So far, from this passage, we have looked at the example of Noah — a wise man who lived in perilous times, as well as the example of Lot — a worldly man who lived in perilous times. The days of Noah and Lot are much like our own. Even as negative events, disasters, wars, crime, and sinfulness are on the rise, most people are just going about their day-to-day activity with no thought of God’s judgment and no thought of the impact of sin on society.
We saw in Noah’s example a man who feared God, obeyed God, led his family to obey God, and faithfully preached righteousness in his generation. However, we saw in Lot, a man who loved wealth and power far too much. Even though he was a saved man, he compromised his beliefs, did not lead his family to obey God, lost any Godly reputation that he may have had, and did not speak against the sins of his day. In our day, we are challenged to follow Noah’s example, not only as examples of righteousness, but as preachers of righteousness as well.
Today, we turn our attention to the third person Jesus highlights in this passage: “Remember Lot’s wife.” What did Jesus mean by that expression? What does this woman who lived thousands of years ago have to do with people who are likely witnessing the last days? Why did Jesus relate what happened to this woman to the disciples and to our day?
As you recall, in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the pillar of salt which Lot’s wife had been turned into was on the straight and narrow road to the Celestial City as a warning to Christian pilgrims. The pillar of salt was set up across from a side road that led to silver mines. A man named Demas and his companions dug for silver in these mines and tried to entice pilgrims to leave their journey in pursuit of riches. Bunyan tells us that as Christian and Hopeful view this statue, Hopeful says, “We should allow her to be both a warning and an example. As a warning, we should shun her sin, since her judgment indicates what will befall us if this wayside monument does not restrain us…. This woman merely looked behind her; we do not read that she stepped so much as one step out of the way, nevertheless she was turned into a pillar of salt.”
Therein lies the sin of Lot’s wife. She looked back. Genesis 19:17 tells us that the angels told Lot, his wife, and their two daughters, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” A few verses later we read, “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Why did Lot’s wife look back? She loved material things, wealth, pleasure, and the easy life just as much as her husband did. She probably couldn’t bear to see the place she called home for years just go up in flames. Even though she knew what was right — she knew the sinfulness of Sodom, and she knew that its judgment was deserved — she looked back longingly, just wanting to take one more glimpse at the life she loved.
One Gentleman wrote an entire book on Lot’s wife. In it, he said, Lot’s wife “not only moved into Sodom, but Sodom moved into her. She was the type who loved fine things, and the mad whirl of social activities fascinated her from the beginning. She was soon caught up in the excitement [and] pleasure, and the evidence seems to indicate that she eventually shared much of the materialistic mindset of the Sodomites… We still find many people exactly like Mrs. Lot. They also believe the truth, know what they ought to do, and want to be saved. They linger, too, just as she did. Like Lot’s wife, many of them wait until the pull of the world overpowers the will to act, and they are not able to let go of ‘things.’”
The Christian is supposed to be in the world, but the world is not supposed to be in the Christian. We ought not to love wealth, money, pleasure, ease, or worldly success at all compared to how we ought to love Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus tells us that we ought not to even love our own lives. He says, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
Ask yourself: Are you ready to lose your life? I am not just talking about your physical life. Neither Noah nor Lot died in the prophesied judgment of God. However, they had to be willing to give up a lot of things in order to do God’s will. Noah gave up his reputation in order to spend 100 years being ridiculed as he built an ark and preached about a coming flood. Lot should have been willing to put his wealth, prominence, and lifestyle at risk to stand for righteousness in his evil society. Even as he fled from judgment, however, Lot’s wife was not willing to give up the life she had enjoyed in Sodom. She almost escaped judgment, but she looked back. Even as her feet were carrying her away from that doomed city, her heart was still inside of it. Spurgeon points out that the greatest tragedy is that she almost made it. He said, “Oh, if I must be damned, let it be with the mass of the ungodly, having always been one of them; but to get up to the very gates of heaven, and to perish there, will be a most awful thing!”
Where is your heart at? Is your heart in Heaven, or is your heart in this world? Jesus Christ said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”