Does it look pretty innocent? Don’t be deceived. It’s the Deadly Nightshade plant.
So common… we have them growing right in our raspberry patch, we have to keep pulling them out. Because where there is a root, soon there is fruit.
The plant has a very shadowy history. The berries taste sweet, but every part of the Deadly Nightshade from the roots to the flower and berries is poisonous.
During the Middle Ages a beauty tonic made from it was used by Venetian women to redden the pigment of their skin for a blush-like appearance.
But what began as a beautifying agent quickly became associated with malicious activities. Horror stories of death and deceit quickly entered the public consciousness and gave the plant a reputation as the poison of choice for assassins and criminals, sorcerers and witches.
Its toxic ingredients are so powerful that a minuscule amount slipped into a drink or added to a meal can send full grown adults into paralysis, cause severe hallucinations, delirium, confusion, convulsions, and death.
The Nightshade has been a killer of emperors and warriors throughout history. The Roman military created a deadly paste from the plant that was used to make poison-tipped arrows for archers, a practice that was in use for centuries.Not even Kings were spared the terror. Macbeth, King of Scotland, Emperor Augustus of Rome, and Emperor Claudius of Rome were all laid to rest at the hand of the Deadly Nightshade.
What is the lesson? Don’t be deceived! What looks and seems oh so sweet can end in DEATH.
James has the basic Nightshade lesson all spelled out for us.
First the good side: RESIST the temptation.
James 1:12 12Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
This is the good side—the crown of life to be given to those who endure, who resist the temptation. Those who see temptation for what it is—like the deadly nightshade—and get rid of it. But what about those NOT resisting its sweet appeal?
James 1:13–15 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
God NEVER tries to entice us with evil. Instead, He warns, and warns, and warns,
14… each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
It is step by step the Deadly Nightshade end: paralysis, hallucinations, convulsions, and—DEATH.
Do you know what the very next verse says?
James 1:16 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
The KJV says, “Do not err.” It is a warning. Because the deadly nightshade leaves are pretty and the fruit is attractive and –they say it is sweet to taste (but don’t taste it!) it is so easy to be deceived. James shouts, DON’T!
In other words, watch out! Sin is DECEPTIVE.
James says more just a few verses later..
James 1:22 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Hearing and not doing is handling spiritual NIGHTSHADE. DECEIVING ourselves! Not someone else, but OURSELVES.
Who would have thought it that serious? Who can make progress in the inner life when deceived?
The first step is to properly identify the deadly nightshade. See it for what it really is. Not tell ourselves it is just another plant, really nothing serious! No, not when it is deadly!
A few more verses and James brings it up again: Another nightshade growing on its own, there to deceive:
James 1:26–27 26If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
Often a deceptive member of the spiritual Nightshade family to watch out for is the fruit of the wisdom of this world. Why? Because it makes us “feel good” about ourselves, that we have accomplished something—and we may have. But Paul says, watch out for the pride of this life. It has a dark side that God sees. It is Nightshade.
1 Corinthians 3:18–20 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; 20and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Fools, vain, futile, wise in our own craftiness…
Why? Because it is all part of the wisdom of this world.
Do you recall what is pictured in Revelations 20 about the activities of the “devil” that was cast into the bottomless pit? This powerful figure of the evil in the hearts of men is said to be shut up in the pit. The angel that came down from heaven was powerful, so powerful that… verse 2 of Rev. 20,
Revelation 20:2–3 2He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
An obvious figure. What “real” being is called the “dragon,… the serpent… the Devil and Satan? Add “Deadly Nightshade” and you a symbol for ALL types of evil!
Revelation 20:3:3and he cast him [the dragon, serpent, Devil, Satan] into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should DECEIVE the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
It is all in the same chapter. Deceptive, deadly nightshade activities halted for the time being. Fast forward to the end of the thousand years, and note what happens when this #1 enemy is released from confinement.
Revelation 20:7–8 7Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to DECEIVE the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
Can you imagine how strong is the desire to deceive? So strong that this “devil” class is still wanting to deceive, even after a thousand years of a world at peace.
But not for long. The end is preplanned and sure.
Revelation 20:9 9They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
This is the end of the story. What about earlier warnings about the deception of the Deadly Nightshade?
Proverbs 14:12 12There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Deception for sure! What seems right may be deadly. That is why it is so deceptive.
But read it again, and more carefully. This is deadly nightshade because it is something that seems right to ME, which means I am deceiving myself; it is MY judgment of it that makes it “seem right.” What says the proverb? It is repeated again just 2 chapters later.
Proverbs 16:25 25There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs gives another warning about the tendencies we follow, up or down. Of course, the downward course is always easier.
Proverbs 11:19 19As righteousness leads to life, So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.
Pursuing evil – any evil – is handling spiritual nightshade, and it will end in death.
Does the tongue belong to the nightshade family? It doesn’t have to be there, but watch out!
Proverbs 18:21 21Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
The real dread of poisonous plants like Nightshade is that they don’t look deadly. The leaves are beautiful and the fruit is very attractive.
The message again: DON’T BE DECEIVED. That is what Paul said:
1 Corinthians 15:33 33Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
A more familiar wording is:
1 Corinthians 15:33 (Moffatt Bible) 33Bad company is the ruin of good character.
Sin is Nightshade in ANY form, under ANY guise. It doesn’t change its nature. Paul’s first words are direct:
Galatians 6:7–8 7Do not be deceived…
It is so easy to deceive ourselves and say, Relax! It won’t hurt anything—a comment here, a few words there, what John called the world:
1 John 2:1616For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
Pride… lust… half-truth… pleasing man and not God… spiritual nightshade! If we would only see it this way and NOT be DECEIVED…! Because
God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
We will REAP what we PLANT.
8For 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.
Plant deadly nightshade, and the end will be HORROR. The only sweetness is for the moment… it quickly will become the sweet taste of horror.
There is no changing the END. Its end is… DEATH!
What should we do with spiritual nightshade? Get rid of it! Pull it up. Put it in the fire. Be drastic about it. Whatever it takes we need to get it out of our reach, out of our way, out of our lives. This was Paul’s reasoning.
Romans 6:21 21What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
If we had something physical in our house that threatened our life, we would get rid of it. How much more something that tempts our minds or our eyes or our impulses to what God forbids! If it compliments the world around us, if it gets smiles from outside God’s world, we don’t want it in our minds. We want it out—the sooner, the quicker, the better.
No sympathy for its pretty berries, or its sweet taste, or its lovely appearance.
Romans 6:22 22But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
We want nothing that might stand in our way of the eternal crown.
Nothing. The cost is far too high.
Luke 9:24 24For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.