“Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.” Proverbs 1:19
There will always be people who look for ways to take an unfair advantage over the innocent. We often ambush the ignorant under a deception which weakly justifies our actions. We may say something like:
- “It’s just business.”
- “What they don’t know can’t hurt them.”
- “I technically didn’t lie . . . I just didn’t tell the whole story”
- “OK, so I lied, but it was a white lie.”
Someone once said to me, “When it benefits all the parties involved, I can see why it’s ok to tell a little lie.” This came from a leader in the church, one with significant authority. We were friends, so I did little to hold back my shock and compassion. (To actually believe such a thing! I wonder what twisted his thinking. . .I wonder where my thinking is twisted.)
Life is not about gain and any cost. When we do this, we hurts ourselves. The Bible actually says it takes away our life when we pursue ill-gotten gain.
When we take advantage of others, the lack of integrity forms a small fracture in our hearts. Left unchecked and unguarded, the crack grows. It becomes easier to do evil. We become blind to fresh inspiration from God and it becomes more difficult to hear his voice. We try to take delight in what we’ve gained, but we come up empty.
On this side of eternity, we have needs, legitimate ones. How we meet those needs is important. For now (who knows what it will be like in eternity), it’s all about the journey—following the course God has set before us.
Avoiding ill-gotten gain is actually selfish, it’s the best thing for our souls. Foolish selfishness takes every unfair advantage. “Spiritual selfishness” lives in obedience to God’s will because he has our best interests at heart.
So then, what is the difference between legitimate opportunity and ill-gotten gain?