Well, That Escalated Quickly
One small match
can make a blazing inferno out of our control. Small concessions leads to big and bad things.
Have you ever participated in something that started out innocent enough, but eventually you knew it has crossed the line but you were not aware of exactly when you crossed the line just that you had crossed it several counties back? Because you progressed so slowly at first you didn't notice when you crossed the line and had a difficult time pinpointing at exactly what point you crossed the line, but there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that you crossed it. I would say that most of the time we have crossed the line when we want to do something we know is not right or don't feel quite right about and have to seek to justify our actions, or when we do something we claim is innocent but want to keep secret.
I think it has happened to all of of at some point in our lives that we realized we have crossed the line and gone too far and could not quite remember exactly at what point we crossed it, and the reason that happens is because we make small concessions here and there, and over enough time we find ourselves far and away from where we wanted to be and have done things we never thought we would do. When we seek to justify small things we blur the line between right and wrong and not only make it difficult to determine when we initially cross the line but it also opens the door for much greater sins. Sin has a snowball effect and always gets larger if it is not immediately stopped.
I have never actually boiled a frog, but it is fairly common knowledge that frogs are often boiled alive. The frogs are never put into hot water because they would immediately jump out, but when put into cold water that is gradually brought to a boil they will stay in the pot and boil to death. Sin works that way as well and when the average person is confronted with a huge sin they would balk and would probably be disgusted, but if slowly built up to it by small sins that increase gradually in severity they will eventually commit the atrocious sin they were initially repulsed by.
Concessions can start extremely small and be almost innocent, such as when the cashier accidentally gives you a bit too much change and you decide to keep it because it is, after all, only thirty cents, but if we keep thirty cents that is not ours today we may choose not to notice tomorrow when the cashier forgets to ring up the milk and so forth and so on. Sin leads to sin, don’t let anyone tell you differently.
When I was a child my mother took me and my sisters to the store to buy candy and when we were back in the car and down the road my mother heard me tell one of my sisters that I was given too much change, so my mother immediately took us back to the store to make me give the extra money back. I tried to convince my mother to allow me to keep the extra money because it was such a small amount and it wasn't like I stole it. It was the store's mistake after all, so why should I have to pay for it? My mother would not budge and made me tell the cashier that I was given too much change and give it back. It took a while, but my mother got me to realize that I had an absolute moral obligation to give the money back, even if no one would ever notice that I had been given too much change. My mother did her best to make sure that my sisters and I grew up to be moral people.
Sin starts small like a seed, and while it may not be easy to get rid of when it is small, if we allow it to grow it can become extremely difficult to remove, and the longer it is allowed to grow the stronger it gets and the more difficult it will be to remove.
I firmly believe that no one ever wakes up one morning and says to themselves out of the blue, "You know, I think I want to have an affair today." Affairs usually start off with things that may seam innocent, like a little "innocent" flirting with that person at work, and since you didn't feel bad about that you reason that it would not be a big thing for just the two of you to have lunch, which leads to confiding in each other and becoming emotionally venerable. Over the course of time what started off as mostly innocent, through small concessions, leads to shifting the goal post farther and farther away. You say that the two of you are just friends and there is nothing going on, but neither of you feel comfortable telling your spouse about the “friendship,” Since you two are “just friends,” you reason, there is no harm having dinner together when your wife or husband is out of town, but of course neither of you tell your spouses about it because they just wouldn’t understand and would over react. Eventually, by small degrees, you are having an affair, and like the idiot you are you don't know how you got there. While it didn’t happen over night there were plenty of warning signs you were on the wrong road.
I know someone who had an affair, and despite the fact that I and other friends and even family members told them that they were crossing the line long before there was any physical infidelity, they chose to believe they were doing nothing wrong up to the point that they actually crossed the biggest and final line when they engaged in sexual relations with someone other than their spouse. I pray for them, but I am not sure their marriage will ever completely recover from the betrayal.
I think, and I am not alone in thinking this, that you have cheated on your wife or husband as soon as you allow yourself to become emotionally vulnerable with another person. Emotional cheating is cheating, and without it there would be no physical cheating. When I was married I refused to spend any time alone with women anywhere close to my age, not because I didn’t trust myself but out of respect for my wife and to avoid even the appearance of evil.
Sin always starts small but never wants to stay that way, even though it lies to you and says, "It is OK, this is as far as it will ever go," and "One more time won't hurt. This is just slightly more than the last time so in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter." One more time with a sin is like a fisherman saying, “Just one more cast,” and once more is never once more. I have fished multiple hours into the darkness after I have promised myself one more cast, and I don’t want to talk about specifics right now, but I have had the same conversation with myself with sinful practices. Part of the problem with the “once more” attitude is we don’t actually want to give up the sin.
Not only does sin want to grow, it wants to remain secret because sin has an extremely difficult time growing in the open where it will be challenged, but in the dark where it is allowed to grow slowly it grows from a small thing to a monster that will destroy you. I would wager that if most people had to do their private sins in public they would give up the sin because the cost would be too great to bear. Private sins often don’t stay private though and when they come to light they can destroy our marriages, our families, our careers and even our lives.
One of my favorite films is the Ridley Scott science fiction movie Alien. If you haven't seen the movie, the plot is that a ship is flying through space with cargo on its way back to earth when the ship's artificial intelligence system known as “Mother” finds a distress beacon and re routes to investigate. When some of the crew go to check it out they find the source of the beacon on a derelict alien vessel that appears to have crashed. Back on the landing craft those who remained on board learn that it is not a distress beacon at all but a warning, however, the science officer opts not to share the information with the crew on the ground.
Inside the crashed ship those sent to locate the beacon find the crew of the ship dead with their rib cages pushed out from the inside as if something exploded from inside them. As if this were not enough of a red flag, the crew continues with the exploration and one of the crew, Kane, finds a room full of large leathery eggs, and when he foolishly reaches out to touch one it opens and a creature jumps out and attaches itself to his face.
The company policy is clear that if anyone is infected they have to be quarantined, but the android who is serving as the science officer breaks protocol and opens the door and allows the crew to board the ship without quarantine, including the unconscious Kane with the strange creature attached to his face, which is a great example of why you should never trust the robot, even if it is not affiliated with Skynet. In a few hours the creature dies and falls off Kane’s face and everyone assumes he is fine, without doing any medical tests.
A short time later while everyone is sitting around the table eating, Kane tried to eat despite his close encounter of the strange kind and started coughing. Not knowing he was in danger, someone made the joke about the food not being that bad, but it quickly became apparent that Kane was in real trouble. No sooner than they had him laying on his back on the table than a creature much scarier than the one that had been attached to his face burst out of Kane's chest, spraying blood on the rest of the crew.
Even at this point, the crew could have prevented tragedy by containing the alien in the room, but the door was left open and it was allowed to escaped to the dark recesses of the ship where it could grow larger and much more dangerous.
In an attempt to find and kill the creature all but one crew member died, and the one who survived only did so by the most narrow of margins. Ripley, the one crew member who survived, blew up the ship and escaped in the landing craft thinking she had destroyed the murderous creature, but quickly learned that the alien had hitched a ride with her. Ripley strapped herself into a chair and opened the airlock which sucked the alien out into space. After Ripley was finally safe she programmed the ship to return to earth and put herself into hyper sleep, but something went wrong and she was found fifty years later, and by that point everyone she knew on earth was dead. All of this because of what was considered by some, at the time, to be a small concessions.
As we read in the Bible, Samson was a Nazarite and as such he was not allowed to cut his hair, partake in alcohol or touch the carcass of anything dead, but time and time again throughout Samson's life he flirted with sin and came as close as possible to breaking his vow without actually breaking it. If you try to stay as close to the line as possible without crossing it, you will eventually cross it, even if by accident.
During the life of Samson the Philistines were an enemy to the Israelite people, yet every relationship we read about Samson having was with Philistine women, and two of the three were prostitutes, so Samson not only tried to come as close to breaking his vow as he could without actually breaking it, he also had an issue with sexual immorality.
The first woman we read about Samson having a romantic interest in was a Philistine woman he had seen and fallen in love with near the vineyard of Timnah, and remember, a vineyard is a place where Samson should not be in the first place since he was not allowed to partake of alcohol. Despite his parent's urging to get get married to one of his own people, Samson was set on marrying the Philistine woman. While in route to Timnah with his parents a lion came and attacked Samson and he tore it to pieces with his bare hands as it were a young goat, the Bible tells us. I have so many questions, I mean, who tears apart a young goat with their bare hands and even though they would not fight you like a lion I can't imagine it would be easy to tear one apart with your bare hands.
The Bible doesn't tell us why, but Samson chose not to tell his parents about the incident with the lion. I would assume that Samson didn't tell his parents because he was compromising his standards and his vow because if he tore the lion apart with his bare hands, at some point he would have been tearing the carcass after it died, and perhaps he was afraid his parents would scold him for it. Granted, I am not sure Samson broke his vow to not touch the carcass of anything that died in this situation, but he was certainly skirting it at best.
Later, on the way home, Samson came across the carcass of the lion and saw that bees have made a nest in it and scooped out honey with his hands and ate it and gave some to his parents, but again he kept a secret and didn't tell his parents where it came from. The thing about sin is it has a difficult time growing in the open and wants to remain a secret where it can safely grow without challenge, and I would wager that if we are compelled to keep something we did secret than on some level we know, or at least think, that it was wrong. If we feel we need to keep something secret than it is probably something we should not be doing.
Samson also had an unhealthy obsession with riddles, which eventually led to the death of his wife and her entire family. Samson made a wager with the Philistines that they could not guess the answer to one of his riddles, one about the honey and the lion. The men were so determined to win that they threatened Samson’s wife and said that unless she told them the answer to the riddle they would kill her family. After pressuring Samson for the answer for days, on the last day of the challenge, he finally gave in and told his wife the answer to his riddle, who immediately told the men who he had the wager with thinking it would spare her family.
While Samson was out gathering the thirty garments he had promised to give if he lost the wager his wife was given to the best man and when he returned he was told he could not be with his wife because she had been given to another. In a fit of rage Samson burned down the fields of the people responsible for the wedding debacle by capturing 300 foxes and tying their tails together in pairs and then tying a lit torch to their tails and setting the loose in the fields. The Philistines retaliated against Samson by killing his wife and her family.
After Samson became a widower he decided to spend time with a Philistine prostitute, and while he was there the Philistines plotted to kill him, but Samson escaped. I think it is important to note that while sexual immorality was not specifically forbidden to Samson as a Nazarite, it was specifically forbidden by the law of God that pertained not only to Samson but to all God’s people. Even if Samson was following the rules that specifically applied to him, which a case could be argued that he was not doing a very good job at, he was most certainly not keeping all of the law of God.
Later when Samson got involved with Delilah, another Philistine prostitute, it became his downfall. Samson had not been with Delilah long before she started asking him how he could be defeated, so there should have been, and I dare say could have been, no doubt in Samson’s mind that Delilah had it in her heart to betray him to death at the hands of the Philistines, and yet he stayed because his intense lust for her and because he was over confident in his own strength. Samson was flirting with disaster in order to be indulged by sin.
If Samson had any doubt before that Delilah’s loyalties were to the men who wanted him dead and not to him, though only an idiot could have doubted, he knew for certain that she wanted to betray him once she tied him up and called the Philistine men into the room, and yet he stayed. Samson was letting the wrong part of his anatomy decide his actions and his future.
Eventually Samson’s sin destroyed him, and make no mistake, it was Samson’s sin that was his downfall and not the loss of his hair. Had Samson not been willingly participating in a sinful activity he would not have been in the position where he lost his hair in the first place, but sin is like a drug and one fix is never enough and the more you have the more you want until it ultimately destroys you.
Out of fear that he may not be able to continue his sinful and shameful activities with Delilah, Samson eventually gave in and told Delilah how he could be defeated, and as soon as he did she wasted no time in betraying him to his ultimate death.
While Samson slept with his head on Delilah’s lap she cut his hair and bound him. When the men were called in to take Samson he was surprised that he could not defeat them as he previously had done. Even though he was not consciously aware that he was doing it, Samson willingly gave up the strength that God had given him in exchange for sinful and fleeting pleasure.
Samson was initially attracted to Delilah because she was so beautiful to look at, and the very first thing the men did to him when he was captured was to put his eyes out. At the end, Samson destroyed a multitude of the Philistines when he humbled himself before God and had his strength restored so he could bring the building down, but it also ended his own life as well. Samson’s life could have gone so differently had he listened to the council of the Almighty God and not allowed the enticements of sin to rule his destiny.
Sin is a good liar and tells us what we want to hear, and it tells us that it wants to remain what it is, but sin never wants to remain small. The famous evangelist Ravi Zacharias said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. –” This world is full of people who offer sad proof of that statement.
A lot of people, and society as a whole lately, try to portray pornography as “normal” and “healthy” but in actuality it is not only a sin in and of itself and puts those who perform in the films or photos shoots in dangerous situations, sometimes against their will, but it is also the doorway to more vile acts of depravity. In an interview shortly before his death the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy admitted that he got his start watching pornography, as has many other men who committed unspeakable atrocities. The following is from the article “Is There A Connection Between Serial Killers/Rapists And Pornography?” (1).
When asked about his past experiences with pornography, he stated, “I was essentially a normal person, I had good friends, I led a normal life except for this one small but very potent, very destructive segment of it that I kept very secret and very close to myself and I didn’t let anybody know about it.”
Then, in perhaps one of the most powerful personal accounts that has ever been given about the harms of pornography, Bundy states:
“I’ve lived in prison for a long time now and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me and without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography. Without question, without exception, deeply influenced and consumed by addiction to pornography.”
It may not be hard scientific evidence, but it’s definitely an eye-opening statement coming from one of the most notorious serial killers of all time
In the recent movie about Ted Bundy, Zac Efron was cast as Ted Bundy, and the reason they cast a wholesome looking all American guy like Efron instead of someone who is more typically viewed as “creepy” such as Steve Buscemi, Gary Busy or William Defoe is because that is the way everyone viewed Ted Bundy in real life up until the point when he was caught; a wholesome all American guy with a trustworthy face and demeanor. A lot of people falsely think you can see sin in people’s faces, and you may be able to in some, but many people hide their sin well.
A lot of people falsely think that Judas Iscariot just exuded evil and everyone who saw him knew to stay clear and not trust him, but that is not the case. The apostles unanimously voted Judas to be in charge of the money bags precisely because they viewed him as the most trustworthy and honest among them. If any of the apostles would have been suspected of not being faithful it would have been Peter, but no one suspected Judas.
I want to make this clear that no one other than Jesus saw the betrayal by Judas coming, not even Judas, and that is why when Jesus said at the last supper that one of them would betray him they each in turn said, “Lord, is it I?” instead of saying “Lord, we all know it is Judas.”
Judas started out as the most trustworthy among them and, because of small concessions that led to bigger sins, he got to the point where he committed the worst sin anyone has ever committed, which was betraying the Lord Jesus.
When the turning point really came for Judas was during a dinner visit at the house of Simon the leper when a woman poured the expensive perfume on the head of Jesus. Judas who had control of the money bag wanted to sell the expensive perfume so he could take some of the money for himself, but of course he argued that it was to help the poor, which a lot of people would think was a solid argument, but not Jesus.
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. -Mark 14:3-16
Jesus basically told Judas that if he wanted to help the poor to do so with his own money and that the woman would always be remembered for what she did, which is true because we are reading about her today. As far as the poor always being with us, that is also true, and have you noticed that in church whenever anyone suggests making an improvement on the building or anything else that costs money someone will always throw in the bit about helping the poor? But of course they never even think about helping the poor any other time, much less do anything about it. There will always be poor, but sometimes you have to make repairs and you have to keep the lights on. I am not saying we should not help the poor, but what I am saying is that more often than not those who say we should help the poor instead of whatever was suggested are doing the least for the poor and actually care the least about them.
When it says “Some who were present” were indignant it is referring mostly to Judas who didn’t care about the poor at all and only thought to help himself to the money bag. Some theologians think that the portion he thought he could have gotten away from the amount the perfume would have been sold for was thirty pieces of silver and that is why he asked for that sum when he betrayed Jesus.
Judas was not only indignant because he did not get the money, but also because Jesus corrected him and made him look like the fool he was in front of people, and it was at that moment that he decided to betray the God of the universe and the savior of mankind.
Some of you may be saying, “Hold on a minute Gene, you are just assuming what the motives were because that passage doesn’t say that Judas wanted to steal from the bag, and in fact it doesn’t, but the beauty of having four gospels written by different men is that some recorded small details that the others did not, and one such detail is in Luke 22:3 where it says that Satan entered Judas. Another example is in Matthew where the passage immediately following Jesus scolding Judas (Matthew 26:14) says, “Then” Judas went to betray Jesus, signifying that it was immediately after.
In his account of the experience, John sheds a little more light on the situation with the perfume and tell us explicitly that Judas wanted the money for himself and did not care for the poor.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”
It wasn’t a surprise to Jesus that he was betrayed by Judas and he gave him change his course and every chance in the world to repent, but Judas never took the out that Jesus was offering. Just a few days after the incident with the perfume Jesus washed the feet of all of the apostles, including Judas, which was something that a master would never do for a follower but rather something a slave would do for those over them, but Jesus humbled himself to serve those beneath him. I have to wonder how Judas felt to have Jesus wash his feet after he had agreed to betray him.
I may be out in left field on this one, but I don’t believe Judas thought Jesus would actually be killed because he got himself out of some pretty tight places time and time again and Judas possibly thought he would teach Jesus a lesson and have him come around to his way of thinking.
Not just because of the betrayal, but also because of the way he addressed Jesus in the garden we know that Judas was disillusioned and standoffish toward Jesus because where all the apostles had always addressed Jesus as Lord, in the garden Judas addressed Jesus as “Rabbi” which was a lot less personal and was no longer recognizing Jesus for who he truly was.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Even at the very end, Jesus gave Judas a chance to confess and be forgiven, but he never took the mercy and grace that Jesus was offering. When Judas gave the betraying kiss Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
In the end Judas felt such intense guilt and shame for what he had done that he tried to return the money he had been payed for the betrayal but it was refused so he threw it down on the floor and went out and hanged himself, and it tells us in Acts 1:18 that the rope broke and Judas fell down the cliff and the rocks cut him open and his guts spilled out. What a horrible and gruesome death for a man who had once showed so much promise and was given every opportunity to be saved from himself and from the devil.
Even if you think you have gone too far to be forgiven you have not so long as you are still alive. Jesus is giving you the chance to turn from your sins and follow him.
As with Judas and as with Samson, sin starts small like a seed but can grow massive if it is allowed to remain. It may not be easy to squash a baby monster, but it is a lot easier to kill a small monster contained in one room than a full grown one on a murderous rampage through the ship, and even easier to prevent the monster in the first place by following quarantine protocols. Just as companies have rules for a reason, all of God’s rules are for our safety and happiness and not because he doesn’t want us to have fun. A small tree may take effort to remove, but if it is allowed to grow to adulthood it can be nearly impossible to take out and can cause all sorts of damage.
The seeds of giant redwood trees are only one eighth of an inch in diameter, but they can grow to be almost 400 feet tall, and once they are established they are difficult to remove. Redwood trees doesn’t have pitch like most coniferous trees so they are almost impervious to fire, are resistant to insects and the roots grow to intertwine with the other trees which almost makes it impossible to remove one tree without taking out the entire grove. This lesson isn’t on home groups, but if you aren’t in a home group you should be in one because they work like a community of redwoods.
Whatever sin seeds, or even growing sin, you have in your life you need to get rid of at all costs before it destroys you. A lot of people falsely believe that because they created the sin they can control it, but as Frankenstein learned, just because you created something doesn’t mean you can control it, and sometimes your creation becomes so powerful it controls you.
In the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster and then instead of dealing with the problems he created he ignores it and hopes it will go away and mostly moves on with life and forgets about it, but the monster did not forget. No, the monster learned two different languages, and became cunning and calculating and set out to destroy his maker, and in the end succeeded in doing so. Just as Frankenstein’s monster was not to be underestimated, sin should not be underestimated either. The creature killed Frankenstein’s nephew and framed the nanny who was tried, convicted hanged for it, he killed Frankenstein’s best friend and nearly framed Frankenstein for it, and in the end he even killed Frankenstein’s wife and led him to his untimely death in a frozen wasteland.
My favorite scene in the book is where the creature approaches Frankenstein and demands he make him a companion, and when he is refused he says, “You are my maker but I am your master. Obey.” We often, if not always, make our own monsters and think that because we created them we can control them, but they will wind up controlling us if we don’t get rid of them, though a better solution would be to not create them in the first place.
It doesn’t matter what it is, we should not allow any compromises to our standards or to the commitment we have to God and to our obligations to others because sin will not remain small and demands to grow and wants to be hidden so it can do so. Get rid of the sin seeds in your life and don’t plant new ones. God will help you to rid your life of the seeds of sin, but remember, God mostly answers our prayers in the form of another person and it is often helpful to have a brother or sister in Christ to help us through our struggles.