One of the most disconcerting experiences in life – at least for me – is walking into a spider’s web, especially when you realize the spider is still in the middle of it. I have danced a few frantic jigs desperately trying to rid myself of both the web and its designer.
But there’s a common fact about spiders’ webs: They’re fragile. The spider might think they’re strong enough, good for catching things like flies and moths, delicacies at Cafe la Spider. But one swat with a broom and a spiderweb is history. This is a metaphor for how some folks construct their lives around pretty flimsy stuff.
The Bible’s book of Job points this out. It tells the story of a faithful fellow named Job, going about life without causing any harm to anyone. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he goes through a series of personal calamities, losing property, livestock, servants and children, and then suffering severe physical affliction. Job must have felt like a guy who’s been struck by lightning several times.
After these tragedies, several of Job’s friends arrive to console him. They sit with him silently at first, trying to show compassion by their presence. But unable to contain themselves any longer, they start offering some wise-sounding explanations for their buddy’s travails.
Even though some of what Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar say is true, their assumptions are erroneous. Responding to the eternal question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” they share the perspective that when bad things happen, it’s because the victims have brought the misfortune onto themselves. That’s not the message of the Old Testament book.
One of the statements by Bildad the Shuhite stands out for me, which brings us back to the topic of spiders’ webs. In Job 8:13-14, Bildad says, “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider’s web. He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.”
While wrongly concluding Job’s adversities were the consequence of abandoning God, Bildad’s observations about the web’s fragility are spot-on. And its truth rings true to this day. Living in a material world, it’s so easy to trust in what we can see and touch, rather than what the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:17 describes as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.”
What are the “spider webs” we cling to – or to put it more accurately, cling to us? For starters, there’s success and achievement, making them our be-all and end-all. Fame, wealth and power can have intoxicating powers. Just about anything in life could become a “spiderweb” if it commands all of our attention and energy.
In His “sermon on the mount,” Jesus Christ used a similar analogy, referring not to spiders but to sand. “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27).
Jesus had just taught on a wide range of topics, providing instruction about such things as properly handling money, wrongly judging others, understanding how to seek things from God, the importance of choosing the right path for life, and the perils of falling under the influence of false teachers.
Then He made this statement, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
He could have easily said, “Don’t build your lives on spiderwebs,” but perhaps sand nearby served as an effective visual aid. In any case, either serves as poor building material.
We’d be wise to choose neither, instead following the example of the wise man who chose to build his house on a rock – a firm, trustworthy foundation. As the old hymn reminds us, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.” Perhaps there’s no better reminder for us than this time of year, when we celebrate His birth.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.