In 2001, Michael Vick signed a ten year contract with the Atlanta Falcons that was worth $130 million. His endorsements were worth many millions more, but now he has lost almost everything because of his decision to build an illegal dog fighting operation.
Throughout his life, Vick had coaches and friends who tried to help him make better decisions about his life, and many would come to his rescue each time he got in trouble. Years of being told that you are a star, however, tends to lift some people up with pride, and pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Although many of his family and friends tried to tried to warn him about being involved in something illegal, he persisted in this behavior and rejected their advice.
Why would someone who has everything risk it all for something so foolish? I doubt that Michael Vick himself could explain his behavior because foolish decisions usually involve some kind of self-deception. People often think they can engage in behavior that is risky, illegal, or sinful and escape the consequences, but events seldom work out as they think. Why is this the case?
It is because they are deceived about God’s law of harvest: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). This law applies to everyone, including those who do not believe the Bible. To believe that we can sow one thing and reap another is to mock God. God’s word assures us that if we sow to the flesh, or “sinful nature” (NIV), we will reap destruction (v. 8).
What does it mean to sow to the flesh? Sowing to the flesh involves a self-centered worldly focus. The Bible says, “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Even some Christians in Paul’s day resisted spiritual insight: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly…” (1 Corinthians 3:1). Sowing to the flesh is all about the kinds of choices we make, and God’s law of harvest means that we will not escape the consequences of sinful choices.
The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) lists the criteria for a disorder called Antisocial Personality. People who are diagnosed with this disorder are also referred to as psychopaths. One of the defining characteristics of these people is that they have no conscience about right and wrong. They delight in using, conning, deceiving, and abusing others and are only interested in themselves. As you can imagine, these people often engage in criminal activity and eventually wind up in prison. All of the above is true, but I believe there is a significant characteristic of this personality type that is not mentioned in the diagnostic criteria. I believe a common characteristic of this group is self-deception. The antisocial people I have known and worked with over the years have all thought they were smarter than everyone else. They think they can violate the rules of God and man without suffering the consequences. Thankfully, this delusion of superiority causes them to make the mistakes that reveal their crimes, and if it were not for this self-deception, these people would cause much more harm to society than they do. We do not have to be a psychopath, however, to deceive ourselves about the consequences of our behaviors because this seems to be a common characteristic of humankind.
The story of king Ahab in 1 Kings 22 is a great example of someone who thought he could escape the consequences of his actions. Micaiah warned Ahab about the “lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets” (v. 22), and he frankly told the king that he would die in battle if he were to try to conquer Ramoth Gilead (v. 19). Although Ahab rejected the prophet’s message, he nevertheless felt the need to take special precautions to ensure his safety in the upcoming battle. Ahab decided to disguise himself as an ordinary soldier so his enemies would not know who he was. By doing this, Ahab was actually trying to mock God. The Bible says the king of Aram ordered his commanders to focus on killing Ahab, but they could not find him because of his disguise. God, however, did not need the help of the king of Aram to fulfill the prophecy of Micaiah: “But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor” (v. 34). The king died of this wound and every detail of the prophecy against Ahab was fulfilled. So, what does this demonstrate? Ahab believed he could disobey God and escape the consequences by being clever. Today, if we believe we can avoid reaping the negative consequences of what we sow, we also think we can mock God.
J B Myers