by Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Perhaps this is what inspired David to write that we should not get upset about people with evil intentions. Don’t be jealous of those who do wrong. They are like grass and other green plants that dry up quickly and then die.[1] And then another psalmist named Asaph expressed the same thought when he wrote that he started looking up to the people at the top, envying the godless who had it made, who didn’t seem to have anything to worry about as though they didn’t have one care in the whole world.[2]

What David said inspired King Solomon to suggest that we should never envy sinful people, but always respect the Lord.[3] Furthermore, don’t envy such godless people or desire to socialize with them. And the reason we should never become envious of those who spend all of their time satisfying their desires because they have no hope, no future, and what little light of good we may see in them will soon be snuffed out.[4]

The Greek noun that Paul chooses is phthonos, which means: doing things out of envy. In other words, not only does an envious person want what other people have, but the jealous person is angry that this other person got it before they did! Both Matthew and Mark tell us that the Jewish establishment delivered Jesus to Pilate out of envy.

And the Apostle Paul tells us that this is the kind of attitude we expect to find among sinners in the world, not among God’s children.[5] That’s why they should never see some preachers going around preaching the message about Jesus the Anointed because they are jealous and bitter. Preachers should do this only when they want to help.[6] So he warns Timothy that such people are proud of what they think they know, but they understand nothing. They are sick with love for arguing and fighting about words. And that brings envy, quarrels, insults, and evil mistrust.[7] You cannot trust such people even if they do claim being led by the Spirit of God in their hearts? Instead, the spirit of sinful tendencies in their flesh motivates them.

Now Paul crosses a line and mentions the sinful act of committing murder. Bible language scholars translate several Hebrew words into English as murder. But the one that seems to fit best into what Paul is defining here as a sinful moral tendency is the Hebrew verb ratsach. It not only refers to murder in the sense of taking a person’s life but also to avenge or assassinate in the spirit of killing their reputation. We find its use in a way that certainly does not mean homicide, but the suffering of one’s status in society. The psalmist David asked his critics: How long will you people keep attacking me? Do you all want to kill me? I am like a crumbling wall, like a fence ready to fall.[8] David was not afraid that they would physically attack him, but by attacking his character and conscience, he felt like he was losing the battle to remain emotionally stable.

 The Greek noun Paul uses to make this same point is phonos, which on the surface means to kill physically. Jesus once said that evil deeds proceed from evil hearts. He mentioned that among them were evil thoughts such as adultery, fornication, murder, thievery, greed, deceit, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. We can see that in this context, homicide does not seem to belong as one of the many immoral deeds mentioned. [9] Paul follows the same litany when writing to the Romans.[10] And in John’s revelation, we read where those who survived the first set of plagues unleashed by the sixth angel were those who did not repent of their murders, magic arts, sexual immorality, and thefts.[11]

Then, using the word “assassin” instead of “murderer,” let’s consider the idea of someone wanting to destroy another emotionally through criticism, harassment, and character assassination is meant. When royal enemies similarly attacked King David, why was he advised to fly like a bird to his mountain? Like hunters, the wicked hide in the dark. They get their bows ready and aim their arrows. They shoot at good, honest people. What would reasonable people do if the wicked destroyed all that is good?[12]

The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians and talked about what happens if someone makes an addict out of you, devours you, takes advantage of you, or tries to make you look little by making themselves look big, or slaps you in the face. It wouldn’t be unusual if the person receiving such an assault might say to the attacker, “What are you trying to do, kill me?” But each reader must take the use of the word in context and be satisfied with how they interpret it.

Paul then lists another sinful action, which is not hard to define or describe. It is “drunkenness.” The Hebrew verb that corresponds to this is caba’, which means to drink fermented drinks heavily until intoxicated. We find where the parents ask for help from the elders of the town for their son, who is stubborn and rebellious; he doesn’t pay attention to us, lives wildly, gets drunk.[13] King Solomon says that those who eat and drink too much become poor. They sleep too much and end up wearing rags.[14] And the prophet Isaiah encountered the same problem in his day.[15] Today we might refer to them as rabble-rousers. They get drunk to cause trouble.

The Greek noun that Paul selects here is methē which simply means intoxication. Ironically, one of today’s illegal drugs is called crystal Methamphetamine (aka “Meth”). It is highly addictive and causes addicts to lose interest in usual activities, neglect relationships, isolation, risky behavior such as stealing to buy the drug. They quickly forget the date, time, and events. They exhibit aggressive behavior, clumsiness, erratic sleep patterns, etc. But there is no reason to believe that Paul meant anything other than intoxication from wines and hard liquors.

 Jesus did not skirt this issue; He met it head-on when He told his followers: Be careful not to spend your time having parties and getting drunk or worrying about this life. If you do that, you won’t be able to think straight, and the end might come when you are not ready.[16] And the Apostle Paul was just as direct when he wrote the Roman believers and told them to live in the right way, like people who belong to the future. They should not have wild parties or be drunk.[17] Paul was not suggesting that they already were involved in drinking parties, and they should not overdo it. He was describing how the world was utterly ignoring the coming day of judgment.

Paul told the Corinthians not to associate with those who get intoxicated.[18] If they do, they may be hanging out with greedy people and drunkards who are abusive and cheat people. They will not be inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.[19] And since we know that it was permissible in those days to drink a little wine along with a meal – otherwise, Jesus would have never turned water into wine at the wedding, that they should not over drink table wine because it would ruin their life. If they want to be intoxicated, become intoxicated on the Spirit of God.[20]

So, we should not be surprised that Paul ends this list of the sinful actions of our fallen human nature running wild, reveling (KJV). Since such wild parties were never part of Jewish custom, we only find in the First Covenant incidents of such reveling among the Gentiles. We see this in what happened to the two Angels who left Abraham to visit his nephew Lot in Sodom by the Dead Sea.[21] The prophet Ezekiel received a message from God about the people of Samaria following in the footsteps of the people of Sodom.[22] There the prophet uses the Hebrew noun tow’ebah, which seems to define this type of behavior.

The Greek noun Paul then uses is kōmos from which we get our English word “commotion.” In his Greek Lexicon, Thayer attributes such revelry to late-night riotous processions of half-drunken and playful people who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of the god Bacchus or some other false deity. They stopped to sing and play instruments in front of the houses of male and female friends. That’s why the Greeks applied this term kōmos to feasts and binge-drinking parties that run late into the night and indulge in merrymaking parties.

Paul was quick to tell the Roman believers that they should live a decent life, like people who fear where you might see them. He warns them not to participate in wild parties or getting drunk.[23] It is evident that this was a regular practice by the unconverted in Paul’s day, and it doesn’t look like much has changed over the centuries. The Apostle Peter reminded his converts that in the past, they wasted too much time doing what those who don’t know God like to do. They were living immoral lives, doing the sinful things they wanted to do. You were always getting drunk, having wild drinking parties, and doing shameful things.[24]

There are many more such things that Paul declines to mention because his whole point is not on this type of behavior, but on those believers tempted to practice them to be friendly with their neighbors. Rather than getting what God wants for them, they will end up getting what they deserve.[25] Paul sent a similar warning to the Roman,[26] Corinthian,[27] Ephesian,[28] and Colossian congregations.[29]

[1] Psalm 37:1

[2] Ibid 73:3

[3] Proverbs 23:17

[4] Ibid. 24:1, 19

[5] Romans 1:29-32

[6] Philippians 1:15

[7] 1 Timothy 6:4

[8] Psalm 62:3

[9] Mark 7:21-22

[10] Romans 1:29-30

[11] Revelation 9:21

[12] Psalm 11:1-3

[13] Deuteronomy 21:20

[14] Proverbs 23:21

[15] Isaiah 56:12

[16] Luke 21:34

[17] Romans 13:13

[18] 1 Corinthians 5:11

[19] Ibid. 6:10

[20] Ephesians 5:18

[21] Genesis 19:1-6

[22] Ezekiel 16:46-56

[23] Romans 13:13

[24] 1 Peter 4:3

[25] Isaiah 3:11

[26] Romans 2:8-9; 8:13

[27] 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[28] Ephesians 5:5-6

[29] Colossians 3:6-8

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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