“Now the works of the flesh are evident which are…” (Galatians 5:19-21). This passage is well-known to many of us who strive to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. Sadly, there are some times when we forget just what these things are and just how bad they are for those of us who strive to please the Lord.
It is important to consider a couple of truths about these sins which define the world around us. First, the Spirit describes them as “works of the Flesh.” This phrase makes me think of a construction project and in this case what is being built up are the desires of the Flesh. A work is something that is created over time as a product of diligent effort. All the works of man that we see built up around us, which are so impressive at first, are bound for decay and inevitable destruction. We cannot hold on to works no matter how well we build them or how hard we try to maintain them over time. In the same way, the works of the Flesh are bound for destruction and the miserable fact is that if we attach ourselves to these works then we will be destroyed with them!
Secondly, we should not miss the contrast of these “works” of the Flesh with the “fruit of the Spirit.” It could be said that these works of the Flesh are unnatural and therefore do not belong in the human experience. In other words, these works are something that we as humans allow our Flesh to build up by fulfilling our selfish desires rather than simply allowing the good, God-given and therefore natural, produce of the Spirit to enrich our lives. Speaking of selfishness, a third point to consider is that the context of this list of the “works of the Flesh” suggests that selfishness is the root of the lusts of the Flesh and is the foundation for the works that are built up in the Flesh (cf. 5:13-15, 26).
The main point we must see in these “works (i.e. – constructions) of the Flesh” is that they are absolutely destructive to every good thing that God intended for humanity. It is not difficult to see this fact even for someone who is a total nonbeliever. Rampant sexual immorality annually results in millions of deaths around the world through the spread of STDs. Factions born out of opposing, self-interested political ideologies have produced civil unrest and violent divisions in nearly every nation-state around the globe. Jealousy, envy and strife devastate millions of families who are so busy attacking each other that they have no time for love and unity that would result in a peaceful life. The world is being destroyed more each second because the works of the Flesh are being built up within human lives all the time.
All these worldly consequences pale in comparison however to the devastating spiritual effects that believers understand to come out of the works of the Flesh. First, the works of the Flesh corrupt the nature of each individual who is intended to exist in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This corruption leaves people feeling unfulfilled and useless since his or her whole purpose of existing in God’s image has been ruined. Humanity was not only created to be in the perfectly holy, righteous and true form of God (Ephesians 4:24), but he also was made to be a relational being, living with other relational beings who are also made in God’s image. It is not good for human beings to be alone (Genesis 2:18), because we were made in the image of a God who is defined by the relational characteristic of love (1 John 4:8). The works of the Flesh destroy human relations which is another evidence of their destructive nature. Finally and most importantly, the Flesh destroys a human being’s relationship with God. God is holy and cannot be associated with the selfish, self-centered, lustful Flesh. The Flesh is the most dangerous and devastating element in our lives, and it must be conquered if we are seeking a relationship with God and the true life that is found in Him!
The works of the Flesh are obviously destructive to our lives and must be avoided at all costs, but how? How can I be remade into God’s image? How do I demolish these works that are built up in my life so I can have the natural relationship I was created to have with God? The answer is earlier in what the Spirit wrote to us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (5:16). Read and hear the Spirit’s words that He delivered from Jesus to the apostles and prophets who recorded them for us. Live out His will for your character and the life He gives. If we would follow this command then the destructive constructions of the Flesh could be replaced by the life that is afforded to those who walk by the Spirit!