Choosing the path of least resistance

Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist

August 23, 2013

It is generally understood that water will follow the path of least resistance. In other words, it will turn and twist in whatever direction that hinders it the least. As we travel though the journey of life, we too have to choose a path to follow. As we will note, there are really only two possible paths that one may take. It is true that there are many variations of one of these two paths, but still there are only two paths. However, when we consider the concept of following the one of the least resistance, we find that there is a sense in which following the path of the least resistance is the wrong way to go, while in another sense we find that following the path of the least resistance is the right way to go. Let us consider this.

Probably the most commonly known passage concerning two paths or ways is that found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). One of these two paths is described with the words “strait”, which means difficult and “narrow” which also adds to the idea of it being the more difficult way, not the one of the least resistance. The other of these paths is described as being “wide” and “broad”, both indicating there is little resistance with this route. However, note which one it is that a person is commanded to follow. It is the difficult one, the one with the most resistance. It is the one that leads to eternal life and also the one that the majority will refuse to walk. Let’s face it, doing right is not always the easiest thing to do. Walking in the light as He is in the light (I John 1:7) often brings division between friends and family. Jesus told us that such would take place (Matt. 10:34-38). The apostle Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Cor. 9:24-27). To Timothy he also wrote, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:4-5). Both the Lord and the apostle Paul emphatically tell us that the way to eternal life is the way that is right, not the way that is the easiest.

There is a second passage that speaks of two paths that we wish to consider. The wise man, Solomon, said, “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths…Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men” (Proverbs 4:11, 14). According to Solomon, the path that he demands to be trodden, the “right path”, results in “steps not being straitened” or made difficult and there need be no stumbling (Proverbs 4:12). In other words, this path is the one of the least resistance, at least in some sense. The other of the two paths Solomon speaks of is the “path of the wicked” and of it he says that there is darkness and stumbling and loss of sleep (Proverbs 4:14, 16, 19). Now, all should readily see that the path of wickedness certainly does result in a lot of hardships while in the physical life. Adultery and fornication often leads to diseases, broken homes, children raised by single parents and financial difficulties. Drugs and alcohol have destroyed many a body as well as families and such. But, it would seem that the real hardship spoken of by Solomon in this text is the eternal consequences rather than the immediate ones. No matter the amount of pain and suffering or lack thereof experienced in this life as a result walking “the path of the wicked”, it will ultimately lead only to eternal damnation.

As we harmonize these two passages we need to realize that all actions have consequences. Not all consequences are immediate, but some are. Solomon wrote, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11). It may indeed be more difficult to traverse this pilgrimage we call life by going with the flow, not rocking the boat, agreeing to disagree and compromising with the outright wicked, but the lack of resistance enjoyed now will all be for naught when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ; for then, “every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10). In short, follow the commands of Jesus and walk the strait and narrow path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Follow the “right paths” that Solomon spoke of. Ultimately, this will be the way of least resistance, that is, if your desired destination is a heavenly home.

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