A little yeast works its way through the whole lump. [Galatians 5:9 (NTE)]

CAMPFIREWhile baking banana bread, I decided to add in the last of the walnuts I found in the refrigerator. After pouring the dough into the prepared pans, I spotted a few walnut pieces that hadn’t made the mixing bowl and popped them in my mouth. One taste told me they were rancid! Not only are rancid nuts horrid tasting but, if enough are consumed, they can make you sick! Just as there’s no way to get a little bit of yeast out of a lump of dough, there was no way to get every last bit of nut nastiness out of the bread. A mere cup of nuts managed to turn more than eight cups of what should have been sweet and delicious into something bitter and sour. As I emptied the pans into the garbage, I recalled a sermon illustration about a thirteen-year-old girl.

The young teen tried to convince her mother that she should be allowed to see a certain R-rated movie. Explaining that there was only a little inappropriate material (such as casual sex, violence, bad language, nudity, and drugs) in the movie, she promised she’d take none of it to heart. Although the teen begged to be allowed to view it with her friends, her mother denied the request. Saying she couldn’t understand, the girl left in a snit to sulk in her room. Meanwhile, her mother set to work baking cookies in the kitchen. A wonderful aroma filled the house and, when the cookies were baked, the mother asked her daughter if she’d like to taste a special new recipe. Although they looked like regular chocolate chip cookies, her mother said something extra had been added. As the girl greedily reached for the tasty looking cookies, she asked about the new ingredient. Her mother explained that she added a small scoop of leavings from the cat’s litter box and mixed it into the batter. Since it was just a small scoop, it would hardly be noticeable and she was certain her daughter could ignore it while enjoying the rest of the cookie. It was then that the girl understood why her mother had prohibited the movie! Like the little bit of R in the movie, the incest in the Corinthian church, the false doctrine in Galatia, the rancid walnuts in my batter, and the cat poop in the cookies, even a little bit of sin is more than any of us should consume!

As adults, we consider ourselves wiser and more discerning than teenagers and, as Christ’s followers, we like to think we’re able to withstand the negative influences of today’s world. Let’s not fool ourselves. Temptation is all around us. While it may look as harmless as did that R-rated movie to the teen, we can’t step in the muck without getting a little dirty. When David, a “man after God’s heart,” snuck a quick look at the naked Bathsheba, he never intended it to grow into adultery and murder, but it did. Like David’s voyeurism, even a little bit of nastiness, corruption, vanity, revenge, arrogance, prejudice, spite, smut, hatred, deceit, or immorality has a tendency to produce something far worse.

Think of Solomon—supposedly the wisest man who ever lived. When he ignored the law by marrying Egyptian, Moabite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, the king probably thought himself impervious their pagan beliefs. After all, with 1,000 women in his harem, what was the harm of a handful who worshipped idols? Solomon, however, wasn’t as wise as he thought! In his old age, those women “turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the LORD his God.” [1 Kings 11:4] The one who so wisely warned others to avoid the path of sin foolishly walked right onto it!

Sin is deceptive and, sometimes it looks as harmless and enticing as fresh-baked banana bread or chocolate chip cookies. But, like a little scoop of cat poop or some rancid nuts in a bowl of batter, no matter how small, every little bit of bad we allow to enter our lives affects us. Solomon warned that, when we play with fire, we should expect to get burned. Sadly, he didn’t heed his own words. Let’s not make the same mistake!

The temptation once yielded to gains power. The crack in the embankment which lets a drop or two ooze through is soon a hole which lets out a flood. [Alexander MacLaren]

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? [Proverbs 6:27-28 (NLT)]

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