When I was in the Navy in early 1977, I was temporarily assigned to the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia for training. By that time, the traditional military style barracks with the huge sleeping area full of rows and rows of bunk beds had gone away, replaced by dormitories similar to what you’d find on any college campus. Each room in our dorm had two sets of bunk beds and they would assign four men to each room. For whatever reason, there were only three of us in our room and as luck would have it, both my roommates were smokers. And as I recall, they also got bored very easily.
One night, one of them got the bright idea to soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and light it up with a cigarette lighter, just to see what would happen (as if he didn’t know). He juggled it for a few moments and then he and my other roommate started throwing it back and forth to each other in some sort of game of flaming cottonball chicken, the object of the game being to see who could hold it the longest without setting himself on fire……I suppose. To be honest, I never quite figured those two out. Anyway, as long as they didn’t hold it too long, no harm done. But if they didn’t get rid of it quickly enough, or if they fumbled it and dropped it on themselves, well, you know the rest! Though I was young at the time, that game never really appealed to me. They singed their fingers more than once and almost caught their clothes on fire a time or two. Since setting myself on fire wasn’t my idea of fun, I left the art of playing with fire to them.
Even though it might have seemed harmless to those two guys, it’s a miracle they didn’t burn down the barracks. There was real danger there that could have gotten out of hand very quickly. Anytime we play with fire there is danger. That’s true whether taken literally or figuratively and it’s especially true from a Biblical perspective. There are just some things Christians shouldn’t be involved with. There are certain things we have no business dabbling in. To do so is like playing with fire. Solomon gave us one example in the 7th chapter of Proverbs, in verses 6 and 7 where the scripture tells us:
While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain,
I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.
He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.
Solomon went on to describe how the adulteress came out and found the young man and seduced him. I would venture to guess that she did not catch him off guard. He knew full well what he was doing. He played with fire by walking in front of the home of the adulteress woman, hoping for that end result. Solomon later said he was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing that his actions would cost him his life. Solomon even likened the act of adultery to playing with fire when he wrote:
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?
So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if any of you are a little too close to a co-worker of the opposite gender, if you’re a little too friendly with someone you’re not married to……stop! Stop right now! You’re playing with fire! Jesus said not to even think about it and if a man or woman is too friendly with a person they’re not married to, or if they think there’s no harm in flirting with that person, they’re probably already thinking about it. Put on the brakes.
This doesn’t just apply to the sin of adultery either. It applies to all sin. If anyone thinks he or she can stand with their toes on the line without crossing the line, sooner or later they’ll get burned. It’s just like playing with fire.
The next area where Christians sometimes play with fire is in the study of doctrines and teaching that are contrary to Biblical doctrine. This may not sound like a big deal, but be very careful when engaging in in-depth studies of errant theologies, false doctrines, and false teachings. This is especially true for new Christians, but mature Christians need to be on guard as well. For the most part, Christians should avoid contact with any theology that contradicts the true doctrine of Christ and the Bible, even in the slightest of ways. There are some exceptions of course. A Christian teacher in a Bible college might teach some sort of doctrine or ideology that is known to be false in order to highlight the flaws. Bible college students might be required to study those for the same reasons. But for the rest of us, it’s probably best to avoid playing with that kind of fire.
It’s not that unusual to hear of a Christian, particularly one who’s less mature in the faith, who was led astray by some errant system of theology or by some man made doctrine. Remember, the Bible is always our frame of reference for truth. The best way to spot false teaching and false doctrine is to know the truth. Study the Word. Jesus said in Matthew 24 and elsewhere in the gospels that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Peter wrote in his second epistle: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
I’m not a rule maker, so I’m not trying to tell anyone what they can or cannot read. I’m just saying if you do study these things for whatever reason, be cautious, use discretion, and ask God for discernment so that your minds and your faith mind do not become contaminated. There was a reason why God wanted the Israelites to drive out ALL the people who were in the Promised Land. He didn’t want them near the fire. As a general rule, we shouldn’t go near it either.
In the Old Testament, God warned the people of Israel not to consult spiritists or mediums, or people who talk to the dead. As unbelievable as it may sound, there are Christians who play around with Oujia boards and Tarot cards, who consult astrologers, or who check their horoscopes every day. This is yet another area where they are playing with fire. King Saul consulted a medium to contact the spirit of the prophet Samuel after Samuel had died. (1 Samuel 28). Saul was killed in battle by the Philistines the very next day. God takes this very seriously and that has not changed. We are not to dabble in this area at all. Satan would love nothing more than to see a Christian putting his faith and trust in something other than God. Tarot cards might seem like harmless fun to some, and others might say that a Ouija board is just a piece of wood. Well, many of the idols the Israelites worshiped were pieces of wood too, and we know how God responded to that! I’ve heard it said that there are people who sit in church and chuckle at and make fun of pastors who bring this subject up, but it’s no laughing matter to God. It’s dabbling in the occult and no Christian has any business whatsoever playing with that kind of fire.
Those are just a few examples. The Bible clearly teaches us that there are many other things we’re to avoid altogether. I could go on and on, citing verse after verse, passage after passage. The point is, it’s best to just put the cotton balls away and put the cap back on the alcohol bottle. Because sometimes, even if you’re playing with just a little bit of fire, you end up burning down your entire house!