Beware of Little Sins

Beware of Little Sins

“It is easier to keep the enemy out than it is to expel him after he has gained entrance.” – Author Unknown

Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon entitled  Little Sins on April 17, 1859.   It’s a warning about the danger of little sins in our lives. How we have a tendency to let them slide past us since they are so small and slight that they seem harmless. Such a little thing! Why make such a big fuss over such a little lie, a little taste, a little look. It is harmless…

Spurgeon reminds us that “the  best of men have always been afraid of little sins. The holy martyrs of God have been ready to endure the most terrible torments rather than step so much as one inch aside form the road of truth and righteousness.” Were they being extreme or wise? How seriously should we take the matter of little sins in our lives?

I think most of us know that we should take the matter very seriously but it is one of those truths you know but it rolls off quickly and doesn’t penetrate your heart as deeply as it did the first time you heard it. You have grown use to it and so it has little effect. That is why I listened to this sermon four times now already. I know my own heart. I know how dull and hard it can get in areas. It is difficult to stay sensitive to sin in a world that is so insensitive to sin. It takes constant watchfulness, steadfastness, and restraint. It’s a lot of effort and for what gain? Do I really need to watch my tongue so much in what I say? Do I really need to be on guard against sensuality in the way I dress? Should I really avoid watching tv shows that dishonor God and his ways? How seriously should we take sin, aren’t we already saved? Are we not under grace? Do we not have room to breath in our walk? Why should we stress ourselves out over something so little in our lives that we are sure does not really matter and is not really noticeable?

Spurgeon pleads with us to reconsider and shows us how dangerous our little sins are.  He emphasizes three reasons that we should take into consideration. Little things always lead to and make way for greater things.  A small, solitary spark leads to a large uncontrollable fire. “A single thought shot across the mind by Satan carries a dangerous desire, that desire a look; that look a touch; that touch a deed; that deed a habit; and that habit something worse, until the man, from little beginnings, shall be swamped and drowned in iniquity.”

Little sins, Spurgeon points out, act as burglars do when they take a small child with them to crawl through a window which they themselves would not be able to fit in being so large. The small child opens the front door for them to enter in. So a full grown sin we may block and not allow to enter into our heart but a small sin is simply a back door entry for the larger to enter in.  Small sins are traitors that appear friendly and enter the camp only to open the gates of the city so the whole army can enter. “Dread sin; though it be ever so small, dread it. You cannot see all that is in it. It is the mother of ten thousand mischiefs. The mother of mischief, they say, is as small as a midge’s egg; and certainly, the smallest sin has ten thousand mischiefs sleeping within its bowels.” I began to think of a damn with a small leak tricking out that slowly and almost unnoticeably begins to widen and grow wider and wider over time as it breaks the edges down and soon the entire damn gives way. Or consider one small tear in a fabric such as nylon and how quickly it widens if not stopped until the whole fabric is ruined.  One small sin is a tear in our hearts that soon give way to larger breaches.

The second danger of small sins Spurgeon emphasizes is they multiply quicker. “The smaller the guilt, the more frequent it becomes.” When multiplied small sins create very great mischief. Consider the small locusts that can devour entire cities when multiplied he says.  Or consider one louse and how quickly these insects spread and breed if not entirely eliminated once one is found on your child’s head.  Spurgeon’s illustration reminded me of last years Ebola scare with just one person entering our nation who was infected with the Ebola virus, our entire nation became at risk of the plague.

In a final warning about the grave danger of small sins Spurgeon points out that in a sin against God, it is the principle of the thing and not the thing itself that God looks at.  Spurgeon explains:

In a sin against God, it is not so much the thing itself as the principle of the thing at which God looks; and the principle of obedience is as much broken, as much dishonoured by a little sin as by a great sin. O man! the Creator hath made thee to obey him. Thou breakest his law; thou sayst it is but a little breach. Still it is a breach. The law is broken. Thou art disobedient. His wrath abideth on thee. The principle of obedience is compromised in thy smallest transgression, and, therefore, is it great. Besides, I don’t know whether the things Christian men call little sins are not, after all, greater than what they call great sins, in some respects. If you have a friend, and he does you a displeasure for the sake of ten thousand pounds, you say, “Well, he had a very great temptation. It is true he has committed a great fault, but still he has wronged me to some purpose.” But suppose your friend should vex and grieve your mind for the sake of a farthing; what would you think of that? “This is wanton,” you would say. “This man has done it out of sheer malevolence toward me.” Now, if Adam had been denied by his Maker the whole of Paradise, and had been put into a stony desert, I do not think that, had he taken all Paradise to himself, there would have been more sin in that act, than when placed in the midst of the garden, he simply stole one fruit from the forbidden tree. The transgression involved a great principle, because he did it wantonly. He had so little to gain, he had so much to lose when he dishonored God. It has been said, that to sin without temptation is to sin like the devil, for the devil was not tempted when he sinned; and to sin with but little temptation is to sin like the devil. When there is great temptation offered, I do not say there is any excuse, but when there is none, where the deed is but little, bringing but little pleasure, and involving but a small consequence, there is a wantonness about the sin which makes it greater in moral obliquity, than many other iniquities that men commit.

I think it was this third point that finally stabbed my heart the most.  How short do I often sell out on my Savior? It is without understanding that I wrong him for no purpose, no gain, with little to no temptation to lure me at times. Like Judas I sell him for thirty pieces of silver if not less, but unlike Judas my conscious does not always condemn me for my betrayal. It is but a small sin it would say to such a large sin. It was by a “small sin” that sin itself entered the world through a bite of an apple. I have come to the conclusion as a result of listening to his sermon that there are no small sin, but the smallest of sins might be the greatest of sins and will be the most to be mourned over on that Great Day.

Spurgeon had much else to say and I would encourage you to listen to or read his sermon Little Sins in full.  I know that I plan on listening to it again myself so that his warning will be ground in deeper. I have definitely reconsidered the dangers of allowing small sins into my own life. January is a time of self examination and for me it is a time of heart examination too. I’m thankful for running across this sermon and its strong warning to beware of the smallest of sins.

 Search me, God, and know my heart
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psa. 139:23-24