Why is it that civilizations rise and then fall? How is it that a society can advance in its knowledge and technology, but then waste away due to its own moral decay? There are several factors that contribute to the downfall of great societies and these factors can be condensed into four mentalities or phases that are highlighted in a prophecy by a man named Agur in Proverbs 30.
There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. [Proverbs 30:11-14]
These four phases or mentalities as mentioned here by Agur are:
1. The cursing or dishonoring of one’s elders: This is how the decay of a society begins to blatantly manifest itself. Civilizations that are blessed usually have older generations mingling with and giving sage advice to younger generations as the younger generations gladly welcome such advice. Since older generations have more experience with what works or doesn’t work in matters of interacting with others or in matters of contributing positively to a society, it is good for a civilization to look to its elders if they are truly godly.
However, when a society sees it’s elders and their wisdom as an unnecessary burden, their attitude towards their elders usually turns hostile. The younger generation then shows no respect for them and speaks against them even to the point of cursing them out. It’s understandable to reject an elder’s advice or their ways when they are clearly wrong such as when the advice unjustifiably harms someone (for example, if they promote getting drunk or abusing drugs). But to reject them altogether even when they are correct, just because they’re older, is a sure step down the path to destruction.
One who dishonors godly elders is highly likely to reject the ultimate Elder–the Lord himself. This is why the Mosaic law gave the same punishment to those who cursed their parents that was given to those who blasphemed God [Leviticus 20:9, 24:16].
2. The belief that one is fine as is. Destructive people have a natural tendency to think that nothing is wrong with them spiritually or morally. They believe that there is no need for them to change, especially when they are given the constructive criticism of their elders. In their minds they tell themselves things like “Oh, they’re just an old fart. What do they know? Things are different now than back in the Stone Age when they were young.” After tossing aside the warnings of godly elders, they proceed to carry out what feels good or seems good to them and continue down their path to destruction.
But as it says in Proverbs, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,” and “Fools make a mock at sin.” They joke about sin and don’t take it as something serious when it’s what keeps them separated or out of fellowship with God, who only wants what’s best for us.
3. They are puffed up with ungodly pride. When a destructive person tells themselves they are fine as they are, this stems from the ungodly pride they have in their hearts and leads to more ungodly pride. They often tell themselves, “At least I’m not doing this or that like he’s doing.” Or they tell themselves that they are better than someone else because of how they look or what they have or who they know.
Some of them even encourage themselves in their destructive behavior when they think they are too intelligent to get caught doing their evil. This is especially true when they’ve done their evil several times before but got away with it each time. They don’t stop to think that God is longsuffering toward them and giving them time to repent before he drops his judgment on them.
4. They are without mercy and have a blatant disregard for others, especially the powerless. Having gone through the three previous phases, at this phase they have become so evil and callous that they actively seek to destroy those they believe are standing in their way. They have no qualms about speaking evil falsehoods against those they don’t like. Not only will they say whatever they need to to assassinate a person’s character and reputation, some of them are willing to go so far as to bring about physical harm, including death, to the people they don’t like, especially if they consider the person as having a lower status or as being weaker.
If you look at these four phases and compare them to great civilizations throughout human history, you’ll see all of these phases were in operation when those great civilizations fell. From Ancient Egypt to Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece to Rome, all of them are guilty of all four. Even in more modern history, Hitler, Stalin, and other historical figures have been guilty of them.
And what shall I say of the U.S.? These phases of destruction have really manifested since World War I, which ushered in the loose morals and excesses of the roaring 20’s, which led to the Great Depression, which sparked World War II, which led to the rebellion of the 1950’s and 60’s, which was the impetus for taking prayer out of school, which led to Roe v. Wade, and so on and so on until today where we have the false arguments that gay “marriage” is a constitutional right, or that it’s OK for the severely sick to be terminated by euthanasia, or that destructive narcotics should be legalized. All of this evil can be tied back to these four phases Agur prophesied about in ancient Israel.
These mentalities have not only taken place on the world stage, they take place in the lives of individuals in the neighborhoods of our towns and cities and maybe even in some of our own households. But thanks be to God he has given us power to overcome all of them!
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. [Luke 10:19]
The precious blood of the Lord Jesus through our faith in him gives us this power so that when we pray, “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” [2 Corinthians 10:3-5].
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–