Monday, August 26, 2019

When Little Gets Big, the Cuteness Wears Off

Have you noticed that just about everything in miniature is “cute”? I love those model train displays where crafty people have created little villages and towns around which the tiny trains travel, often passing through miniature mountains and hillsides. Cute. When I was a boy, I enjoyed playing with my little green soldiers (ala “Toy Story”) and my Fort Apache cowboy and Indian set. Looking back, I’d call them “cute.”

Whenever my wife leads me into a children’s clothing section of a store, she’ll pick up one of their tiny dresses or shirts or swimsuits and say, “Isn’t this cute?” Of course it’s cute. It’s little. 

Baby tigers and elephants are cute, as are baby wolves and grizzly bears, I suppose. Even though I’ve never seen baby piranhas, I suspect they’re cute, too. But I’d hate to be cooling off in the Amazon River and see those once-baby piranhas, now fully grown, swimming toward me. Their cute factor would be long forgotten when they decided to have me for lunch.

A radio commentator reminded me of this when she told the true story of a family that adopted a foot-long python as a pet. For a time the slithery reptile was a fun novelty, but then it grew into an adult more than 10 feet long. A teenaged member of the family was playing with the snake one day, which apparently was giving him what seemed like a friendly hug. Too late, he realized the serpent had coiled tightly around his body; the “hug” turned into a death grip that caused his suffocation.

This isn’t to indict people who choose to have exotic pets like snakes, even pythons. But these animals simply behave as natural instinct tells them. When tiny, they’re manageable; fully grown, they’re not. This gives us a metaphor for sin. When we first encounter sin in any of its countless forms, it might seem like fun. “What’s the harm?” 

We dabble with this or that little taboo. As a message on a church marquee I saw years ago read, “If sin wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t want to do it.” So we give it a try. Like everything else in life, however, sin doesn’t remain little and cute. It grows and ultimately shows what it really is, in all of its evil, destructive form.

James 1:15 describes this accurately, stating, Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Kind of like the tiny, “harmless” python that grew into a powerful, life-stealing predator. The enticing little diversion has taken us down a devastating path we could never have imagined. “How did this happen?” we wonder, too late.

I’ve heard of well-respected Christian leaders who were discovered in adulterous affairs that started with just some friendly teasing, a pat on the shoulder, a little hug. Or people who were sucked into online pornography, their sin starting with just a casual “look” or two that turned into a dominating habit and dehumanizing behavior.

“Well, maybe that happened to someone else – but it would never happen to me!” we might say defensively. This is why the apostle Paul wrote to believers in the ancient city of Corinth – and to us – this warning: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Another translation says, “take heed.” In other words, be vigilant. 

Often when sin is exposed, the offenders go on the defensive, claiming, “But I couldn’t help it!” It’s reminiscent of comedian Flip Wilson’s old line through the character, “Geraldine”: “The devil made me do it!” Not so, say the Scriptures. The verse following the one above asserts, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The good news: The temptations we face every day are not unique. They’re experienced by many people just like us. And God will provide a “way of escape” so the temptations don’t need to morph into sin. The bad news: We will be tempted. Our job is to be wary of potential traps that lurk around us, those little enticements that wink at us and invite, “Come on, just give me a try.” That cute little “try” can introduce us to a big, bad world of hurt. 

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