What Can We Learn When We Are “Breaking Bad”

Breaking Bad3

OK!! I will admit.  I have spent the last few weeks consumed with the final episodes of “Breaking Bad”.   Spoiler Alert!!! For the few people left on the planet who have not seen the finale I won’t give away the juicy details; but I say this…  Watch it and watch it soon!!!!  The producers, writers and actors are excellent at tying up loose ends and bringing a real feeling of closure to the saga.

For those who have never seen it, Breaking Bad is a show about a terminally ill science teacher who is concerned about providing for his family after he is gone.  The noble cause of helping his family   “breaks bad” when the teacher turns to illegally producing the drug “meth” in as scheme that generates lots of cash while turning a good man into depths of evil.

During our own life’s journey, at one time or another we have “broken bad”; this has proven to be especially true when our intent was noble.   We can see the noble intent “breaking bad” in the Old Testament story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis chapter 38: 1-30.

Judah and Tamar

The Story:  Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and his first wife Leah.  By all accounts Judah is a good guy, in the story of Joseph and his brothers.  He is the one that convinces his siblings not to kill Joseph. (Genesis 37: 26) Also, when the bothers go to Egypt for food Judah is the brother that spoke on his brothers behalf. (Genesis 44:16-34).   Judah leaves his brothers and childhood home and settles some distance away to a town called Adullam.  He marries and has three sons.   His first son Er married Tamar a Cananite.  However, Er was evil and God punished him with death.  By custom Judah’s second son, Onan was expected to take care of his dead brother’s wife and give Tamar a son to carry on Er’s name.   But Onan refused; and he was also punished with death by God for his failure to obey.  Now the duty to take care of Tamar and to carry on the family name fell on Judah’s youngest son Shelah.  At the time of Onan’s death, Shelah was far too young for these responsibilities.  Therefore, Judah told Tamar to return to her father and when his son, Shelah becomes of age he would see to it that he marries her then.

Breaking Bad: Judah & Shelah

Fearful that Shelah would also die, Judah broke bad and reneged on his promise to provide his last living son to Tamar when he became of age.  Frustrated by this turn in events, Tamar broke bad, assumed the identity of a prostitute and tricked Judah into getting her pregnant.   When Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant he demanded that her widowed daughter-in-law be punished.  But Tamar showed Judah the items he had given to her as a pledge, proving that he was the father of the child.

Why Do We Break Bad

Our sinful nature as human makes us apt to breaking bad in ways big and small.  Our sinful breaking bad nature is relative to our relationship with God.  Looking closely at the situation with Judah and Shelah we can learn three valuable lessons for how we can break bad:

1. We break bad because we are not obedient 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:22-23   God has given us free will to follow His commands and teachings.  Judah’s sons Er and Onan exercised their free will and right by choosing not to obey and found themselves cut-off from God’s grace, mercy and protection.  When we consistently fail to obey God it may not cause our immediate death; but it will make our lives more difficult.  Additionally,  n just time, like Er and Onan disobedience will cause our death (often) before our “appointed” time; causing headache and opportunities for the ones we leave behind to “break bad”.

However, all is not lost, God is willing and ready to reedmen the worst of the worst.  ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations.  But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ Nehemiah 1:8-9

2. We break bad because of lack of trust in God

Judah did not trust God to protect his remaining son Shelah from the early death experienced by his brothers; and Tamar did not trust God to provide for her without a husband.  God has demonstrated time and time again that He is trustworthy. ‘Those who know your name trust in you” Psalm 9:10.   Trust in God and He will supply our every need.

3. We break bad because of our fears

Both Judah and Shelah broke bad out of fear.  Fear can cripple us because of the rejection, anger, and jealously it can cause.  However, God can neutralize fear.  “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. 

3. We break bad because we think we can handle it all alone

Tamar’s breaking bad plan, to have a son by assuming the identity of a prostitute may have worked; but what was the cost?  God must be involved from start to finish for our plans to truly succeed.  The wall of Jerusalem was completed in a miraculous fifty-two days; because Nehemiah built it with God involved every step of the way.   Look how Nehemiah asked for the Lord’s help while contemplating going to the king to ask permission to leave his service to build the wall. “O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” Nehemiah 1:10-11

We are powerless to do things right in the long run alone.  God wants to help us.  He wants to guide us so that our plans turn out victorious; and not just for the moment.  But for eternity!

God’s will always triumph despite our Breaking Bad

Despite the breaking bad sinful nature of the conception, Tamar ended up with the son she desired.  In fact, God blessed her twice providing her twin sons, Perez and Zerah. However God’s real blessing was when Perez became the head of a family that included Boaz.  Boaz is the man who set the Godly standard for how a man should treat a woman and David Israel’s greatest king Ruth 4: 16-22  . The hope for all of us, is that we don’t have to be perfect people to be used and blessed by God in a mighty way; for even when we are breaking bad….God is breaking good for us!


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