the Deadly Sins of Proverbs 6:16-19: Oh, Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go
Studies on nonverbal communication have shown that the feet reveal our intentions often more than our faces or words do. If you are in a conversation with a friend and they are smiling at you but their feet are pointed towards the door, chances are that they are subconsciously planning their exit. A coworker may appear cool as a cucumber before giving a presentation, but their tapping foot might betray their nerves. Rarely are we surprised by where we find our feet planted, for the orientation of our feet demonstrates the position of our hearts.
If your feet are headed somewhere, chances are your thoughts have already been there, plotting a path in advance. We are naturally prone to run to sin, and sometimes we stumble upon evil, but there is something particularly detestable about the feet that demonstrate a sheer lack of resistance and even delight in seeking the presence of evil. And God hates this.
The anatomy of the sinful person outlined in Proverbs 6:16-19 is representative of the all-encompassing nature of sin that we are advised to abhor as God does. If we are just skimming Proverbs 6, we might think that an easy application of the passage is that we can please God by simply avoiding any of the sins listed in the verses, and by steering clear of those places where evil abounds. The problem with this is that our default setting as humans is to love the things that God hates and to hate God Himself.
We are, as theologians have described, incurvatus in se – turned in on ourselves, our desires bent towards sinful motives. Augustine illustrates this well in recounting a childhood memory of stealing pears. He did not steal the pears for their beauty, their value, or even because he was hungry. He stole the pears for the downright delight of doing evil. He says, “there was no motive for my malice except malice. The malice was loathsome, and I loved it. I was in love with my own ruin, in love with decay.” Those with feet swift to run to evil share in this sentiment.
Scripture also gives us many examples of this proverb in action. Lot’s feet carried him to the city of Sodom where sin abounded until it’s fiery destruction. Samson’s feet took him to Philistia where he became entangled with pagan women which led to his capture and untimely death. David’s feet stayed planted at his palace rather than into war with his soldiers, and led him right into bed with another man’s wife. Each of these men suffered the consequences of God’s judgement for their missteps.
If we are so prone to wander, what can turn our feet from the well-worn path of destruction? How can we possibly commit to the command in Ephesians 5:15 to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise”? We, along with Lot, Samson, and David, would be a people without hope if it were not for another man whose feet took Him to Jerusalem in obedience to His Father, who washed the feet of others, and whose feet were pierced through on a Roman cross for us.
Jesus Christ, the embodiment of all wisdom, put to death all things that God hates and walked in obedience when we could not so that we could become beloved children rather than abominations. In Him, our desires are changed by the grace and steadfast love of God, which enables us to follow in His steps and keeps our feet from slipping (1 Peter 2:21; Psalm 94:18).
As redeemed sinners, we are not just empowered to avoid the way of evil, but are encouraged to present our members as instruments of righteousness as we run towards the Word, run towards the fellowship of believers, and run towards the sacraments. Our feet are re-oriented as the desires of our hearts are renovated. We can now love what God loves and hate what God hates.
The gospel is the only thing that can transform feet that rush towards evil into feet that are fitted “with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15). Thanks be to Christ that we are known by the only wise God, who leads us on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake, who makes our feet beautiful.
Megan K. Taylor earned her MA in Theological Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Joel, live in Sanford, Fl where she works for Ligonier Ministries.
Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Maria Boulding, et al. (New York: New City Press, 1997). Pg. 37