, but he did.
Some would say, “It was only a small lie. What harm could come of it?” Lots of harm came of it. The unintended consequence of falling for the lie turned out to cost the young prophet dearly. Because he had disobeyed the direct word of the Lord and had believed the lie, he paid for it with his life. 1Kings 13:24 And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body.
When the ten spies returned from the land of Canaan with the evil report that said, “They were too small a people to take on the giants in the land.” Num. 13:33b To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them. The unintended consequence affected that whole generation. They all died in the desert and only Caleb and Joshua entered the promised land along with the descendants of the fallen. The sins of ten spies cause a whole generation to lose their inheritance. What seemed to be a small counterreaction to what God had said was possible, turned out to be disastrous.
How we live our lives matters and has a great effect on those who are in our sphere of influence. No one falls alone! God knows our hearts, and we cannot claim ignorance of what we know to be true and right, then turn, and act to the contrary. Prov. 24:12 If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,” won’t he who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t he who protects your life know? Won’t he repay a person according to his work?
Before you write-off your actions as insignificant, ponder the results of the said actions. What has God asked you to do that you have put off because you just don’t deem it important? What cheat, betrayal of trust, or lie are you about to take part in that could negatively affect your life for a long time? Even on this side of the cross, the wages of sin is still death. We who are in Christ should keep our hearts and minds clean and available to the work of the Lord. Let us not be the reason that others fall from grace. Let us be the reason that others sought God and lived. Amen!