At Home in Sodom
The man had a choice to make. He and his uncle were both immigrants who left their old country at the same time and journeyed together to a new land. Each ran his own business, but they stayed close and often worked together. They gained more and more holdings and had more and more people working for them—so many, in fact, that they finally had to part ways. There wasn’t enough room for both enterprises to be in the same place at the same time, and there was rivalry and competition between their workers. So the old man and his nephew decided to go their separate ways before things got out of hand. Now all they had to do was decide where each would live and do business.
The uncle was generous. As senior partner, he could have insisted on first choice, but he wanted to part on friendly terms, so he told his nephew, “Let’s not argue about who should settle where. I’ll leave it up to you. You choose where you want to live and work, and I’ll settle somewhere else.”
The nephew was delighted to have first choice. He knew exactly where he wanted to settle. He had in mind a city that had a thriving business community and was surrounded by land that was fertile and well-watered, perfect for agriculture. The place was brimming with opportunity. He couldn’t lose!
And so the nephew, whose name was Lot, chose to settle near a city called Sodom. One look at the flourishing economy of that area, and Lot knew it was the place for him. Meanwhile, his uncle, Abraham, settled near the town of Hebron.
Fast-forward a few years. Lot’s dreams are coming true. He started out living on the outskirts of Sodom, but now he’s got a place in Sodom itself. In fact, Lot is one of the most prominent men in the city. He has a seat in the city gates, where the members of the city council make policy and settle disputes. Not bad for an immigrant: a financial success and a city councilman! Lot has chosen well; he’s made it big in the land of opportunity.
But now fast-forward again. The picture has changed. Sodom is gone. Nothing remains but charred ruins. The twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been obliterated; the suburbs and the surrounding countryside have also been wiped out. Lot’s wife is dead. The men his daughters were engaged to marry are dead. Lot himself is still alive, but only after a narrow escape. He and two daughters made it out of the city just in time, but the three of them are miserable. Lot no longer has a wife, his daughters have no husbands, and they have nothing else, either. When they fled from Sodom, there was no time to spare. They had to leave everything behind. It all went up in flames.
Lot’s daughters are gloomy. They have no husband, no children, no money, no future. They’re stuck living with their aging father in the mountains. They have no prospects for marriage, they’re not getting any younger, and it looks like their family line will simply disappear.
Finally the two daughters come up with a plan. If you want a child, you don’t really need a husband. Any man will do. And so they decide to get pregnant by the only man available—their father. The sisters give Lot plenty of wine and take turns going to bed with him. Their father is so drunk he doesn’t know what’s happening. Both women get pregnant through their incest and have babies. Lot spends the rest of his life out in the middle of nowhere with his two daughters and his two grandsons who also happen to be his sons. Not exactly a happy ending.
Seeing Dollar Signs
How did Lot ever get himself into such a mess? It all began the day he chose Sodom. In Genesis 13 the Bible says, “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord…” To Lot the place looked as rich as the garden of Eden. Like any smart farmer or businessman, he knew that the key to making money is location, location, location. “So,” says Genesis, “Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan… Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” Then the Bible adds this ominous note: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.”
Why did Lot choose Sodom? Because he had dollar signs in his eyes. He didn’t see anything else. Lot believed in the Lord and was a righteous man, but he settled in Sodom anyway. He ignored the fact that Sodom was a cesspool of sin. And when he found out how bad it really was, he didn’t move away, and he didn’t try to change it. He chose to stay put, keep his mouth shut, fit in, and make some money. He chose to make himself and his family at home in Sodom. The result was disaster.
That’s a sad story, but what makes it even sadder is that history is repeating itself. Sodom is making a comeback in our own society. Wicked people who care nothing about God are doing their own thing, becoming more and more open and shameless and aggressive in their sin. And people who know better—what are they doing? Many are imitating Lot: they’re trying to ignore the evil and focus on the economy. They’re trying to settle in and get rich in the middle of an immoral mess. Too many of us are making ourselves at home in Sodom.
Sex and Violence
What does it mean to choose Sodom? What was Sodom like? One feature of Sodom was sexual perversion. The Bible says, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 7). To make matters worse, the perversion was accompanied by a taste for violence and brutality. Genesis 19 tells how two angels came to visit Lot disguised as ordinary men. That night the men of Sodom surrounded the house and wanted to rape the two visitors. It took a miracle to drive the would-be rapists away.
Sex mixed with degrading violence—that sounds like our own perverted and pornographic society. We’ve got entire industries built on sex and violence. Movies which portray horrifying brutality and perversions gross millions of dollars in theater tickets and video rentals, and I do mean gross. Our society seems to relish what is gross. People seem to enjoy watching rapists and murderers and sexual perverts in action—books, magazines, and movies are full of them.
Wherever people are willing to pay for such stuff, there will always be people willing to sell it. When a woman sells her body for money, she is called a prostitute, and anyone who gets a cut of the profits is called a pimp. But when actors and actresses are paid large amounts of money to take off their clothes and act out various perversions for people to watch, they are called artists, and those who get a percentage of the profits are called entertainment companies. Those words sound nicer, but no matter what words are used, the actors are prostitutes, and their corporate bosses are pimps. It’s sex for money.
Let’s not think our entertainment doesn’t affect the way we live. What people enjoy looking at and thinking about, they tend to become. Why be shocked at so many unwanted pregnancies, so many people dying of AIDS, so many rapes, so much violent crime and murder? When people fill their minds with scenes from Sodom, more and more will want to get their thrills not just from watching such things but actually doing them.
The entertainment companies have to keep finding ways to make the violence even more bloody and the perversion even more perverse. They have to keep pushing further and further, or viewers might get bored. For years television has thrived on crime shows; but now the most popular and most imitated shows don’t just have crimes but close-ups of blood, gore, and medical examiners slicing dead bodies. Already years ago entertainment companies decided to offer audiences a steady stream of adultery and fornication. That’s become commonplace not just in movies or cable channels but on network TV as well. But such things are losing their shock value, so now TV programs are bringing various homosexual characters out of the closet. But that, too, is losing its shock value. Homosexuality is quickly becoming acceptable and politically correct, so the bosses at Sodom Broadcasting Company will soon have to find new boundaries to cross and new ways to violate God’s will.
The entertainment companies aren’t the only ones promoting perversion. So are many schools. The very idea of saving yourself for marriage is laughable to many educators, and they foster this attitude in their students. Even some churches are trying to get beyond the old-fashioned morality of the Bible and redefine perversion as normal so we can feel at home in Sodom. The result is an epidemic of gender confusion, live-in lovers, adultery, decaying families, and a corresponding epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and ruined souls.
Oppressing the Weak
So, then, sexual sin is one characteristic our society shares with Sodom—but it’s not the only one. Another part of the Sodom syndrome is to have a financial system where the rich keep getting richer, while the poor are crushed. The Bible says,
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
In Sodom, the economy is the only thing that matters. You do whatever you must in order to get ahead. It doesn’t matter whom you step on. If you get filthy rich while others live in grinding poverty, so be it. If you drive a competitor into bankruptcy, that’s all the more for you. “It’s healthy competition,” “survival of the fittest.” If you evict a widow from her house, or drive a small farmer off his land, it’s all in the name of profit. If you get rich exploiting cheap labor or charging exorbitant interest rates, so what? If another government is persecuting people and violating human rights, you do business with them anyway if there’s money to be made. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Sodom would like that motto. According to the Bible, sodomy isn’t just sexual. Whenever we put money over people, we are doing what Sodom did.
So far we’ve seen that Sodom was sex-crazed and money-hungry. Today lust and greed are still the two driving forces in our society, and these two factors have helped to make even the most horrible bloodshed seem almost normal and unavoidable. I’m not just talking about crime and gangs and political violence, though that’s part of it. I’m talking about bloodshed that is officially approved and sometimes even paid for with public funds. I’m talking about abortion.
If you want to indulge in lust, you have to deal somehow with unwanted babies; the simplest way to deal with them is to get rid of them. If you want to focus exclusively on money, you can’t afford to have a child mess up your plans; the simplest way to stay on your career track is to get rid of the baby. The machinery of this society is powered by lust and greed, and the machinery can keep running smoothly only if it’s lubricated by the blood of unborn babies.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, stated that one reason the court continues to support abortion on demand is that people have come to rely on access to abortion. “To eliminate the issue of reliance,” said the court, “would be simply to refuse to face the fact that for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices … in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” When the court speaks of “economic development,” it means money and career. When the court speaks of “social development” and “intimate relationships,” it means sex. When people worship money and sex and have depended for decades on killing babies so they can keep worshiping money and sex, how can they go back to protecting all babies? Any society that gets accustomed to lust and greed simply must get used to abortion.
And we have. We’re at home in Sodom. The perversion, the ruthless economic practices, the killing of the unborn—we take these things for granted. We’ve gotten used to all this.
Fire From God
But God hasn’t gotten used to it. He is against it, and he will judge it. Sodom may seem to be prospering, but making ourselves at home in Sodom means disaster.
Many people in Sodom have no real interest in God at all. If confronted about their behavior, they shrug. If they are warned about God’s wrath and judgment and hell, they laugh. That’s what the men engaged to Lot’s daughters did. The Bible says that when Lot learned from angels that Sodom was about to be destroyed, he urged his sons-in-law, “‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking” (Genesis 19:14). A few hours later they stopped laughing—permanently—when the fire of God destroyed the city.
Still today, the judgment of God hangs over every sinner and every society that refuses to repent. The Bible says that the people of Sodom “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Those who imitate the actions of Sodom will meet the fate of Sodom. Their society will perish, and they themselves will burn in the fires of hell. God will not be mocked. His wrath is nothing to laugh at. You may laugh at God and his judgment the way Lot’s sons-in-law laughed, but your laughter won’t last long. The fire of God’s wrath will swallow you up and you will suffer forever in hell.
How can you escape the fate of Sodom? How can you avoid the fires of hell? Listen to what God says in the Bible:
“Repent! Turn away from your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die…? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
God doesn’t enjoy destroying people. But he will do so if they don’t repent. That’s why he warns us and urges us to turn around before it’s too late. So repent! Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of your sins through his death on the cross. In the name of Jesus, beg the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit and make you a brand new person on the inside. That’s the only way to be saved from the fire of God’s judgment.
Saved But Unhappy
But suppose you already trust in God. What then? Well, if you truly belong to God, you will be saved from hell. But if you imitate Lot and choose Sodom in spite of belonging to God, you will pay an awful price. Lot was so eager to get ahead that he chose Sodom despite its evil, and he lived unhappily ever after.
Don’t think Lot’s unhappiness began only when the city was destroyed. His unhappiness began long before that. Even as Lot grew rich and important, he was often miserable. You see, Lot believed in the Lord, just as his uncle Abraham did. Lot knew the difference between right and wrong. The Bible says that Lot was “a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men… [he] was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:8-9). It’s miserable to know God and try to be at home with godlessness, to know what’s right and be surrounded by wrong.
And yet Lot stayed. He couldn’t quite bring himself to move away from Sodom, and he never tried to change it. Lot must have felt disgusted by the sexual filth, but he wanted to stay on friendly terms with his neighbors, so he never told them they were wrong. Lot must have been grieved by the cruel oppression of the helpless and by the ruthless business practices of his associates, but he couldn’t afford to offend them—his contacts were making him rich and prominent. So, although he secretly felt disgust, he never dared to confront them or urge them to change. Lot learned to keep his mouth shut and to fit in as much as possible. It seemed the only sensible option.
But what seemed sensible turned out to be disastrous. Yes, God showed mercy and rescued Lot from the flames, but Lot paid a terrible price for being at home in Sodom and not challenging the status quo. He was miserable all the years he tried to fit in, and he ended up losing all the wealth he loved so much.
Worse yet, Lot’s decision to settle in Sodom was disastrous for his family. His sons-in-law were so used to seeing Lot act comfortable and cozy in Sodom that when he suddenly warned them the city was about to be destroyed, they couldn’t take him seriously. They thought he was joking, and they perished in the flames. Lot’s wife became so attached to Sodom that, even when they were fleeing, she had to turn back and get one last look, and she died and became a pillar of salt.
As for Lot’s daughters, their father’s choice meant they had to grow up in Sodom’s moral slime. Their father sank so low that he offered them as sex objects to appease an angry mob. The girls were spared from that horror by the intervention of angels, but I doubt they forgot it. If their father could use their bodies as bargaining chips, they could use his body for their own purposes. After their flight from Sodom, Lot’s daughters got their father blind drunk and lay with him so they could get pregnant and have children. What an ugly mess! Even when Lot’s daughters were no longer in Sodom, Sodom remained in them. And it all happened because a righteous man chose to live in an unrighteous situation and tried to get ahead in life without offending anyone or ruffling any feathers.
If you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior but you’re trying to settle down in Sodom, you may still be saved, but you will pay a price, a terrible price. If you belong to Jesus, you must live by the teaching of the Bible and stand up for what is right. The person who fails to do this, says the Bible, “will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:15). Like Lot escaping the flames of Sodom, the worldly Christian may be saved from hell, but just barely—and he will suffer loss.
It’s not safe to be at home in Sodom—to absorb its entertainment uncritically, to train your children in its godless education system, to make your way up the ladder in a dog-eat-dog business environment. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you need to become one. And if you are a follower of Jesus, you need the courage to confront the situation and try to change it, or else simply to walk out. Shut off your TV. Boycott Sodom’s corrupt entertainment corporations. Get your children out of school systems that teach Sodom’s values. Find a better environment to train them in the ways of God. Stop doing whatever it takes to get ahead in business and find a way to make your living in ways that are pleasing to God. Stand up against evil. Live by faith in Jesus, and call other people to repentance and faith in Jesus. Whatever you do, don’t just settle down in Sodom or try to get ahead by fitting in as well as you can.
Sodom’s wicked citizens are examples of how God’s eternal hellfire will swallow up the ungodly. Lot himself provides an example of how even a godly person can become worldly, compromised, and unhappy; how even if he is spared from the flames of hell, he can bring terrible trouble on himself and his family by making himself at home in Sodom.
In the short run, it may look smart to follow Lot’s example, to make yourself at home in Sodom, and to do whatever looks easiest and most profitable. But in the long run, who ends up happy? Not Lot, but Abraham. Who ends up with godly offspring? Not Lot but Abraham. Abraham put God first, not wealth. Abraham never fit in Sodom or any other sinful system. Abraham never became too attached to any earthly city. Abraham trusted God as his shield and treasured God as his very great reward. Abraham was looking forward to the everlasting city, whose architect and builder is God.
Are you more like Lot or Abraham? Are you making yourself at home in the city of this world? Or is your heart set on the heavenly city in the new creation, the home of righteousness?
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.