Tag Archives: Ken Thomas

“Big” Sins vs. “Little” Sins — Ken Thomas

When preachers address sinfulness, it is easy for them to list the sins that are in the news. Abortion, deviant sexual practices, addictions, violence, mass murder, and political dishonesty are just a few symptoms of our growing sinfulness as a nation. Because of the social or political pressures to normalize sin, we assume that we will have no argument from the Christians in the crowd when we mention the proliferation of shameless acts and actors in the media coverage of fornicators, drunkards, molesters, and crooked businessmen. Yet it seems other sins condemned in Holy Writ which are equally soul-damning are barely mentioned.

Catholic tradition classifies sins as “mortal” and “venial” based on references to the “sin unto death.” Lies are classified as big fat lies and little white ones, harmful and harmless. Sins are minimized as character flaws, mistakes, and personality defects. Situational ethics diminishes sin, based on the situation.

In Proverbs 6, the hungry thief who steals seems less shameful than the man who commits adultery with a neighbor’s wife. Yet James 2 points out that, legally, the respecter of persons is equally an offender with the adulterer and the killer. So is there really a distinction of little sins and big ones? It seems that the same Bible that announces the wages of sin as being “death” has also defined some sins as worse than others. They are worse in regard to the harm done to others, but more importantly, the insult directed at the Almighty and Holy God.

First, consider the danger of the so-called little sins. Since they seem more harmless, they usually are repeated frequently. Gossip is just sharing the latest news or showing concern for someone else. Rude talk is just “shooting straight and telling it like it is.” Jokes with suggestive undertones are just good humor among mature friends, and after all, “A merry heart doeth good.” (sarcasm intentional) Taking a few inexpensive items home from work, or a “five-finger discount” from a store, is not really a crime because big businesses make excess profits. The reader can easily think of things that “other people” do!

When we take “little sins” for granted, we make it easier the next time. We sear our consciences, thereby losing our desire to live as lights in the world. We may diminish any good influence that we had in the past.

A “small sin” is like the young son who enters the narrow opening so he can open the locked door for his father, the burglar. The smaller the guilt, the more frequent is the sin. It is the little fox that spoils the vineyard. The little tongue is ignited by the fires of hell, and is unnamable, unruly, poisonous.

It has been rightly said that the holiest of men have the strongest fear of little sins. Job made a covenant with his eyes to avoid lust. Daniel feared God, to whom he prayed openly, more than the king who had banned his prayers. Paul disciplined his body to avoid being disqualified after preaching to others.

Those who do not respect God’s love of righteousness and his hatred of sin will minimize the danger of casual and careless sin. We are tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own lust, which conceives and brings forth sin (James 1:13-15). Little sins, unrecognized or ignored, grow into strong entanglements which enslave our souls for time and eternity. Yet if this is so, then what are the greater sins?

After extolling the glorious creation of God and the merits of God’s will for his life, David describes the great reward of keeping the precepts of God. More desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, the law of God was the source of His warnings and His great reward. Since we cannot discern our own errors, and need cleansing from our hidden faults, we need God’s help. David writes, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” (Ps. 19:13). What is the “great transgression”?

Until writing this article I never made a connection with David’s aversion to “the great transgression” and the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day. Moses had just announced the law about this sin: “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him” (Num. 15:30-31). Immediately we read an account of presumptuousness.

“And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him” (vs. 32-34). The man should have had no need for sticks, since cooking was prohibited. In fact, no burden bearing or rigorous physical labor was allowed on the Sabbath. The Lord said (to Moses), “The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.” (35) The man was executed by the people outside the camp according to God’s command.

It seems to me that the great transgression that stands out in scripture is not a specific act of a single sin or a group of sins. It is more an attitude than an action. While heinous crimes and disgusting lifestyles are to be avoided and condemned for what they are, it is the high-handed attitude against God and the lifestyle he desires mankind to follow that is most repulsive to God. From the choice of the first humans to favor Satan’s urgings over God’s prohibition…or even more so the choice of Satan to lead the opposition to God as the accuser of man…willful sin is the summit of man’s sinfulness.

The call for the crucifixion of Jesus by a vicious mob was an awful sin, but Jesus said they did not know what they were doing. His plea for the Father to forgive them was fulfilled on Pentecost after they realized what they had done. Presumptuous? Maybe on the part of some, but ignorance and mob frenzy was the rule that day.

The persecution, imprisonment, and murder of Christians at the hands of Saul of Tarsus was done by a man with a clean conscience, convicted that he was doing service to God. Heinous for sure. Presumptuous sin? Not at all. He who later defined himself as chief of sinners said he obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly, in unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

Why, then, was David so concerned about the great transgression? Why the plea to God to keep him from presumptuous sin? And what about the request to not let them have dominion over him? As the prophet Nathan told David, he was “the man.”

The man David was highly qualified for presumptuous sin, the great transgression. He was the king. He was used to being followed and obeyed. Hardly anyone would have been feared by him. Even as a young man, he heard the adulation of the people. The slayer of Goliath, the one who surpassed King Saul in valor and accomplishment before wearing the crown, the king for whom valiant soldiers would cross enemy lines and risk death to get a drink of water for him – this is David.

One day he gazed from his roof to view a bathing beauty. He had perhaps noticed the woman before, but on a certain tragic day he decided he had to have her, the wife of a military man away on the battlefield. The arrangement was made despite the fact that her marital status was known. The tryst was consummated, and an unwanted pregnancy occurred. Now would have been the time to put an end to the relationship and acknowledge the sin. But the sinfulness had only begun. Crafting a plan of deception, David called Uriah home to take a break from the battle and to visit Bathsheba.

Uriah, a loyal soldier, reported how the battle was going. He was sent to “wash his feet” at home, and a royal meal followed him. But he slept at the door of David’s house with David’s servants. The next day David asked why he had not gone home, and he replied that he could not do such a thing while his comrades were in the open field and the people were in tents.

The plot to cover up his paternity had failed, so David again tried to get Uriah to go to his house by getting him drunk. However, a drunk Uriah was still more ethical than David. David sent a note back to the military lines with orders to Joab to put Uriah into the front lines of heated battle, and then withdraw support for him. Uriah had carried his own note for execution. David later sent words to encourage Joab to press the battle. His basic message to Joab was “O.K. . . . so people die in battle!”

After Bathsheba observed a time of mourning, she married David and their son was born. Yet God was highly displeased. Nathan the prophet was sent with a tale about injustice suffered by a poor man whose only lamb, a pet of his children, was taken by a rich man to feed a traveler. Suddenly David’s conscience returned, and he angrily called the atrocious injustice a crime worthy of death. Only after Nathan declared, “You are the man,” did David confess his sin (2 Sam. 11-12).

David took many liberties with his position, with adultery, deceit, and murder being committed in the sight of God deliberately and callously. It is as if he were willing to spit in the eye of God. One does not have to be a king to think too highly of himself, yet David is described as a man after God’s own heart. How can that be? If he had continued his hardened path, he would be seen as one of the most evil of men. But his humbling by God and the events of his life helped to shape our understanding of the grace of God. Had he received what he deserved according to the law, he would have been executed. But he received grace and forgiveness, even for his presumptuous sin.

For the Christian, the warnings are clear. Knowing what is right and refusing to do it creates an atmosphere of “great sin.” “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet. 2:20-21).

Willful sin, after we know the truth, puts us in the position of having no sacrifice for sins. We can only anticipate with fear the judgment and fierce indignation of God. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26- 29). God’s vengeance will determine the “payback.” Our God is alive, and it is fearful to consider what will happen to us if we rebel and defy our creator. He is God, and we are not!

Ken is the minister for the Leeville Church of Christ in Mt. Juliet, TN.

What Noah Has Taught Me – Ken Thomas

The great flood has been of great interest in the world. In ancient civilizations the “flood story” became the subject of myth and legend. There are some that deny the historicity of the flood or diminish it to localized events, while others believe that discoveries in archaeology and geology have verified flood layers around the world and evidence of a cataclysmic event that drastically changed the habitation of mankind. The Bible clearly describes the flood as an act of destruction by the Creator of heaven and earth, and the continued existence of humanity as the result of God’s favor to the family of Noah.

Noah and the ark have been favored subjects of Bible classes for little children. I recently met a craftsman who has made a business of his woodworking and design skills, making large “Noah’s Ark” play sets. He told me that several religious people who live near him do not allow their children to “play” on Sundays unless their toys are “Sunday toys” based on Bible stories. The Internet is filled with lists of “things I learned from Noah,” but the purpose of this article is not to offer whimsical and humorous statements such as “Noah should have swatted those flies.” It is to look at key thoughts from the example of Noah that might help us live lives that will find favor with God and also be lights to the world.

Only two men in scripture are noted as having walked with God. Enoch, father of Methuselah, walked with God for 300 years following the birth of his son, fathering other children also. He was taken by God, without death, from the earth (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5). Methuselah’s son Lamech was the father of Noah, who also “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

Noah did more than to build an ark. Before he was given that responsibility and privilege, he was living a life that pleased God. He was a striking contrast to the rest of the people in the world. Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord in the same world that had surrounded him with violence and unimaginable wickedness (Gen. 6:8).

The grief of God and the regret of His creating the world had made Him determine to destroy the world. The God who had declared His creation as “good” and the creation of man “very good” had seen good people corrupted by their evil companions. Word and deed, even every thought of man, was only evil . . . all the time. Yet, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Gen. 6:9) “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).

The hope of the salvation of our own souls is based on the grace (favor) of God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Believing that God exists and rewards the diligent seeker is illustrated for us by the example of Noah. Noah had never seen a flood brought on by constant rain and waters from beneath the earth’s surface; I am not sure he had even seen rain, since such is not mentioned in scripture from the passage that tells us that God watered the ground with a mist from the earth (Gen. 2:5-6).

Still, Noah believed God! He moved with fear, which would also be defined as proper caution and reverence for God. He prepared the ark as God had instructed. His faith in God moved him to righteous obedience. His righteousness is even more obvious when contrasted with the ungodly world around him. He became the heir of righteousness (Heb. 11:7), not only a practitioner and preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). Eight souls were saved by water, which perhaps refers to being saved from increasing violence of the wicked against the righteous. Yet this happened only after long years of preparation and toil to build such a massive lifeboat and stock it with food to save the lives of the humans and the living creatures which would enter.

The details of the flood, the ark dimensions and structural details, and the loading and the landing are so well known as to be unnecessary for this article. However, the character of Noah is worthy of examination in more detail than is usual. Noah is listed with Job and Daniel as righteous men who could not deliver even a son or daughter by their own righteousness, and certainly not the nation of Israel even if they had been in it (Ezek. 14:14-20). What a triad of righteous men!

The ground had been cursed by God to require toil and sweat of man to bring forth its fruit. This must have been a real barrier to productivity. Yet there was hope for better days ahead, for the name Noah suggests “comfort.” Lamech “called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29). Evil had multiplied, and God had made his decision to destroy all flesh. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. . . Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:8-9).

Detailed instructions were given for construction of the ark, and for gathering food for man and beast. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen. 6:22-7:1).

Noah was instructed to take in the animals, numbering them based on whether they were clean or unclean. “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him”…“There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah”…“And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in” (Gen 7:5, 9, 16 ).

Even the departure from the ark was an act of obedience to the instruction of God (Gen. 8:15-19). Noah, the man who had been chosen to preserve the existence of mankind because of his righteousness, then made a burnt sacrifice from every clean beast and fowl upon an altar. In response to the sacrifice, God resolved never to curse the ground again nor to smite all living things. He also pronounced a continuation of seasons and time-markers for the duration of the earth (vs. 20-22). God now gave man permission to eat meat as well as the “green herb,” but not blood (Gen. 9:2-4).   He also commanded a penalty of blood for the shedding of mankind’s blood (vs. 5-6). The reproductive process of man was to begin again (vs. 1, 7), and man was given a covenant of promise, symbolized by the bow in the cloud, that universal destruction of the world by water would not occur again (vs. 8-17).

Hundreds of years later, a descendant of Noah according to the flesh would be born into the world (Luke 3:36). This One, like Noah, would be the source of salvation for the human race. However, He would not come to save us from a flood of water, but from the sin that floods the world. His sacrifice has been made, and He will return. His return will be like the flood of Noah in that men, though warned, will be continuing life as usual, and be taken away as if they had no warning (Lk.17:26-27; Mt. 24:37-39). Though some will scoff and declare He is not going to return, Peter warned that while God’s longsuffering is delaying the fiery dissolution of this world at the return of Christ, His coming is as sure as the flood (2 Pet. 3:3-14). In Noah’s day, it was the longsuffering of God which delayed the flood while the ark was being prepared . Others in addition to the eight could have been saved, but they did not heed the preaching of Noah (1 Pet 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 2:5).

I would appeal to the reader to make a personal list of things you have learned from Noah, as well as reading what others have said and written. Here are some items that stand out to me:

  • You never get too old to provide a haven for your children if they have no other place to go. (Noah was 600 when the flood came.)
  • If God tells us to do something, it is really smart to do it. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).
  • Walking with God involves more than just an occasional stroll.
  • When you come through a crisis safely, don’t let your guard down. Stay sober (Gen. 9:20-27).
  • When the rains come down and the floods come up, look forward to the rainbow when the storm is over.
  • It takes time to prepare for some crises of life, but thank God for the time if you have warning.
  • God warned Noah of things he had never before seen, but he prepared anyway. Good move.
  • Keep doing the will of God, even when the neighbors scoff and your warnings are ignored.
  • Just because everyone is thinking evil continually doesn’t give you an excuse to do likewise.
  • No matter how long you live, it is appointed for man to die. “And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (Gen. 9:27).
  • Isaiah believed in the Noah story. “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee” (Is. 54:9).
  • Righteousness cannot be borrowed from others for ourselves. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God…Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (Ezek. 14:14, 20).
  • The coming of the Son of Man is sure, just like the flood. “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27; cf. Matt. 24:37-39).
  • If you live right it will please God, but it will make others look bad. That’s okay. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
  • As the water cleansed the world and separated Noah’s family from it, my sins are cleansed by Christ’s blood when I am baptized. Thank God for His longsuffering to lost mankind! “…the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God” (1 Pet. 3:20-22). Give praise “unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).
  • The destruction of the earth will be by fire rather than water next time (2 Pet. 3:5-7). Since this will certainly happen, let us heed the inspired warning of Peter: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:17-18).