The Turkey Vultures
The other day I stood and watched with enjoyment as several turkey vultures (a.k.a. buzzards) flew overhead. It amazes me to see the way these large birds can glide so long without ever flapping their wings. And their ability to catch a thermal and soar so high that they are almost completely out of sight, again with hardly a flap of their great wings, is fascinating. Indeed, when you observe turkey vultures from a distance they are fun to watch and creatures possessing a certain beauty and attractiveness.
However, get them on the ground where you can more closely examine them and you will find that they are somewhat clumsy creatures with featherless heads feeding on decaying, putrid animals. Up close the gracefulness completely disappears and we see birds that are somewhat repulsive.
Isn’t sin often the same way? As we observe it from a distance we may see something attractive, but upon further examination its ugliness appears. When we look more closely at the most attractive of sins, we see something capable of separating us from God and leading us to eternal death (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Romans 6:23). These eternal consequences should be enough, but even in this life the ugliness is often seen if we take the time to look.
Certainly the fashionable, stylish clothes are pretty and will win you compliments from many, but if they are not worthy of one professing godliness (1 Timothy 2:9, 10), there is an ugly side to the apparel. Dress that is sensual in its nature may end up attracting the wrong kind of attention. You may destroy or at least damage your good name if your clothing doesn’t match your profession of faith (Proverbs 22:1). Not only may you cause someone to sin (Matthew 5:27, 28), you may light a fire that is not easily put out, and that leads us to the next point.
Despite God’s condemnation (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10), few things are portrayed as more appealing than sex outside a lawful marriage. Yet, think of what it often leaves behind: shame, embarrassment for both the participants and their parents, pregnancy, disease, emotional baggage to be carried into marriage, etc. Hollywood can make an adulterous affair look so nice, so romantic, so right, but in reality families are often wrecked by this selfish sin. Don’t be fooled by the way this sin is portrayed on the screen.
If you believe the commercials that run during most sporting events, and if you accept the way it is portrayed in most television shows, alcohol is the key to having a good time. No doubt there is some pleasure to be had, but before you are “led astray by it” (Proverbs 20:1), take a closer look at this “turkey vulture.” Read the description of woe and sorrow found in Proverbs 23:29-35. See the domestic violence caused by drinking. Think about the consequences of a DUI. Take a close look at the vomiting of drunkenness and observe the pounding headache caused by a hangover. Do you see the vulture feasting on carrion?
While Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38, 39), and Paul writes, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves” (Romans 12:19), we are told that vengeance is sweet and so many novels and movies have portrayed it that way. And truthfully, it is usually sweet—for a moment. But all too often, the ugly side comes out as our vengeance prompts further retaliation, and friendships, even marriages, are irreparably damaged. Rather than being sweet, vengeance is capable of producing some very bitter fruits.
Don’t be fooled by observations made from a distance. The wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23) and the way of the unfaithful is hard (Proverbs 13:15).
John R. Gibson
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers