The Subtlety of Sin


“…And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7 (NRS)

They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out to escape the danger. But, if you put a frog in the same pot filled with water that is cool and pleasant then gradually heat the kettle until it boils, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.  Sin is like this illustration; unrecognized and underrated it will grow in strength until it’s too late. This week’s Lenten study will examine the subtlety of sin.

One definition of subtle is “to operate deceptively.”  Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, wrote a book titled Whatever Became of Sin? In it he discusses from a psychiatrist’s point of view the tendency in our society to ignore sin, calling it by many euphemisms rather than recognizing sin for what it is.  By using this technique, sin becomes “socially acceptable.”   Therein is the subtlety of sin.

Sin is a riddle, a mystery, a realty that eludes definition and comprehension.  Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law.  Sin, also includes a failure to do what is right.

From Judges to Kings, we see that Israel failed to do what was right and forsook the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt and established a covenant with them.  They first followed and worshiped the gods of the nations around them (Judg. 2:10-13). The water was cool and pleasant.  Sometimes they conceded to religious idolatry and paganism in exchange for political favors, agreements, and alliance.  The water was comfortably tepid.   Solomon attempted to serve both God and the Baals at the same time. He built high places for his “strange wives” (whom God told him not to marry).  Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant” (1 King 11:11).   Solomon failed to do the right thing.  The water was boiling and the frog was dead.

Like the frog caught in slow boiling water, mankind is currently exposed to sin deceitfully hidden in language and life style choices that will result in both alienation from God and spiritual death.  Like the kings of the Old Testament, believers are being tempted to accept sin under the banner of the “new normal” when in reality, it is nothing more than the same “old sin.”  Let us strive to combat the subtlety of sin by doing what God has told us is right!

 Good to the Last Byte…

The story of the frog in the boiling water is a warning against acceptance of social trends and values that are outside the will and plan of God.  Sin left unchallenged and unopposed will ultimately lead to death.   Let us “not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).