There are lines in Scripture that make me wince when I (Alan) read them. Here’s one I read recently:
My people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
they know not how to do good. (Jeremiah 4:22)
What a tragedy when someone who identifies as one of God’s people is so foolish that they (1) don’t actually know or understand the God they claim to belong to, and (2) have instead become well-trained in doing exactly what grieves God’s heart.
The word fool here doesn’t seem to mean “idiot” as much as “clueless person.” It refers to someone who lacks understanding of what God wants and how things work in God’s kingdom.
I’m especially sad when I read that they were “skilled in doing evil” but clueless about doing good. One definition I found for skilled is “having or showing the knowledge, ability, or training to perform a certain activity or task well.” To be skilled in evil means having a practiced ability, even being trained, in how best to accomplish evil.
So, for example, a person may identify as one of God’s people but be skilled in gossip. They may have trained themselves to keep an ear open for juicy morsels of information about others. They may watch for opportune moments to experience the exquisite thrill of being in the know and of being admired by others for their inside information. Without perhaps meaning to, such a person is training themselves to be good at gossip.
Jesus, however, invites us to train ourselves and become skilled in doing good. To truly be God’s people by living in God’s way, guided and empowered by God’s Spirit, bearing the fruit of God’s kingdom. We can grow more and more proficient in the ways of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so forth (see Galatians 5:22–23). What an invitation! What a life! What good news!
What is one skill for eternal living that you are drawn to? How might God be inviting you to become well-practiced in the ways of the Spirit (e.g., peace, patience, gentleness, etc.)?