There is a story in the Old Testament about a man named Lot and his family. Lot was living in a place where it was very difficult to be a man of God. It was so full of sin, that God decided he couldn’t let their actions spread any further or even get any worse within their own community. As the story continues, Lot was commanded to take his family and flee from the city before it was destroyed. They were to leave and not look back, or they would face the same type of consequences as the city itself. They would be destroyed as well. Lot was faithful and obedient. He instructed his family concerning the Lord’s commands, then prepared to lead them out of the city. There was just one problem. As they were leaving the city behind, his wife looked back. The scriptures say that in the instant that she looked, she was turned to a pillar of salt. Seems like a harsh judgment just for looking. Or, does it?
I think there are a few lessons to be learned from Lot’s wife. First, why did she look back? The scriptures do not say, so let’s ponder some of the reasons you or I might look back in the same situation.
Inattentiveness. It is possible that Lot’s wife was simply not paying attention to her bearings. Perhaps the noise of the destruction behind her was disorienting, perhaps she just didn’t feel the same urgency for escape as her husband so she wasn’t as careful with her course.
Curiosity. It seems to be human nature to want to know what is going on. The scriptures seem to indicate that there was a lot happening with that destruction. We’re all guilty of looking when we really shouldn’t at one time or another. I know I’ve been guilty of slowing down further than I needed to when passing an accident on the freeway. Maybe that’s all that Lot’s wife was guilty of.
Grief. Perhaps there were those within the city that she deemed as friends. It is difficult to move from what you know. Imagine how difficult it would be if you knew everyone you left behind would soon die.
Loss. It may have been that she was caught up in something from that city herself, or that her desire for worldly possessions that had been left behind created a pull and connection that she did not, or could not fight.
Not understanding God’s promises. Lastly there are many, even among His disciples that do not understand how serious God is about His promises. Sometimes it’s because we do not know or understand who He is. Sometimes we know but we lack the faith to see how His promises could actually come to pass.
Now, I’m not speculating that any one of these was the definitive cause of Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt. However, in any one of these scenarios there is something to be learned. The thing we as disciples need to learn is that even though she may have thought she had a good reason for looking back, there was an even greater one why she shouldn’t have. When we accept a Christ-lead life it comes with certain commandments. One of these is to not look back. There are reasons we are told not to look back and most of these have to do with the fact that the Lord’s view is greater than ours and He knows that looking back opens a very clear route toward destruction.
He asks us to turn our back on those things that will not lead us away from sin and closer to Him. If we hesitate, if we try to justify, if we keep going back just to look, we are not looking or going where we have said we want to go. We are not heeding Christ’s call to “come unto me”.
We also need to learn how powerful His promises really are. If he has said, “Pay your tithing so I can give you greater blessings.” He means it. God has set forth His laws and path, if we stay on that path He is bound by our actions to openly provide the blessing associated with those laws. Some may feel the commandments restrictive. By choosing to retain their “freedoms” rather than submitting to God’s ways and direction they miss the pathways that are opened for them through obedience. In particular, I think of the Word of Wisdom. This is a commandment that outlines the way we should treat our bodies. When it was first revealed, it seemed counterintuitive to the theories of the time. But when our view was opened to the types of things He knew all along we suddenly understand that yes, smoking has significant consequences.
If he has said, “Do not indulge in any form of pornography or it will lead to your destruction” he means that as well. Evil practices that the world may see as permissive still need to be strictly shunned by the disciple of God. We can not turn and look at these things with even mild curiosity or they could suck away our righteous spirit. The best way to pay the world no heed is to turn them away at the door of our thoughts.
He understands. He knows how difficult it is to get through this life. He knows we can’t and won’t ever be perfect, so He makes provisions for that as well. He says, repent and forsake your sin, make amends then never return to it again. We aren’t doing that if we are still thinking about what we lost when we gave up something for the Lord’s path.
Lot’s wife was commanded to go forward but insisted on looking back. She missed the chance to find out what greater blessings the Lord had in mind for her because she was too focused on looking back. The best way to avoid looking back is to focus on the blessings of a more eternal view. What are we still looking at that is keeping us from going in the direction the Lord wants for our lives?