They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed. Titus 1:16
Detestable – Lynyrd Skynyrd plays some mean rock and roll. If you’ve never heard “That Smell,” you need to listen at least once. It’s about the stench of death that surrounds drugs and alcohol. Years before the current war on drugs rhetoric, this band realized that the only purpose of some things is destruction. Paul might not have been a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, but he would have recognized the logic. Some actions smell. That’s why Paul uses the Greek word bdeluktos.
Don’t stumble over the pronunciation. Remember something far more important. This word is never used in Classical Greek. That means that Paul created the word in order to capture a thought that is not native to Greek. In order to understand what kinds of action smell, we need to know what Hebrew idea Paul has in mind. A quick search of the LXX reveals that the only place this word is used in the Hebrew Bible is in Proverbs 17:15. Suddenly the stink becomes obvious – and damning. Proverbs tells us that two actions stink to high heaven: justifying the wicked and condemning the just. The Hebrew word is to’evah. It is also associated with idolatry, child sacrifice, homosexuality, marrying outside of the faith and eating unclean food. Now you know what smells. Now it might be necessary to carry a face mask in your pocket.
Let’s consider these stinking actions in contemporary society. Justifying the wicked sounds a lot like the constant cultural adulation of immoral behavior. From Hollywood to the local community, there is a cheerful exuberance about “getting away with it.” We chuckle in our arrogance, but our actions smell like an open sewer. Hopefully, we are not teaching our children to do unto others before they do unto you.
Of course, condemning the just is also foul. Every time a member of society uses leverage to take advantage of the innocent, God has to use an air freshener. Let’s see. That might be something like restructuring a loan so that it goes into default or pressuring someone under duress in order to increase your personal gain. It might be as simple as blaming someone for an action that you have no proof they did. It might be deflecting your responsibility by passing the guilt to someone else. The innocent are such easy targets.
God notes a few other detestable acts. Worshipping anything other than the Creator, killing children in order to preserve your lifestyle, having sexual encounters with same gender partners, marrying someone who is not a follower of the Way or refusing to acknowledge what God provided for food, all qualify. Someone is going to make a fortune selling nose plugs.
Now we have real problems. How many of us claim to have an intimate experience with God but act in ways that God considers detestable? Of course, we might not be homosexuals. We might not have had an on-demand abortion. But there are a lot of other things on this list of detestable actions that probably speak to us. Is there really any difference? If it stinks, it stinks. The air freshener you purchase with your tithes won’t cover up this smell. It’s time to abandon stinking living.
Topical Index: Professing