There’s an intriguing (and admittedly satisfying) concept in the bible that talks about bad people falling into their own traps.
“Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out,
falls into the pit they have made.”
“Their feet are caught in the net
they have hidden.”
What’s not to like about the violent and greedy getting a taste of their own ‘medicine’?
This satisfaction can quickly turn into discomfort when we realize that this same phenomenon can play out in our lives as well.
Who wants to judge themselves… or ‘own’ the darkness of their own hearts? Yet, if we want to be free from sin’s life-sapping power, we need to. But how do we do that?
Maybe the birds can help.
In the book of Proverbs we find one more example of the self-trapping nature of sin,
“These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.”
If you read the NIV Study Bible note attached to these verses, you find this comment:
“The wicked unintentionally spread a net for their own feet,
so they are less intelligent than birds” (who never set their own traps!)
At first these words feel delightful (birds outsmarting the proud!) but then, again, they make us squirm when we realize that birds are smarter than us too. Have you ever seen a bird building its own trap?
And yet we human beings do it all the time.
And we’re blind to what we’ve created.
Such is the nature of sin: it fools us into trapping ourselves—by making the sins of others seem worse than our own, or by anesthetizing us to the life lessons we’ve already learned, or by damaging us so deeply that we lose our capacity to discern right from wrong.
“Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”
So how do we free ourselves from this corrupted reality?
First, we need to realize that we can’t (not without God moving first).
Only God can help us see what we cannot see (all the ways we fool ourselves). Only God can make us feel loved when all we feel is our unlovableness. And only God can set us on a new path with eyes that can better see the pitfalls.
See the pitfalls by, perhaps, seeing the birds.
For many people of faith, birds are a sign of God’s providential care—if God takes care of them, then surely, he’ll take care of us (Matthew 6:26-27). But what if God wants his avian truth to preach to the darker parts of our hearts as well; reminding us to always be alert to our own weaknesses?
What if the next time you see a bird you recall the fact that birds never make their own traps? And what if, when that bird looks back at you, you acknowledge that, in this way, they really are smarter than you?
What if this kind of avian-interaction becomes a regular thing in your life—a kind of self-aware sinfulness-self-check? Birds don’t have time to build their own traps. They spend their energies being always alert for danger and aware of their surroundings. They know how to be birds… and can teach us how to be humans.
Imagine a life full of bird-moments keeping you in step with God’s will for your life.
“Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare…”