(August 2, 1989)
A snake-loving man couldn’t resist buying a boa constrictor, just a little one. He enjoyed the reptile so much, he played with it constantly. Soon he had it trained to wrap itself around his body. The performance of man and snake was so intriguing that people paid to watch. Soon the snake act became the man’s livelihood. The snake grew, as well-fed reptiles do, and one day, during a performance, the snake coiled itself as usual around the man. A terrible scream ended the show as the boa crushed the life out of his trainer.
A lie-loving boy couldn’t resist fooling his mother just a little lie, he reasoned. He enjoyed the deception so much. He played his game constantly. Soon he had trained himself so well that he believed his own lies. He lived in a world of make-believe, losing touch with reality. His mother never understood why her son had to be institutionalized, why he eventually died there, unable to function in the real world.
A pleasure-loving girl couldn’t resist physical gratification. She enjoyed rich food, luxuries, and sensuous delights. She sought worldly pleasures constantly. Soon she found a need for increasing quantities, more thrills. Normal was old hat, bizarre became normal. She would pay any price for some sweet enjoyment. Her bloated body was found at the bottom of a ravine.
James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote,”... each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away, and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin; when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.”
God says sin is the reason people die. While not every death may be the direct result of the victim’s own sin, all death is the result of sin in general. All moral, social, psychological, and even environmental pollution is caused by sin as well. In fact, rebellion to the laws of God makes newspapers fat and life lean.
It’s not unusual for sin to seem “little” or harmless in the beginning. One little lie won’t hurt anyone. Even the second lie to cover the first one seems reasonable. After playing with little lies for a time, their growth is hardly noticed—and lying becomes a lifestyle. And lies crush, if nothing else, the credibility of the person so entangled.
Lies and all other forms of iniquity begin in a small way—with a thought. It saunters into our minds like a stray cat or dog or snake. It ought to be put out, but if we pet it and invite it to stay, it becomes sin. “Even the thought of foolishness is sin.”
This pet, visible only to God, thwarts answers to prayer. The psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.”
But it does more than that. It begins a constricting coil, one that soon becomes as difficult to put down as a beloved pet. And this pet grows. Before long, it expresses itself in words and actions and becomes a lifestyle, one that leads to death, if not directly, indirectly, some day physically, right now spiritually.
Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. James says sin gives birth to death. Whatever metaphor is used, subtle deception and gradual changes occur before we know it, and when we do, we should tell ourselves to smarten up, but nobody does. Our “pet” has grown far too big. We can’t resist its big squeeze.
But there is good news. Because He loves us, our Creator sent His sinless Son to deal a mortal blow to sin and to that old serpent, Satan, the father of lies and the encourager of evil thoughts. Sin and Satan may be powerful but Jesus is far greater. He conquered both. He poured out His blood on the cross that sinners might be cleansed from the pollution in their souls. He died that our sins might be buried with Him. He rose from the dead to give victory over the coils of death. In defeating sin and death, He robbed both them and the serpent of their power.