When I visit our daughter who lives near Seattle, Washington, I love walking in the mornings in nearby neighborhoods. During one walk, I noticed a street drain that had a little sign measuring about 3X5 inches near it that said, “The Puget Sound Starts Here” with an arrow pointed to the drain. Then I began to notice that every street drain had one of these little signs. I knew I was quite a distance from the Puget Sound, but obviously, every drain led into the Puget Sound–wherever it was!

I hoped to be able to find a photo of the sign on the internet to show you and found out that the little sign is a part of a larger movement in Washington to clean up the Puget Sound. On www.pugetsoundstartshere.org, an organization of local cities, has this:

“Our actions on land pollute the Sound with yard chemicals, oil, grease, soap, and bacteria from pet waste and septic systems that are in disrepair. No matter where we live – from Bellingham to Olympia, Bremerton to Snoqualmie Pass, Seattle to Shelton – our daily actions are contaminating stormwater runoff with pollution. This untreated stormwater flows over roads and yards and into storm drains and ditches. It empties directly into streams, rivers and lakes and winds its way into Puget Sound – where it stays.”

It won’t surprise you that I thought of a spiritual application (since I make a spiritual application of everything–remember Captain E-O at Disneyland? …But I digress). 

Here it is: what we do with “little” temptations make all the difference. They “flow” into our lives as purity or pollution. We wonder, “Why did I succumb to that?” It may be because our hearts had already been “polluted” in some way by the littlest drop of “waste.”

God’s Spirit focused on these ideas the other day as I read Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks who was a Puritan preacher and lived from 1608-1680. He writes,
“Those sins which we are apt to account small, have brought upon men the greatest wrath of God, as the eating of an apple, gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath day, and touching of the ark. Oh! the dreadful wrath that these sins brought down upon the heads and hearts of men! The least sin is contrary to the law of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the glory of God; and therefore it is often punished severely by God.”

As Brooks spoke of a “least sin,” he also clarified that what we call a “least” sin is only “least” because society has identified it that way. I agree with Brooks and I saw in his discussion a way that spiritual pollution begins: we believe the lie that there are “little” sins that God doesn’t think are important.

In my mind, I believe that in God’s sight there are no “little” sins or “big” sins. Every time we disobey it is grievous to God. It may seem “little” or “least” because it seems to have little or few consequences when we disobey. It may even seem to us that God gives a little smile like, “Oh, well, it’s no big deal, I guess. I’ll just ignore your choice.”

But in my heart, I believe the lie. I am tempted by something “little” and I think God will wink at my disobedience. 

But friends, I’m getting more and more in touch with God’s sorrow over even my “least” sin because my disobedience (whether “big” or “little”) says to God:  “God, You can’t be trusted and You don’t love rightly.”

Then Brooks continued and what he said really impacted me:

“It is sad to sin against God for a trifle. It is a most unkind and unfaithful thing to break with God, for a little. Little sins carry with them but little temptations to sin, and then a man shows most viciousness and unkindness, when he sins on a little temptation. It is devilish to sin without a temptation; it is little less than devilish to sin on a little occasion. The less the temptation is to sin–the greater is that sin.” (italics added)

Brooks gives an interesting perspective: if a temptation would be easily resisted, we call it “little.” But to give in to that “little” temptation in light of Jesus’s painful death on the cross (for all size of sins), is even more grievous than giving into a “big” sin because it’s saying to God, “I could so easily resist this with your power but I value this ‘little’ sin more than my relationship with you.” It shows how little the grievous death of Christ means to me. 

Let me put this in perspective. I feel strongly I won’t commit adultery. It is a “big” sin with lots of consequences. I think, “God, you are too important to me to do something like that!”

But then I stuff myself with sweets and the Spirit says, “You’ve had enough. Right now you are trying to get satisfaction from sugar rather than God.” 

At that moment, eating too many sweets seems like a “small” sin. The consequences aren’t that bad. I’m the only one who faces any consequences of bloating or gaining weight. 

But hear me again, friends: if I continue to eat that flourless chocolate mousse pie even though the Spirit within me urges me to stop, my sin is as grievous as committing adultery. 

Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? But both are in disobedience and opposition to God’s leading. Both thumb my nose at God’s love which wants only the best for me. And both are “unkind and unfaithful” to God as Brooks wrote. 

As I wrote that last sentence, I thought, “It’s actually easier to resist adultery than eating too much pie.” (I think I’ll wait till the next post to explore that).

This has been a challenging post to figure out. And convicting. As I read Brooks’ words and worked on this post over this last week, I decided to go without sugar for awhile to see what God might do in me through abstaining. 

What are your thoughts on all this? Does it make sense or is it confusing? Do you disagree? Does it only bring more guilt and prevent your freedom in Christ? What do you consider a “little” sin? I’d really like to know. Please post a comment.