When a round object is dropped into a pool of water, a fascinating effect occurs. As the water which is displaced by the object returns to its former place it pushes mini waves across the surface of the water. These waves spread out from the point of impact in ever-growing circles to the farthest reaches of that body of water. We call these waves ripples, and we call the cumulative process the ripple effect.
One of the realities of a physical ripple effect is that we cannot always tell what the full effect of those ripples will be. In a large body of water the ripples may disappear from sight before they reach the opposite shoreline. The tsunamis of 2004 are the most horrible example of this fact. The earthquake which spawned these tsunamis occurred near the island of Sumatra, but the tsunamis traveled nearly 3,000 miles to the west, bringing death and destruction with them all the way.
This same truth is evident in spiritual matters. The ripple effect caused by certain spiritual decisions generally spreads far beyond the ability of anyone to foresee. This was the case when Jeroboam the son of Nebat erected idols in Dan and in Bethel to keep the northern tribes from worshiping God at the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 12:25-33). The ripple effect of this action was that the nation of Israel became more and more wicked in each generation. Finally, after nearly 200 years of this rebellion, God brought His wrath upon Israel in the form of the Assyrians, who carried the ten tribes into captivity.
Although Jeroboam did not live to see the destruction of his nation, the guilt for what happened to Israel is laid squarely upon him. In more than a dozen instances in the history of Israel, the wicked kings of that nation were said to have continued in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (2 Kgs. 3:3, et al). The ripple effect of Jeroboam’s sin was that it condemned future generations of his people because he led them away from God.
This is a lesson that should make us stop and think about the actions we take each day. We may think that what we are contemplating is just a small thing. We may think it will only affect ourselves, but we would be wrong to think so. It may seem a small thing to choose to be absent from the assembly when we could otherwise be present, but can we foresee the ripples that action will create? It may seem a personal thing to indulge in some questionable activity, but can we foresee what the end result of that action will be? The truth is that we cannot foresee these things. We cannot tell what effects our sinful actions may cause.
The same can be said for the good we may do. When the Lord commissioned His apostles to take the gospel to the whole world, He said it would start in Jerusalem, spread through Judea and Samaria, and finally reach the remotest parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). The ripple effect of the gospel being dropped into Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection is still being felt today as Christians preach the good news all over the world.
Therefore, we should give careful consideration to every decision we make. We should take the time to consider what the ripple effect will be, and what the spiritual outcome may be for ourselves and for others who look to us for an example. Let us not be like Jeroboam the son of Nebat, whose ripple effect caused the destruction of a nation. Instead, let us always make wise and godly decisions in our lives so the ripples our actions create will be ripples of good that will lead others to eternal life.