There is an old Russian parable about a hunter who came to a clearing and encountered a bear. The hunter raised his rifle to shoot when the bear said, “Wait, what do you want?”
The hunter replied, “A fur coat.”
“That’s reasonable,” answered the bear. “I want a full stomach. Let’s sit down and talk about it.”
So they sat down and after a while, the bear walked away all by himself. He had his full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat. (Christianity Today, April 13, 1973)
Compromise isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes, it can be very dangerous and destructive. & That is especially true when it comes to spiritual matters.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 33, Genesis 33, where we learn with Jacob just how dangerous compromise can be.
Genesis 33:18-19 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. (NIV)
God called Jacob back to Bethel (Genesis 31:13), but Jacob stops about a day’s journey short in Shechem. You see, Shechem was at the crossroads of trade, while Bethel was in the middle of the wilderness. Shechem offered material prosperity and greater comfort; and besides, it was close to where God wanted Jacob. It was a nice compromise, and Jacob could still worship God at Shechem just as well as he could at Bethel – or so he thought.
Genesis 33:20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel (NIV) – which means “God, the God of Israel.”
Jacob stops short in his obedience to God, but he thinks building an altar is going to make up for it. Jacob has compromised in his commitment to God. He is trying to serve both God and money, thinking that his prayers and spiritual activity can compensate for his lack of full obedience.
And sometimes we do the same thing. We try to ride the fence between God and the world, thinking our prayers and piety will cover our disobedience. But that will never work. Jesus Himself said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
In his book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News, Bernard Goldberg recounts a pivotal moment in television news. In the early 1970s, CBS president Dick Salant told staffers, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, for the first time in history, CBS News made money last quarter. The bad news is, for the first time in history, CBS News made money last quarter.”
Goldberg writes, “Salant knew, everyone knew. If news could actually make money, the suits who ran the networks would expect just that. Sure, they would want quality in theory. But they wanted ratings and money in fact.”
In the words of Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes, “Before they would say, ‘Make us proud.’ Now they tell us, ‘Make us money.’” (Bernard Goldberg, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News, Perennial, 2002, p. 90; www.PreachingToday.com)
A reporter cannot be faithful to the truth and faithful to making money at the same time. He has to choose which master he will serve, and so must we.
We cannot be faithful to the One who is the Truth, Jesus Christ, and faithful to pursuing this world’s pleasures at the same time. We have to choose which master we will serve. Either we commit ourselves fully to Jesus Christ, or we commit ourselves fully to making money. Either we choose to obey the Lord completely, or we choose to enjoy the pleasures of this world.
Please, don’t try to do both, because just like the hunter and the bear, we end up being consumed by sin, and it only puts us under a lot of stress in the meantime.
Ron Hutchcraft, in an article entitled Living Peacefully in a Stressful World, describes a visit to Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina:
As the tour boat approached Fort Sumter, he wondered whether the guides would be dressed in blue or in gray. Sumter had been a Union fort in Confederate territory when the Civil War began, and it had changed hands several times.
Well, they were greeted at the gate by a “soldier” wearing a blue coat and gray pants! Hutchcraft says, “This uniform would not have worked very well back in 1861. It would have gotten its wearer shot on both ends!”
In the same way, it’s not a good idea for a follower of Christ to send double signals to his world either. Compromise increases stress over the long haul. The deception, the half-heartedness tears us apart. (Ron Hutchcraft, “Living Peacefully in a Stressful World,” Men of Integrity, Nov/Dec 2002; www.PreachingToday.com) Please…
DON’T COMPROMISE IN YOUR COMMITMENT TO CHRIST.
Instead, choose to obey Him completely. Choose to be fully committed to the Lord, not trying to cover up your disobedience with acts of piety. Otherwise, there will be trouble just like there was for Jacob.
Genesis 34:1-3 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her (NIV) – Literally, He spoke to her heart.
Genesis 34:4 And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” (NIV)
Dinah, Jacob’s teenaged daughter wants to make some new friends in their new home. Only, she attracts the wrong kind of friend – the governor’s son. He rapes her, then woos her with tender words and wins her heart. Dinah is in love with a scumbag!
The bear is starting to gobble up Jacob’s family. His daughter is violated, treated with the highest disrespect, and Jacob is passive and indecisive.
Genesis 34:5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he kept quiet about it until they came home. (NIV)
This is going to be Jacob’s response throughout the ordeal. He is going to keep quiet, because he is in a quandary about what to do. He likes the Canaanite money, but they are hurting his family. That’s what compromise does. It makes people indecisive. What seemed so black and white before becomes gray, and decisions become very hard. Jacob is passive, but his sons become very passionate in their response.
Genesis 34:6-17 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done. But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.” Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife.” Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” (NIV)
Where is Jacob’s voice in all this? His sons are taking the lead, and they want revenge. Now, in this day and age, the proposal of circumcision was not an unusual request, because at times it was seen as an initiation into marriageable status. So…
Genesis 34:18-20 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s household, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to their fellow townsmen. (NIV)
The gate of the city was where all public transactions took place.
Genesis 34:21-23 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. But the men will consent to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us give our consent to them, and they will settle among us.” (NIV)
Through marriage, the men of Shechem hope to gain access to all of Jacob’s wealth. So…
Genesis 34:24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. (NIV)
Genesis 34:25-29 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. (NIV)
Because of Jacob’s silence, his sons completely overreact. And in their anger, they slaughter an entire city and loot its wealth. They themselves become murderers and thieves, much worse than the men of Shechem ever were.
Genesis 34:30-31 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (NIV)
Jacob finally says something, but it is too little too late. The culture has corrupted his family, and now Jacob fears for their very lives. But that’s what compromise does to people and their families. It leads to indecision and indignation. It destroys integrity. It corrupts families, and it breeds fear.
Now, when Moses writes this account in the life of Jacob hundreds of years later, he is writing it to a generation of Israelites getting ready to conquer the land of Canaan. In essence, he is describing the kind of corruption the Canaanites can bring to the people of Israel, and he is warning Israel not to intermarry with the Canaanites after they enter the land.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses is warning God’s people not to compromise with the Canaanite culture at all. They are not to intermarry. They are not to form alliances. They are not to corrupt themselves with Canaanite treachery and idolatry.
But this is not only a warning for God’s people back then. It is a warning for God’s people today. My dear friends, by all means, don’t compromise in your commitment to the Lord. But also…
DON’T COMPROMISE WITH THE GODLESS CULTURE THAT SURROUNDS US.
We dare not form alliances and intermarry with those who don’t follow Christ. Instead, We must separate ourselves from this world’s attitudes and actions lest we find ourselves and our families consumed by the corruptive influences of our day. It’s like the bear eating the hunter. There can be no compromise with our corrupt culture, because we don’t influence it; it consumes us.
In 1973, a man attempted to rob a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, but the police trapped the man inside the bank. So he took three female hostages and one male hostage and held them for 131 hours. During that time, he terrorized them, firing his Russian automatic assault weapon and threatening to kill them on numerous occasions. He put nooses around their necks and threatened to hang them, but he didn’t harm any of them.
When he finally surrendered, something very unusual happened. Ted Childress, an FBI hostage expert, said, “We expected the hostages to be antagonistic toward the hostage taker. But instead, they said they feared the police more than the hostage taker. They also said they didn’t hate the hostage taker. They refused to testify against him, [and] one of the ladies [actually] became engaged to this hostage taker.”
That’s where the term, Stockholm Syndrome, comes from. It describes this phenomenon, first observed in Stockholm, in which a hostage, under so much stress, begins to transfer his hatred. Instead of hating the one who captured him, he begins to hate those who would rescue him. There is a denial of what is really happening, and the hostage actually develops a love relationship with his captor.
It happened years later, when Moslem terrorists took over the American Embassy in Beirut. After weeks and months of holding American citizens hostage, the terrorists put on a banquet for their hostages in a luxury hotel on the Mediterranean. After a while, a number of the hostages began to express sympathy for the terrorists’ viewpoints. (Donald Hoke, “The Stockholm Syndrome,” Preaching Today, Tape 30; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s exactly what I see happening in the American Evangelical Church today. Many American Evangelical Christians now express sympathy for the world’s viewpoints on evolution, morality, and authority.
Recently, I’ve heard some Christians say, “Well, maybe God used evolution to create the world.” & “Sexual immorality is alright between consenting adults. They aren’t hurting anybody, and after all, who are we to judge.”
We as American Christians resist any suggestion to submit to appropriate authority, because we have adopted the viewpoint that we must listen to our hearts above everything else. “Don’t do what any body tells you to do,” some of us say. “Don’t even do what the Bible tells you to do. Just do what your heart tells you to do.”
My dear friends, these are the world’s viewpoints, and they are wrong. And yet, I hear many Christians saying, “Oh, pastor, don’t be so negative.” I even hear myself saying it sometimes, because I too struggle with wanting what this world has to offer. Just like Jacob, I like its money. I desire its pleasures, and I sometimes forget that compromise with the world can be destructive to my own soul.
The Bible says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan, the god of this world, is no friend to the Christian. Please, don’t let him devour you. Don’t even sit down to talk with him. Don’t compromise with him one bit, or he will consume you and your family.
Then, instead of hating the world, you will begin to hate those who warn you of its dangers. & Just like those Stockholm hostages, you will begin to hate your Rescuer, who for us is Jesus Christ Himself.
James 4 says, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
He opposes God. We don’t influence our culture; our culture consumes us if we compromise with it. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually and ever so subtly.
D. A. Carson says, “We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. (D. A. Carson, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today, 7-31-2000; www.Preaching Today.com)
My dear friends, Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t drift towards compromise. Don’t compromise in your commitment to the Lord, and don’t compromise with the godless culture that surrounds us, lest you be consumed by it.
You say, “Phil, I’m already consumed by my culture. I’ve made compromises that have hurt me and my family. What can I do?”
Well, you can do what God told Jacob to do. Look at Genesis 35:1 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel…” (which means “the house of God”).
If you’ve drifted away from God, God Himself calls you to come back to Him. That’s all you need to do. Come back to your Lord and Savior and let Him rescue you from your sins.
Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings. (William P. Merrill, altered)