Such a small, simple word, and yet it has the ability to strike fear in our hearts the instant we hear it. The dreaded news of it halts our lives in a moment, turns our world upside down. It often comes as a death sentence, taking family members, close friends, and loved ones. It is accompanied by pain, tears, sorrow, and often death.
Does this word have the same effect on us? When we hear it, think about it, and see it in our lives, do we flee from it as urgently as we do from terminal illnesses such as cancer? Cancer can take our physical lives, but that’s where its power reaches its limit. Sin’s devastating effects penetrate much deeper than the physical. It eats away at and destroys the soul. It pulls us away from the sole source of everlasting life and results in spiritual death. The Bible speaks of this in multiple passages:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).
Sin is described in the Bible very similarly to cancer. Cancer often begins as a relatively small mass, yet remaining unchecked it metastasizes throughout the entire body until it has completely taken over. Sin is much the same way. One sin in our lives leads to another, which results in many more. That is why sin is often described in Scripture as leaven – it may begin as one small, seemingly insignificant sin, but it will spread until it has permeated the whole of our lives.
“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:6-7).
What is our reaction when we see sin and the effects of sin in our lives? As soon as we receive news of cancer, our immediate response is to want to fight it with everything we have without delay. We allow harmful drugs to be injected into our bodies in an attempt to erase the cancerous mass. We even allow surgeons to cut into our flesh and remove entire vital organs in order to rid ourselves from the malignant cancer. We flee from cancer. We want nothing to do with it. As soon as it makes an appearance we battle it with everything we have until we have destroyed it and there is no trace of it left.
Is that how we react to sin in our lives? Do we hate it and flee from it with as much conviction as we ought? If we convince ourselves that we can hoard just one little sin in our lives, that is not possible – it will inevitably multiply and reap destructive fruits. All it takes is a little leaven – one “little” sin. Sin brings death – spiritual death. How much more precious is our spiritual life and communion with God even than earthly life itself!