The Sinner's Hire
2 Peter 2:15
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor…

In the course of his denunciation of abandoned sinners St. Peter makes use in two places of this remarkable expression, "the wages of unrighteousness," or "the hire of wrong-doing" - in the fifteenth verse as something loved and sought by Balaam, and in the twelfth verse as that which shall be the portion of the impenitent transgressor. The idea was one which evidently took very forcible possession of the apostle's mind, and, however little it may be in harmony with the sentimental and purblind type of religion too prevalent in our time, it is an idea in perfect harmony with the stern and righteous government of God. Upon the suggestion of the twofold application of the thoughts in this chapter, it may be well to treat this serious and awful subject under two aspects.

I. THE SINNER'S ILLUSION AS TO HIS WORK AND HIS WAGES. Life is represented as a bondman's service, and in any case the representation is appropriate and just. But experience of human character and history leads to the conclusion, which coincides with the teaching of revelation, that men constantly engage and continue in the service of sin under a double illusion.

1. They imagine the work which they undertake to be easy and agreeable. By many devices the tyrant sin disguises the evils of his service, and induces his victims to continue in it to their souls' injury and ruin. The pleasures of sin are for a season, and they who indulge in them are like those who eat of the fair apples of the Dead Sea, which turn to ashes in the mouth.

2. They imagine the reward of the service to be liberal and satisfactory. As Balaam lusted for the gold which was to be his hire, as Judas clutched the thirty pieces of silver which were the price of his Master's blood, so the bondmen of ungodliness deceive themselves with the imagination that the reward they will partake will enrich and satisfy their nature. Whether it be wealth or pleasure, power or praise, they set their hearts upon it, and it becomes to them as the supreme good. In such an illusion years of sin and folly may be passed.


1. The service is, sooner or later, found to be mere slavery. The chains may be gilded, but they are chains for all that. The dwelling may have the semblance of a palace, but it is in fact a prison. The master's speech may be honeyed, but it is the speech of a tyrant, cruel and relentless. 2, The hire of wrong-doing is not payment, but punishment. "The way of transgressors" is found to be "hard." "The wages of sin is death."

APPLICATION. Let these considerations lead the sinner to forsake the tyrant's service, repudiate the tyrant's claims, and fling back the tyrant's hire. - J.R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

WEB: forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing;

Lessons from Balaam's Ass
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