Jude has an interesting way of teaching in his short letter. After a brief greeting, he begins his warning to believers concerning the tares among the wheat. Interestingly, that warning takes up most of his epistle. There are a few verses of positive admonition at the end, encouragements to true believers amidst the evil influences around them. Last month on this page, we considered Jude’s triple reference to the safekeeping of the saints (vv1, 20, 24). Jude seemed to appreciate this G-3 (Group of Three) concept, and we find nearly a dozen triplets in his letter. Perhaps it might help you as you strive toward godliness if you remember these three ungodly characteristics identified by Jude in “natural men” (v19, JND) masquerading as Christians: selfishness, immorality, and rebellion.
One of Jude’s G-3s is found in verse 11: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (NKJV). Cain, Balaam, and Korah – quite the trio. Jewish tradition considers Cain to be a model of the self-seeking man, and that is a fair understanding of Scripture. Cain had no concern about the will of God and how He deserved to be worshiped; he was going to do it his own way. He had a pattern of righteousness close by (Abel), but he couldn’t see the value of it because he walked in self-serving darkness. Abel displayed self-sacrificing devotion and brought God the very best – the firstlings and the fat. Cain seems to have thought any old thing would do and that’s all he brought. This is a basic principle, but vital to get a hold of: God deserves the very best. He is worthy of worship, and it is only sensible that our worshipful service will cost us at times. King David understood this when he said: “Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which cost me nothing” (2Sam 24:24). Cain wanted the easy way, though. He wanted his own way and he took it, with no care for God’s will. As is typical of self-seeking men, he was envious of the favor bestowed upon another. So afterwards, anger toward the righteous burned within him and he murdered his brother with no concern for the life of another. He then lied to God to protect himself. Woe to them who have gone the way of Cain. Sadly, this is exactly what Jude saw all around him under the banner of Christianity – self-centeredness. This is the way of the world. Don’t let it be your way, for it certainly isn’t the path of the godly. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3-5, NKJV).
Balaam (Num 22-24) was an immoral individual. We commonly restrict the word “morality” to issues of sexuality, but it is much broader. It relates to your ethics, your principles. How do you define right and wrong? Are you a person of integrity and honesty? Balaam’s immorality is revealed in his greed. Jude speaks of his concern for profit, while Peter says he “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2Peter 2:15). The quest for profits has driven many to cast justice aside. Consumerism dominates society. And when money, marketing, and miserliness control Christians’ thinking, the purity of the church is compromised. “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness” (1Tim 6:9-10, NKJV). Balaam worshiped at the altar of greed. Not surprisingly, this aspect of immorality led to another. Near the end of our New Testament, Balaam’s immorality is highlighted for the third time, this time in the Lord’s words to the church at Pergamum. Balaam, still wanting his profits, orchestrated the fall of God’s people by inducing them “to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev 2:14; see Num 25 and 31:16). Balaam idolized money – anything for a dollar. Idolatry and sexual immorality are regularly linked in the Bible. This is the way of the world. Don’t let it be your way, for it certainly isn’t the path of the godly. The virtuous woman “extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:20, NKJV).
The name Korah is intertwined with the sin of rebellion (Num 16). They opposed the leaders appointed by God. Ungrateful for the privileges already granted them, they attacked the men who were over them in the Lord. Moses was right. Going against the leaders was going against God. Again, Jude observed the same characteristics in people around him 1,500 years later – they “reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries” (v8, NKJV). This is the way of the world. Don’t let it be your way, for it certainly isn’t the path of the godly. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13:1, NKJV).
Selfishness, immorality, and rebellion are the same traits you may identify (in a different order) in another one of Jude’s G-3s in verses 5-7. Why is so much of his short letter dedicated to such ungodly characters? Because character is important. Character reveals who we really are. These were “natural men, not having the Spirit” (v19, JND), and Jude longs for the character of God’s saints to be in stark contrast. Character counts. Others count. Righteousness and meekness count. If you will contend for the faith of Christ, be like the godly man of Psalm 1. Be a true follower of the Christ: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt 11:29).