The women of the Bible present fascinating stories, but it is important to remember their exploits, faith and courage as instruction to all us. Ruth’s story is 3000 years old yet highly relevant instruction regarding the sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity and the mercy of God. Sarah was so beautiful kings desired her, but she was also tough, smart, and resourceful. Women today can be called her children, “if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). There are many others, but of all the women of the Bible, Jesus exhorts us to “remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). He does not tell us to remember Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, David, or Mary. He picks a person who didn’t “get it” to give us one of the most important teachings in scripture. Why is it so important to remember Lot’s wife? Like no other man or woman, Lot’s wife is a solemn warning to all of us. Jesus gives the warning to His disciples, not to the Scribes and Pharisees. Any one of us can quickly slip into forgetting the subject of her story. Jesus is telling us to look at her story as an example of divine judgment that comes quickly on those who do not wholeheartedly obey the commands of the Lord. We risk it all if we fail to heed this warning.
Lot’s wife had the one of the best spiritual opportunities and powerful experiences of her day. Her uncle by marriage was Abraham, a godly man whom God used to rescue her when she was taken hostage. She was married to a godly man. She had the experience of seeing angels who came to rescue her from the wrath of God. Yet in the end she died without regret for her attitude. She lived for what she wanted in life, not God’s will. She never understood what it meant to “set your mind on things that are above, not on earthy things” (Col. 3:2). I would suggest that there are many people in the Church today just like Lot’s wife.
Lot’s wife was not a murderer or an adulteress, which when the Law of God was eventually given to Moses, required the death penalty. Her one sin is a disturbingly simple act; she “looked back.” The looking was nothing in and of itself. In reality, it revealed the condition of a heart secretly enamored with the world. The question we must carefully ask ourselves: “What is in my heart when it comes to worldliness?”
We see the progression so often as a child grows into adulthood. They start out faithfully saying their nightly prayers. As a teenager they are active in the youth group, memorizing scripture and going on missions trips. Early indications of a potential problem are innocent indulgences: heavily involved in sports, video games, texting their friends and interest in the opposite sex. In adulthood, their spirituality is lite. Their passions become a good education, a successful career, a fulfilling marriage, more money, more rewards, etc. Is there a bigger problem below the surface? On the one hand their faithful church attendance looks like they are walking away from sin as Lot’s wife walked away from Sodom. Notice carefully those around you, and you may see that they have looked back. We must also look at ourselves. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves . . .” (2 Cor. 13:5). You can be alive one moment, a flesh and blood breathing human being, and instantly become a “pillar of salt.” The image is a hopeless, worthless state; the reality is lost in hell. Suddenly there is no opportunity to repent. Don’t believe what others say, “God is too merciful to punish anyone eternally.” Jesus says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” “Repent or perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
Paul was driven to tears over the people he knew that “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). He describes them as having “minds set on earthly things” (vs. 19). No one in their right mind would choose to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. The choice is more benign; a heart, a mind, and then more than a look, but a life set on earthly things. We must save ourselves from the great delusion of a spiritual life that fails to go far enough and is always seeking to find its self among the dead things of the world.
Likely Paul was remembering Lot’s wife when he said, “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31). The scriptures consistently instruct us to always live each day believing that Christ’s can come at any unforeseen moment. We must prioritize human relationships, material possessions, and worldly dealings.
John warns us of being devoted to a system that is opposed to God. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
What does it look like when the will of God is first, not television, not the Internet, not your iPod, not your hobbies, not your finances, or not your manner of dress? Do we even know? Any discussion of these and other issues begins with the heart, not legalistic restrictions and enforced rules. Getting to the heart of the matter is challenging, but this is where is begins. Can others around you tell you apart from your unconverted neighbors or coworkers? If there is little or no difference, maybe you have already looked back. Jesus’ warning is an expression of His mercy, designed to protect us. Let’s remember Lot’s wife!