The Downward Spiral
The king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison . . . Matthew 14:9-10
Recently, on a flight, I had the opportunity to witness the individual next to me make a series of poor choices which ultimately led to the stewardess threatening to stop the plane (we were taxiing) and call the police. I had to feel a little bad for the guy. He didn’t set out to make a scene, but he made one stupid decision, which led to another, which led to some pretty embarrassing behavior.
That thought hit a little close to home. I maybe haven’t disrupted a commercial flight, but I’ve wrecked my life with my addiction. I didn’t set out to do this. Initially, I just wanted to feel good and sleep. It’s no big deal. Stupid decisions breed more stupid decisions though, and eventually, the consequences catch up.
This was the case with the ruler Herod in today’s passage. In the story, Herod married his brother’s wife, for which John the Baptist condemned him. So, Herod had John thrown in jail. Then, at his own birthday party, Herod’s wife’s daughter made such an impression that he promised her whatever she wanted. Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist. Bound by his witnessed promise, Herod reluctantly complied.
Herod didn’t wake up one day and decide he wanted to kill a prophet of God. Like many of us though, his decisions were dominated by his appetite. So, he took a wife that was considered unlawful. When confronted, he didn’t repent, but instead made another foolish decision and imprisoned John. Later, his lust again got the better of him as he foolishly promised his wife’s daughter anything she wanted. Herod was trapped, becoming a victim of his own stupid choices.
We often do this. We make one bad decision, leading inexorably to another. Once the descent has begun, it’s hard to stop. This is why every decision is so important. Does this turn me towards God or towards myself? When we see a destructive path, we must abandon it. The farther we travel down a road, the harder it is to turn around. Still, we will make mistakes. When we do so, we must realize it’s never too late to repent, turn to God, and stop the downward spiral.