Often in our lives little harmful things, when left to themselves, can take over to the extent that removing them requires a large amount of hard work. My wife and I enjoy gardening but, amid the busy-ness of our day-to-day activities the task of weed-pulling can be overlooked for quite a while. Because of this neglect we’ve had more than one garden become overgrown with nasty things we didn’t plant. We then are left with a several days of backbreaking work (typically in the heat) to get things back in order. Sin is like that and there is one sin in particular that leads to this overgrowth and men particularly must be on guard against it. That is the sin of passivity.
There are many marriages in America where the wife makes a large number, if not all, the major decisions in the family. This is not only unhealthy but it is also unbiblical. Women tend to lose respect for men they see as passive or weak. Children also not only lose respect for fathers who are passive but they also grow up with a false and distorted view of the character of God based on what they see in their father. I believe that our culture in this country has gotten to the low point we find ourselves in largely due to the passivity of men in the church. God has called us, as men, to be in action. In Genesis 2:15 God gave put Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it.” These words carry with them the ideas of cultivating and protecting. He also commanded Adam to “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over [it]” (Gen. 1:28). We, as descendants of Adam, have these same obligations. Not only do we have these commands, we are also made in the image of God. Part of that image is activity. God never just lets things happen. Things don’t happen to God. He is always the Primary Mover.
This being said, man is capable of wrong action due to his fallen nature. Abram took initiative to try and bring about the seed promised of God by going in to Hagar; but this was due to a poor understanding of God’s promise and lack of prayer to gain clarity. David took action to have Uriah killed; but it was to hide his sin. Peter took action to protect Jesus at Gethsemane; but it was out of ignorance of God’s will. So there is proper action for a man that is informed by godly counsel and prayerful consideration of God’s revealed will in His word; and there is improper action that is informed by selfishness, fear, anxiety, impatience and sin. But passivity is not an option for the Christian man.
Some biblical examples of the fruit of passivity include:
- Adam allowed his wife to be tempted by the serpent. He allowed her to violate God’s one explicit command and eat what had been forbidden. Even worse he took from her hand and he ate also. (Gen. 3:1-6)
- Aaron feared the people and made the golden calf as they demanded (and made up a ridiculous story in an attempt to cover himself!) and, as a result, brought God’s condemnation and wrath on the camp of Isarael. (Ex. 32:1-24)
- Eli allowed his sons to continue to minister before the Lord even though he had been given reports of the great wickedness of their sin. All he gave was an ineffective word of rebuke and his house was wiped out as a result. (1 Sam. 2:22-25)
- “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David send Joab….” And while David was relaxing at home temptation came and David fell. (2 Sam. 11)
As shown here passivity in godly men is an insidious beast of a sin that has woven itself throughout the history of mankind. We are not to be that way, but are to follow the example of Christ. He was definitely not a passive man. Jesus was a man of action. Action that was informed by love and a perfect knowledge of God’s will. Everything he did was prayerfully considered. Even at the point of His passion when it looked like He was as passive as a sheep before it’s shearers, He had already declared of His life that “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18a)
In the example we have in Christ and all throughout the letters of Paul we are called to be men of action. Passivity is a sin that we are to put away from us so that we can become the Christlike men God has called us to be. Go, now, and take action in your life to the glory of God.