When I was a kid, there was a playground game in which children would hold hands and dance in a circle, chanting, “Ring-around-a-rosie / A pocket full of posies / Ashes! Ashes! / We all fall down,” with everyone laughing and falling to the ground on the last word.
I never understood what the rhyme meant, and as it goes with such things, no one knows for sure. The most popular interpretation, however, is that it refers to mass death from the plague.
Umm…eewww? (Then again, I didn’t know half of what I was saying when I sang along with the radio in the 60s either.)
Falling down: in the Bible, it’s a metaphor for giving in to temptation, and yes, we all fall down. The good news is that God in his grace will help us to endure and do what’s right; the bad news is that we’re often too naïve, too dense, or too stubborn to think we need help in the first place.
Imagine you have an alcoholic friend who decides one day to kick the habit. “I’ve seen the light!” he tells you triumphantly. “I get it now. I’m going to stay dry and sober the rest of my life. Why don’t you celebrate with me? Let’s go the bar and have a club soda.”
What would you say?
Paul, apparently, faced a similar situation in Corinth. The Gentile converts there had formerly worshipped in pagan temples. When Paul came into town, they gladly received the gospel, and experienced exciting movements of the Spirit. But as we’ve seen throughout numerous earlier posts, some of the Corinthians had become spiritually arrogant and naively overconfident. They grumbled against Paul, insisting on their “freedom” of conscience to continue dining in pagan temples, where they would surely be tempted to return to their old ways.
His response is a wise word to all: “So those who think they are standing need to watch out or else they may fall” (1 Cor 10:12, CEB). It’s the punch line to a series of sobering references to Old Testament stories in which God’s people suffered the fatal consequences of faithlessness.
We’ll look at those stories in the next post.