1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For the past two months, Many Americans have been captivated by the television coverage of the trial of the prominent attorney, Alex Murdaugh, for savagely killing his wife, Maggie, and twenty-two-year-old son, Paul Murdaugh, on June 7, 2021. Alex is a member of the prominent Murdaugh family, a family of lawyers in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina that had exerted an enormous influence in that community for a century such that the locals called the five-county district the “Murdaugh Country.” Three members of the Murdaugh family consecutively served as district attorneys and were known for prosecuting several types of criminal and personal injury cases.
During the trial, the prosecution presented riveting details about the defendant’s drug addictions and his unbridled greed to defraud his friends and clients by stealing money from them despite earning millions of dollars for his legal services. This man, who rode the crest of fame, success, and wealth, came crashing down to the level of a criminal punished by two consecutive life sentences in state prison. As I reflected on this tragic series of events surrounding the life of Alex Murdaugh, three biblical truths about sin came to my mind.
Sin’s Revealing Effect
First, we learn of sin’s revealing effect. We cannot hide our sins forever; they will be exposed for everyone to see. We may try to conceal our sins, but they will be revealed eventually. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Achan, a name mentioned in the Old Testament, is an excellent example of this truth. When the Israelites were ready to capture Jericho under the leadership of Joshua, God expressly commanded them not to take anything out of Jericho and bring it into the camp. God said all the things made of silver, gold, bronze, and iron belonged to the Lord, so they must be put in the Lord’s treasury. But when Achan’s eyes darted into different directions of the devastated city, he saw a beautiful coat from Babylonia, about five pounds of silver, and about a pound of gold. Achan could not resist taking the forbidden booty. He thought he could conceal his sin and get away with it. How wrong he was! Before long, his sin was exposed, and he forfeited his life for his offense.
Alex Murdaugh thought he could escape his crime through ingenuity and lying. In the end, his sin betrayed him for everyone to see. The world will always see him as a man who fell from glory into the abyss of disgrace, shame, and mental torment.
Sin’s Reaping Effect
Second, we learn of sin’s reaping effect. Murdaugh thought he could escape the consequences of his actions, but he could not. Over time, he was brought to bear the emotional, mental, physical, and financial burden of his actions. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7–8). The law of sowing and reaping is a divine principle that regulates our actions. Yes, a compassionate God can forgive us our sins, but His justice demands that we be held responsible for our behavior. Moses, the servant of God, who interacted with God as a close friend, faced the consequences of his sin of striking the rock in the wilderness of Zin instead of speaking to it as God told him. God was displeased by Moses’ disobedience, so God did not permit Moses to enter the Promised Land. Moses reaped the consequence of his action, though he remained a friend of God, and God Himself buried him (Deut. 34:6).
God was highly displeased when David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery against Bathsheba. He sent the prophet Nathan to reprimand David for his sin. David repented of his sin, and God forgave him (2 Sam. 12:13). But David still suffered the consequences of his sinful act (2 Sam. 12:10, 14) because David was subject to the law of sowing and reaping. God told David that the sword would not depart from his home for what he did.
In this life, all of us are subject to the law of sowing and reaping. But for the followers of Christ, whose sins are forgiven, God, in His grace, can heal their wounded souls and strengthen them to bear the negative consequences of their actions for the glory of God. And in the coming age, they stand to enjoy the blessings of eternal life in Christ, where there will be no more tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain because the former things will have passed away, and God has made all things new (Rev. 21:4–5). The law of sowing and reaping would no longer be necessary on the new earth because God will present us “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).
Sin’s Ruining Effect
Finally, we learn of sin’s ruining effect. Alex Murdaugh’s life will never be the same again. The impact of the punishment imposed on him has ruined his life in this present age. Two consecutive life sentences and no chance of reversing the court’s judgment will ensure he will die in prison. And if he remains unrepentant and refuses to seek God’s forgiveness, he will suffer eternal punishment and utter ruin in the coming age. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The Bible also says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Bible uses several harsh words to describe the ruin or destruction of someone who dies without Christ’s gift of salvation. We find words such as “perish” (Rom. 2:12), “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), “death” (James 1:15), “condemned” (John 3:18), “utterly destroyed” (Acts 3:23), “cut down” (Matt. 3:10b), and “burn up” (Matt. 3:12b) to describe the fate of an unrepentant sinner. The Bible also uses powerful metaphors such as “wax that melts before the fire (Ps. 68:2), destruction by fire (2 Pet. 3:5–7), “vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7), the “chaff which the wind blows away,” (Ps. 1:4) and “cut down like the grass” (Ps. 37:2) to indicate the destiny of the wicked. God, in His forbearance, may spare His punishment to allow the wicked to repent in this life, but if they continue in their wickedness, they will face God’s retribution on the day of judgment.
How should we respond to a story like that of Alex Murdaugh? Or anyone who has committed a vicious crime? It is easy to lull ourselves into thinking we are not evil like Alex Murdaugh. In Proverbs, we read, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits” (Prov. 16:2). When a holy God weighs our spirits in His balance, He finds us wanting. Every unregenerated soul has the potential to turn into a “face of evil” of the kind of Hitler, Mussolini, or Osama bin Laden. Notice how the prophets of old saw their hearts in the light of God’s revealed holiness. Job cried out, saying, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Isaiah confessed his moral depravity saying, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6: 5). Peter fell before Christ and, with quivering lips, muttered, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). A leader of the Warsaw ghetto, whose heart was filled with bitterness at the loss of his loved ones in the holocaust, was portrayed in a documentary film as saying, “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.” That was the point Jeremiah was trying to make when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).
Our first response to Murdaugh’s story should be to pray for Alex Murdaugh that he will come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and receive the gift of eternal life. Spending a lifetime in prison here on earth is nothing compared to facing God’s judgment and punishment. Second, his story should compel us to echo what John Bradford (1510–1555), the English Reformer, said when witnessing a group of prisoners being led to execution. He said, “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.” The apostle Paul expressed a similar sentiment: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:9–10).
But for the grace of God, each of us could have been on the road to perdition. Friend, have you received the grace of God? The Bible says truth and grace came to us through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). If the Holy Spirit is tugging your heart and the Father is drawing you to Christ, respond to Christ by surrendering your life to Him with repentance and godly sorrow today. Soli Deo Gloria.