Gangs

Text: Proverbs 1:8-19

Pay Attention, This Is Important!

(Proverbs 1:8-9)

Throughout Proverbs, Solomon inserts an admonition that it is essential for the reader to listen to his parents’ teaching – both the negative and positive aspects of their instruction. Parents have more experience in the world, so we should make use of their knowledge so we don’t repeat the same mistakes they made in their lives and replicate the successes they have had. These warnings to listen always precede a section that contains a particularly important lesson.

Imagine if you would a young man listen to his father drone on. It isn’t that what his dad is saying isn’t important or useful, but the young man doesn’t see an immediate use of what is being said to his life, and so he begins to drift off. Yet a good teacher won’t let a particularly important thought be missed. He shakes the young man’s shoulders, “Now pay attention to this point, son. It is very important to your life!”

We aren’t just told to pay attention, we are also told the benefits to listening to this point. Having your parent’s wisdom available to you is like having a pleasant or graceful ornament on your head and around your neck. In other words, Solomon is comparing the instruction of parents to jewelry. People wear jewelry to make themselves look better and in the same way, your parents’ teachings can make you look better.

The Appeal

(Proverbs 1:10-14)

Don’t ever allow yourself to follow the encouragement of people you know are doing evil. “Entice” translates the Hebrew word pathah, which literally means to open a way or make room for someone. If sinners invite you into their society, refuse the invitation!

Such would seem obvious, but so many people allow themselves to be pulled along by people they know are not good. Why? What is the motivation? Solomon illustrates the allure of a gang inviting some young man to join them.

Power

The first invitation doesn’t sound at all appealing to most people. But then, most people have some respect for the life of others. The gang offers the opportunity to sneak up and kill innocent people.

This appeals to people who feel powerless or helpless because of the circumstances of life. Young people who grow up in the poorer sections of town and who are constantly on guard against members of various gangs. Here is an opportunity to no longer feel helpless! You can have ultimate power over other people.

This isn’t revenge. The people being targeted are innocent of causing you or others in the gang any harm. This is being done solely because it can be done. It makes a person feel stronger while not risking as much because innocent people are not as likely to be on guard or defend themselves.

Many of your translations refer to “Sheol” in verse 12. Sheol is the Hebrew word for the realm of the dead. In Greek it is called hades. It can also be translated as “the grave.” “The Pit” is the section of Sheol that is reserved for the particularly wicked (Revelation 20:2-3; Job 33:22-28; ). In the New Testament it is referred to as “torments” (Luke 16:23).

Alluded to is what God did to Korah and his followers when they rebelled. God caused the earth to open up under their feet, they fell alive into the pit, and then the earth closed back over them (Numbers 16:28-34). In other words, the gang is claiming that they have power like God to kill whoever they please.

Wealth

Wicked people are often interested in gaining money, regardless of how it is accumulated. The offer here is that young man can get wealthy by robbing others.

Again, it wouldn’t sound appealing to someone trying to live righteously, but for someone who has little moral teaching the chance for quick wealth for seemingly little effort is appealing, especially if that person has grown up poor. Many will blame the successful for their own personal lack of success, as if success only comes by exploiting other people. Ironically, the robber, despite such reasoning, is definitely exploiting other people. Thus, he blames others for what he himself does.

Family

The final appeal is that if the young man joins the gang, they will share everything. Likely this is a lie. The leader of the gang will control the gains in order to control the members and make them beholden to him. Still, the offer has its appeal to someone who doesn’t have a stable home life and few friends.

The Trap

(Proverbs 1:15-19)

In each appeal, the focus is on the immediate gains and not the long term results. That is why the means of gain is not emphasized, only the potential rewards.

Sometimes a person thinks he can join but just not participate. Solomon parallels this to someone who thinks he can walk the same path as the wicked, but not get caught up what they are doing. It never works. The tendency is to accept what is being done over time (I Corinthians 15:33). The only safe solution is not to even go with them.

Most evil involves making rash decisions. People who don’t take time to think about the consequences will tend to follow where other people are pushing them. This is why salesmen will tell a client, “This is on sale today! I can’t guarantee that it won’t go up tomorrow.” When people start pushing for immediate decisions, that is when the warning flags should go off.

To emphasize the point, Solomon uses the illustration of hunter trying to catch birds. If he spreads out his net where birds can easily see them, he won’t catch anything. Every self-respecting bird is going to see the trap and think, “Ha! I’m not flying there!” In contrast though, these violent gang members are laying out a trap and then walking into it themselves. In other words, Solomon is saying birds are smarter than these men!

The core problem is that violence tends to be met by violence. As Jesus told Peter, “ for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). People are naturally protective of what their lives and what they have; thus, a violent man is likely to encounter violent resistence. Also, the community won’t put up with violence for long. Someone will eventually track down the criminals.

Power, wealth, and family are all useless to a person who is dead.

For Discussion:

  1. What other motivations might cause a person to want power, wealth, or family?
  2. What other immoral activities might contain the same basic appeals?
  3. Why do people tend to blame other people for things that they do themselves (see: Romans 2:1-3)?
  4. Why do people think they can go where evil is being done and think that they can resist joining in?
  5. Can power, wealth, and family be gained without evil? How?