the little things

©2019 michael martin |

1. introduction

Sin is a tricky thing.

In our human understanding, it is easy for us to believe that we’re doing okay as long as we avoid the big sins. If we don’t murder anyone, don’t commit sexual sin, and don’t steal anything, we might believe we’re doing okay in God’s sight.

We might make the mistake of believing that the earthly consequences for our sin determine the severity of our sin. But the truth is, all sin is deadly, whether it seems big or small. And so, if we settle for simply avoiding the “big sins,” we’re making a grave error.

Because it’s the little things that kill us.

In this study, we will examine this issue from Scripture and consider the examples of a number of Biblical figures, along with a number of God’s commands and directives.

a. conception

To begin, let’s consider the words of James when he wrote about the beginnings of sin:

james 1:13-15

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James warns us that death comes through sin when our evil desires are conceived. Think about this for a moment. What is conception? In human terms, it is a microscopic joining of cells. It is a very small event which results in a very significant life.

We can apply this principle, albeit in negative terms, to our sin. Just as a new human life is created upon conception, sin also becomes alive at the moment it is conceived. Even though that sin may seem insignificant at the moment, it will grow larger and larger, eventually giving birth to death.

And while we would never want to end the life of a human being at conception, we must put to death any sin that is conceived in our hearts, even when it seems small and insignificant. If we don’t, that sin will grow and become increasingly destructive.

After all, even the biggest and most destructive sins all had their beginnings as small, seemingly harmless conceptions.

And if we allow those tiny, conceived sins to remain, they will most certainly grow and do harm.

Let’s take a look at some examples from Biblical characters who faced great consequences for seemingly small infractions.


2. examples from Scripture

a. adam takes a bite

The very first sin committed by mankind on earth; the sin that plummeted mankind into darkness was...

Biting into a piece of fruit.

That’s a small thing, right? How could such a minor act become such a big problem? Let’s take a look at how this infamous sin unfolded.

genesis 3:1

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

First, the serpent lead off by misquoting what God had said. Of course, God had not said that Adam and Eve should not eat from any tree, but Satan was opening the door, just a crack, so that his trap could be set. Let’s continue...

genesis 3:2-3

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

Next, Eve responded by misquoting God’s Word herself. God had not said, at least in recorded Scripture, that touching the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would bring death. However, it seems likely that Satan was leading Eve to question the logic and rationale for God’s command. With those small doubts planted, Satan then revealed his play...

genesis 3:4-5

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And there is was... Satan directly contradicted God, and then painted God as withholding something from Eve that would be beneficial.

But as slick as Satan was, this conversation had already gone on for too long. By now, Eve, and also Adam, who was with her, must have realized that this serpent was not a friend of the God who had created both of them. But by now, they were intrigued and curious.

And while the fruit had not yet been eaten, the course was already set, as Eve entertained the thought of eating the fruit...

genesis 3:6

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Finally, the seedlings of sin that had been allowed to exist in Eve’s heart grew into a sinful action, as Eve took a bite of the fruit. Adam, who was with Eve, was guilty of all the same things plus one; he stood back and let his wife take the risk, perhaps wanting to see how things turned out for his wife before he acted himself.

the cover-up

As with most sins, this sin would immediately lead to others. Now aware of their nakendness, Adam and Eve felt shame and attempted to cover their shame instead of crying out to their Creator to admit their guilt.

genesis 3:7

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

the little sin multiplies

Next, when the time of reckoning came, Adam and Eve multiplied their sin even further by playing the blame game...

genesis 3:8-13

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Both Adam and Eve had sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, and God knew it. But now, instead of taking responsibility for their sin, they shifted the blame. Adam blamed Eve, and also blamed God. After all, it was God who had put the woman there, so this whole thing must be God’s fault, right?

Showing great patience, God then spoke with Eve, who shifted the blame to the serpent.

But nobody forced Adam and Eve to sin; not by eating the fruit, and not by covering it up and shifting blame. These had all been free choices.

the consequence

Now, what had begun as a tiny thought of curiosity and doubt in God had grown into a mess of multiple sins with deadly consequences...

genesis 3:16-19

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

All of this from eating a piece of fruit. No murder had been committed. No sexual sin. No “big deal” transgressions.

Yet now, death had come to Adam and Eve and all their offspring, along with untold pain and suffering.

All from a sin which we might consider to be very small.


b. moses strikes a rock

Moses is one of the most famous men in the Bible, and he faithfully led Israel for many, many years. Yet, Moses did not enter the Promised Land because he sinned in a seemingly insignificant way near the end of his life. Let’s take a look at this story.

numbers 20: 1-5

In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! 4 Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

These first few verses give us the context of Moses’ state of mind. His sister had just died, and the Israelite community was grumbling and making life even more difficult for Moses.

One might understand if Moses was upset or frustrated. Yet, if he was, the seedlings of sin were already present for Moses’ downfall. Let’s continue...

numbers 20:6-8

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

Moses cried out to God, as was appropriate, and God gave Moses a clear directive to speak to the rock so that God would bring forth water.

But when the time came, Moses deviated just slightly from God’s command...

numbers 20:9-11

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck the rock with his staff, perhaps in anger or frustration (which is a form of anger). Worse than that, Moses spoke as if he himself was bringing forth the water.

Moses, whom Scripture identifes as a humble man, had taken for himself the glory that could only belong to God. And so, with even a brief flash of pride and frustration, Moses comitted a small sin with great consequences.

the consequence

numbers 20:12

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

After all that Moses had done for so may years, Moses forfeited his earthly reward of entering the Promised Land. All because of a hint of pride, a dash of frustration, and a slight deviation from God’s command.

c. achan takes some stuff

During the battle of Jericho, God commanded the Israelites not to take the devoted things from the city. These were items of clothing or of value that had been devoted to Jericho’s detestable false gods. Let’s take a look at this story.

joshua 7:1

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

We see here that Achan had taken for himself some of the devoted items from Jericho. This might have seemed like a very small thing. After all, the inhabitants of Jericho would be dead, and there would be no one to use these items. It may have seemed like a waste to leave such plunder behind.

But once again, a small sin would grow into something more...

joshua 7:2-5

Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.

3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

After Jericho, taking the city of Ai should have been easy. But Israel was routed in the battle and lost 36 men.

the sin multiplies

As the following passage will show, Achan’s one sin multiplied into several sins:

joshua 7:6-12

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

Joshua was distraught and confused, but God was unsympathetic. Israel lost this battle because they had sinned, and God made it clear that Israel had better rid themselves of this sin right away.

And so, as the story goes, after a process of elimination, Achan was caught for his sin.

joshua 7:20-24

Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.

24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.

To his credit, Achan admitted to his sin once it was clear that he had been caught. But the consequences had already been established. Achan and his whole family were stoned to death.

the consequence

joshua 7:25-26

Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”

Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

What had begun as perhaps a moment of coveteousness and lust of the eyes had grown into theft, resulting in the deaths of 36 men, all of Achan’s family and livestock, and a blow to the confidence of Israel’s army.


d. saul makes a sacrifice

When tasked with destroying the Amalekites, the longtime enemies of Israel, Saul deviated slightly from God’s command given through Samuel...

I samuel 15:1-3

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

The command called for the complete destruction of the Amalekites and their possessions. Saul’s execution of this order, however, was a bit different...

I samuel 15:7-9

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Saul spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, along with some of the best sheep and cattle. This action might have seemed like a small thing, but God knew that it was symptomatic of a larger heart issue...

I samuel 15:10-12

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

God knew that Saul had not carried out his command, and now there would be consequences...

I samuel 15:13-15

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

Saul began by claiming that he had carried out God’s commands. This was a foolish lie, since God cannot be deceived, and since there was ample evidence of Saul’s disobendience in the form of noisy cattle. Samuel was not impressed by Saul’s smooth-sounding spiritual talk.

I samuel 15:16-19

16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

Samuel rightly reminded Saul that God had elevated him to his regal position and then called him into account. But instead of owning up to the sin he was clearly guilty of, Saul continued to argue...

I samuel 15:20-21

“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Here, Saul is actually arguing with a prophet of God, as though Saul’s claims to have obeyed would somehow convince Samuel and the Lord that he had not sinned. Samuel wasn’t buying it.


I samuel 15:22-23

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,

and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

he has rejected you as king.”

Samuel made it clear to Saul that he had been caught, and that there would be great consequences for his sin.

false repentance

But Saul wasn’t prepared to accept his consequences yet...

I samuel 15:24-25

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

Saul offered a quick statement of apology, accompanied by excuses that attempted to justify his sin, accompanied by a request for immediate restoration. But Samuel could see that Saul’s repentance was only lip service, as became even more evident in the next moments...

I samuel 15:26-31

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

After Samuel had told Saul what the consequences for his disobedience would be, Saul had the audacity to ask Samuel to honor him before his people. It was clear to Samuel that Saul was still only paying lip service to him.

Next, Samuel carried out the actions that God had instructed Saul to do. God’s purpose was fulfilled even without Saul’s obedience, but now Saul had lost his place.

the consequence

I samuel 15:32-35

Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”

Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

33 But Samuel said,

“As your sword has made women childless,

so will your mother be childless among women.”

And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

After destroying Agag, Samuel would not go to see Saul again. Saul had lost his kingdom, his standing with God, and his relationship with Samuel, all because Saul harbored pride in his heart.


e. uzziah lights a fire

King Uzziah was one of Judah’s few good kings. But after a lifetime of faithfully serving God, the seeds of pride led to his downfall...

II chronicles 26:16-21

But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.

It had been a long-established law that only Levite priests were authorized to burn insence before the Lord. But with a successful reign on his resume, Uzziah became prideful and presumed to burn incense in place of the priests.

II chronicles 26:17-21

17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”

Imagine these priests confronting their king; a king who had been blessed by God, but who was now going off the rails as a result of pride! Uzziah should have listened to these rebukes, which could have saved him. Instead, he became angry.

the consequence

II chronicles 26:19-21

19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him.

21 King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.

Upon refusing to repent of his sin, Uzziah was stricken with leprosy. As a result, Uzziah spent the rest of his life isolated from other people, having lost the power to rule his kingdom, and having been banned from God’s temple.

f. neb gets cocky

As with Uzziah, King Nebudchanezzar struggled with pride. He was warned of it through dreams and through Daniel’s God-given interpretations of the dreams...

daniel 4:24-27

“This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

Daniel warned Nebudchanezzar ro repent of his pride and sinfulness, but alas, he did not repent until the dream was fulfilled.

the consequence

daniel 4:28-33

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

Because of his pride, King Nebudchanezzer was reduced from the king of the world to a mindless animal. And so he remained for seven years. All because of his pride.

the repentance

Unlike King Uzziah, however, King Nebudchanezzar of Babylon repented of his sin, albeit after suffering for seven years, and was restored.

daniel 4:34-37

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;

his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

35 All the peoples of the earth

are regarded as nothing.

He does as he pleases

with the powers of heaven

and the peoples of the earth.

No one can hold back his hand

or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

g. what we’ve seen

We’ve seen several examples of Biblical figures suffering and bringing about dire consequences for seemingly trivial sins. But the lesson is that no sin is trivial.

In each of these examples, we’ve seen the human tendencies to cover up our sin, to argue, to try to defend ourselves, and to shift blame and make excuses. These tactics have never been successful. However, restoration can be attained to some measure by owning up to our sin and repenting of it. This is when we see God eagerly showing mercy to the sinner.


3. practical examples

Human history is filled with examples of catastrophic disasters resulting from tiny oversights, malfunctions and failures.

The American space program, led by NASA, features many tragic examples of this.

Many of the biggest disasters in the space program were the result of very small malfunctions or miscalculations.

a. apollo 1

In 1967, the Apollo I capsule fire occurred because of faulty wiring and pure oxygen in the capsule. These problems could have been prevented for only a few dollars, but instead, three men were killed.

b. apollo 13

The Apollo 13 explosion in 1970 was a failure of an inexpensive part inside the oxygen tanks. It was a small, insignificant part that nearly killed three men.

c. challenger disaster

The space shuttle Challenger exploded in January of 1986 because of a failed o-ring in a booster rocket. This seemingly insignificant part resulted in the destruction of a 9 billion dollar spacecraft and seven astronauts.

d. columbia disaster

Similarly in 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disentigrated upon reentry because a piece of foam fell off a fuel tank and damaged the shuttle’s heat shield during launch. A piece of seemingly hamless foam insulation caused the death of seven more astronauts.

e. mars climate orbiter

Another famous failure occurred in 1999 when NASA’s 125 million-dollar spacecraft was destroyed in Mars’ atmosphere after approaching too closely to the planet.

The problem occurred well before the spacecraft was ever launched, when the engineers who built the spacecraft used Imperial measurements instead of Metric.

f. the point?

Okay, I’m a nerd. Granted. The point is that all of these disasters were caused not by the kinds of large problems one might be concerned about, but by small, seemingly insignificant flaws that are easily and comfortably overlooked. There are many more examples in human history of minor oversights leading to disaster.

In our walk with God, there are many ways in which we can fail. And while we should always examine ourselves for the big problems that can damage us, we must never presume to overlook or live with the seemingly small faults. Doing so can prove disastrous.


4. questions to ponder

With all of these examples in mind, let’s now turn our attention to our own “little things;” the small sins that we might accept in our lives, but which have the potential to become disastrous.

a. denial of sin

I john 1:8

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

It may seem like a reflex to defend ourselves in the face of confrontation of sin, but in God’s Kingdom, we should welcome such confrontations as opportunitiues to grow. On the other hand, if we dismiss such confrontations, we are at risk!


Q. When confronted with a sin, either by the Holy Spirit or by brothers or sisters in Christ, do I dismiss it without careful, prayerful consideration?

b. careless words

matthew 12:36

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

exodus 20:7

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

It may be culturally acceptable to gossip, to use careless words, and to take the Lord’s Name in vain, but these values are not God’s values!


Q. Am I careless with my words?

Q. Do I gossip?

Q. Am I careless with God’s Name?

c. honoring parents

exodus 20:12

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Honoring our parents means several things. As children, it includes obeying our parents. As adults, it means respecting and acting in the best interests of our parents based upon truth and love.

God takes this command very seriously, even going so far as to tie this command to the promise of long life in the Promised Land.

This doesn’t mean that we will always agree with our parents, or always be required to obey them, but to be sure, we should always honor our parents and act in their best interests.


Q. Do I respect my parents?

Q. Do I act in my parent’s best interests?

d. rebellion

romans 13:1-5

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Again, while our culture might like to portray authority figures as being stupid or incompetent, and regardless of whether this is true, we are commanded to submit to them.


Q. Do I respect authority figures, understanding that God has appointed them?

Q. Do I speak ill of God’s established authority figures?

Q. Do I rebel against the authorities that God has established?

e. pride

proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Pride is highly valued in our human culture, but in Biblical practice, none of us are justified in being proud. We can be pleased with a job well done, or grateful that God has chosen to work through us, or “proud” of children inasmuch as we are thankful that they have made good choices. But actual pride equates to taking credit for what God has done, and this is sin.


Q. Am I proud of my talents and skills?

Q. Am I proud of my lineage?

Q. Am I proud of my education?

Q. Am I proud of my reputation?

Q. Are any of the above things possible for us apart from God’s doing?

f. harboring anger

matthew 5:21-22

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Jesus equated these kinds of angry thoughts directed at other people as murder. Clearly, it is dangerous to harbor such thoughts in our hearts.


Q. Do I harbor such angry or hateful thoughts toward others?

g. lust

matthew 5:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I john 2:16-17

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Lust is definitely prominent in our human culture, and so it may seem like just a small, commonplace thing. But God identifies lust as adultery, and therefore not an acceptable sin to harbor.


Q. Do I allow lust to go unchecked in my heart?

Q. Do I lust for other things as well?

h. coveting

exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Most of advertising is based upon coveting things we don’t have. But while the world accepts this, we cannot harbor it in our hearts.


Q. Do I set my heart on things that are not mine?

i. lying

proverbs 12:22

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

Our culture might look down on blatant lies, but so-called “little white lies” are often accepted. While we may not always need to disclose everything to everyone (based upon our relationships, etc) it is clear that we must not harbor the habit of lying.


Q. Do I lie to others?

Q. Do I lie to God?

Q. Do I lie to myself?

Q. Are there any lies that I need to come forward and be truthful about?


5. conclusion

There are many sins that we might commit. Some seem like large, destructive sins and others seem small and insignificant. But as we’ve seen, these notions of “big sins” and “small sins” come more from our human culture than from God’s Word.

While the earthly consequences for our sins will vary, all sins are deadly, and we cannot accept or harbor a sin simply because it seems small. We must never forget who our God is:

deuteronomy 4:24

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Yet, this same God is eager for us to repent and turn away from our sin so that forgiveness and restoration may result.

I john 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

What a gracious and merciful God we serve! He judges rightly, shows patience, and grants mercy as He nudges us toward repentance and forgiveness.

a. what does God require?

God knows we can’t be perfect, but as long as we are willing to admit our faults, repent, and make every effort to turn away from our sin to pursue God, His requirements for us are actually quite simple:

micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

matthew 22:37

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let us do as God commands, being humble and honest about our failures, so that we may continuously grow in our lives with God!