Have you ever looked at the warning labels you seem to see everywhere these days? I once saw one on a snack which warned that the product might contain traces of nuts or sesame seeds. As the snack in question was sesame coated peanuts, I’d be very surprised if it didn’t! Or more recently a packet of herbal insomnia remedy warned “may cause drowsiness”! I should think it would.
As amusing as they might sometimes be, warning signs are very important. If we know the risks and dangers of something, then we can take steps to avoid them. I was recently working in the garage with some chemicals. The bottle warned me the chemical I was using was flammable, corrosive, toxic and gave off fumes – so I knew not to get it too hot, to wear gloves, not to drink it and to make sure the garage was well ventilated and I put the lid back on the bottle as soon as I was finished with it. Sometimes warning labels might just warn us to keep well away from a particular thing or area because they are just to dangerous to get near.
The Bible is full of warning labels. It tells us to avoid lots of different things, people and situations. It is easy to think that it is just being a killjoy, stopping us from having any fun, but that isn’t the case. The things God warns us away from he dos so for good reasons – they are bad for us. Some of them might harm us physically, or mentally, or emotionally. They might cause harm to those around us or mess up our relationships with them. All of them are harmful to us spiritually and damage our relationship with God.
What can make it harder is when all our friends seem to be doing the things the Bible tells us not to do, and worse, they seem to be enjoying it. Well, there are certain chemicals or plants that can make you feel good, really, really good. Right up until the moment they kill you stone dead, or leave you really sick. These things are just like that, some sin does seem to be enjoyable in the short term, fun at the time, but really it is messing you up, and will leave you spiritually dead or sick in the longer term. If your friends are saying something is OK, and the Bible is saying it is bad for you, who knows best? Your mates, or the God who created us all? Short term ‘fun’ is no fun at all if it just leaves you messed up.
But as well as things we should keep away from altogether, the Bible contains other warnings. Sometimes it warns us about missusing the good things God has given us. The chemical I was using was useful for precisely the same reason that it was dangerous, I needed it to be corrosive so it would dissolve really strong glue. If an insomnia remedy didn’t make you drowsy, it wouldn’t help you get to sleep. That’s all good. But if I was to use acetone when I was cooking a curry, or take insomnia remedy before driving to Edinburgh, well, that would be really dangerous, not to mention pretty stupid! They’re very good when used in the way their maker intended them to be used, but very dangerous if you think you can just use them any old way. There are all sorts of things like that in the Bible, things God has given us to enjoy, but he’s given us instructions on how we should enjoy them and placed limits on when they are OK. People in the world today don’t like being told they can’t do stuff, and they wat to do what they like, when they like, how they like. But really, ignoring God’s instructions is like ignoring the warning label on bleach, and drinking it because you don’t see why the manufacturer should tell you what you can and can’t do.
There is one more kind of warning label to look out for. Remember my sesame coated peanuts? Well, I didn’t have to worry about them, I have no problem with eating either ingredient and they aren’t going to do me any harm (unless I eat so many I can’t eat my dinner), but for some people, that warning could save their lives. For people with an allergy, the slightest taste of that snack which I was free to enjoy could be deadly. And that is true spiritually too. Some people have a kind of spiritual allergy to certain things. Things which are totally OK for other people are spiritually deadly to them. These things – and it could be all sorts of stuff – are poison to them. They mess up their relationship with God and those around them, they rob them of their self-control and they lead them further in to sin. The Bible warns us about these things too. If you find that something has this effect on you, or you just can’t stick within God’s boundaries for it, then it doesn’t matter how OK it is for other people, you need to keep well clear of it if you don’t want to end up in a bad way.
So the next time you see a warning label, remember that they are there for a reason. God hasn’t warned us off certain things or placed limits on them because he wants to spoil our fun, but because he know what is good for us and what isn’t, and he wants us to be safe, and really happy.