The Grisham book I’m reading combined with these devotional thoughts concerning Judas make an interesting combination. How easy to condemn the traitor Judas. How easy to condemn the characters in the book — even though they are fictional, they do represent those who make the evening news.
Yet in both I can see the power of small sins, sins that many dismiss as not important. However, they grow from secret to suspect to glaringly public. Sin is never content to stay a trifling indulgence. Once given a place in the human heart, it is like a weed that drives its roots deep. The visible parts may seem small, but try pulling that sucker out of the ground!
Judas had an indulgence. He liked money. In the beginning, it never occurred to him that his love of money would lead him where it did, but the Lord knew.
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70–71)
Judas may have begun with a secret delight in putting his hands in the money bag and feeling the coins. Soon he thought that if a few feel that good, more would feel better. Of course, he didn’t care for giving any of it to needy people, or even sharing it with others. No one kept count. Why not repay himself for his service to the other? His pilfering became fraud and finally his desire for more led him to sell out the Son of God.
Would things be different if he’d been held accountable? No one knew what was received and what was spent. Each trusted and each was trusted. What if a balancing of ledgers or auditing of accounts had been required? Would that have changed anything? I doubt it. The Bible says that Judas was avaricious, miserly, fraudulent, a “thief” and if being a traitor was not in his mind at first, his sin would have come out anyway.
Because of his greed, when the opportunity came, he gave in. Money had become more important than Jesus, at least until he realized what he had done. He threw away the coins, but because his love for them had spoiled his love for Jesus, he could not ask for forgiveness. Instead, he hung himself.
I don’t know yet the rest of the story in the Grisham book, but I know my own story and I know the power of one seemingly hidden sin. It can, like today’s devotional says, “twine itself around the fibers of the heart and choke and kill with its poisonous embrace whatever was pure and noble and good.” The goal is to replace any love for God with love for self, and if it can do that, then when the lights come on, the sinner is left hopeless and without recourse… or so it seems.
History, like that of King David and his affair with Bathsheba, warns that even the greatest spiritual privileges and places of power can be neutralized by the indulgence of one illicit passion. A life lived in unclouded sunshine can end in the darkness of guilt and despair, all because a single sin sprang up and drove down roots in secret. By the time it began to surface in actions instead of thoughts, the sinner was already ruined.
All this is to say that there are no small sins. Even thinking in a selfish and indulgent way can grow into ravenous and destructive choices.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)