We were reminded during a recent service about a rather enigmatic verse in Luke’s Gospel: “Remember Lot’s wife.” The lesson behind this verse goes right back to Genesis, when Lot, his wife, and their family were running away from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as they were being destroyed. Lot’s wife looks back and is caught up in the destruction. But the real lesson of Lot’s wife is not where she set her eyes, but where she set her heart.
It seems that in the ancient city of Sodom, anything went (as illustrated by the shocking story about the treatment of Lot’s visitors recorded in Genesis 19). Abraham was Lot’s uncle, and pleaded with God to spare Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33). But it was not to be; God decided that Sodom was to be destroyed. However, God rescued Lot, his wife, and two daughters from Sodom by the hand of angels. And it was during this escape from the city as it was being destroyed that Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
We are given contrasting views on Lot and his wife in the New Testament. Lot is described as ‘a righteous man in anguish over the debauched lifestyle of lawless men’ (2 Peter 2:7).’ Whereas the only comment on his wife comes in Luke 17, during a prophecy about the return of Jesus. Here, the days of Lot are described as care-free, materialistic, and unaware of the coming judgement. It’s in this context that we are told to “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
So, what exactly did Lot’s wife do wrong? There’s a suggestion in the Old Testament text that it was more than a quick glance over the shoulder: ‘But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.’ It seems that Lot’s wife was lagging behind the escaping group, perhaps finding it difficult to leave behind the comforts of a wealthy life in a big city. Her body had departed Sodom but her mind was still there.
There’s a clear parallel for Christians here, who are asked to leave behind their previous life and become a ‘new creation’ in Christ, pursuing different objectives. Jesus talks in no uncertain terms about where our minds and our focus should be. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: ‘Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matt 6:19-21). We need to ask ourselves whether there’s anything holding us back from following Jesus wholeheartedly!