Sin doesn’t win by presenting itself as a problem. It wins by presenting itself as a solution. It claims it’s victory by outwitting us at our own game. It baits us into a game of logic, and because we tend to think of ourselves as well meaning and rational people, we assume a rational-logical dialogue is a good place for us to go to conquer our sin. But our adversary isn’t new to these little games of logic we so willingly use – he has been using them against us for millennia to trick us into doing the very thing we don’t want to do by framing our sin in a way we hadn’t expected.
Here are four areas of rational logic sin uses against us (I will give an explanation of each below):
Sin offers itself as a solution to a more vexing problem.
Sin offers an extreme first so that you think you have won when you accept a more watered-down version of it
Sin convinces you that your efforts are hopeless – so why try
Sin convinces us it’s okay to wait until life slows down, is less demanding and not so complicated
Sin offers itself as a solution to a more vexing problem
A high school student hasn’t studied for a math exam he is taking later in the day. He is already on the fringe of failing the class and he can’t afford another poor mark. If he fails the class he fears he might not get into a good college and if he doesn’t get into a good college he fears he might not get a good job. And it would be irresponsible to not get a good job because the student hopes to have a family one day and he has been told it’s difficult to raise a family without a good job. As he ponders his situation at lunch one of his friend sits down and whispers that he has secured an answer key to the pending test. The high school student knows that cheating is wrong but the logic of the sin is already at work.
The adversary whispers, “You aren’t a cheater. It’s not like you are going to make this a habit. There are tremendous consequences if you don’t pass this exam. You’re entire future is on the line – what’s the harm in using the answer key to pass the test just this one time? Wouldn’t it not be more irresponsible to allow yourself to fail and let down your parents and possibly not get into college. What’s more immoral and irresponsible anyways? Cheating on one exam in high school or not being able to provide for your future family.”
In this case cheating (the sin) is not the problem to be dealt with, it’s presented as the solution to much more consequential concerns.
Sin offers an extreme first so that you think you have won when you accept a more watered-down version of the sin
Karl, a married man goes to the gym several times a week for a small group fitness class. The fitness instructor of the class is an attractive woman, named Liz and she is just a few years younger than Karl. Although there has never been anything but a professional relationship between them, Karl has found himself thinking about Liz during the day while he is working or eating lunch.
On his way to gym one afternoon, the adversary leans in and say, “Karl, you should sleep with Liz.” Karl, is taken aback. Where did that thought come from, he wonders. He is a committed husband and had never considered cheating on his wife. He pushes the thought away, but the opening thought was just a rouse for the logic game that can now ensue.
The adversary responds, “you’re probably right, you wouldn’t cheat on your wife. That’s not in your character Karl. But what about maybe finding a way to get close to her physically. Maybe you could ask her to spot you on an exercise and use it as an opportunity to rub against her body or maybe you could give her a lingering hug when you see her next.” Again, Karl pushes back the thought, but the Adversary is still just setting the trap. He is slowly watering down the sin until he can get Karl to think he has won because he settled for such a trivial violation.
The adversary’s moves in again, “Why not ask the entire class (including Liz) out for drinks next Friday. It would be fun and there is no harm in having drinks with a group of people.” Karl, agrees and besides it would be fun to socialize with Liz outside the gym. Then the adversary offers his next idea, “perfect, you know you could flirt with her just a little. It wouldn’t hurt to kid around with her and give her a lingering smile when nobody else is looking. You don’t have to do anything over the top Karl, just enough to let her know that you notice her that you are attracted but that you are married so that is as far as you could go.”
Of course, once the adversary get’s the small give-in he works his logic in reverse – “well if you already flirted with her what’s the harm in giving her a little kiss when she leaves?”
Sin convinces you that your efforts are hopeless – so why try so hard
Sue has struggled off and on with alcohol most of her adult life. Though she has gone weeks, months and even seasons without a drink, she keeps finding herself back in the same place. Sue desperately wants to get free and has gone several weeks without drinking, but things at work are really stressful and the desire for a drink this week is particularly strong.
The adversary’s logic to for Sue is straightforward, “Sue, this is really hard stuff. You have been thinking about a drink all day. How many times do we have to do this? You might be able to resist today or even tomorrow or even the next day, but you will ultimately fail. You always do. You can’t beat this so why don’t you give yourself a break and have a Gin and Tonic – or just a Gin. Stop delaying the inevitable.”
Sin convinces us it’s okay to wait until life slows down, is less demanding and not so complicated.
Jim has started abusing prescription medicine. It started when he noticed it gave him an edge at work – allowed him to work longer hours and remain focused. Now the side-effects are getting to him and his health is taking a toll. He barely sleeps at night, which makes him even more dependent on the meds to keep him going during the day. By the time he get’s home at night he is irritable and short with his wife and children.
Jim knows he needs to address the problem and vows to make a change – until the adversary leans in and offers this rationale to Jim:
“Jim, you can’t slow down right now. You are leading an important project at work and you have worked so hard. If you quit now, you’ll never keep up and you will let everyone down. It’s not like you have to keep taking the meds forever, just a few more weeks until the project is done. Worry about this once life slows down some and you have a little more time and margin.”
Of course, the Adversary knows the longer he can entangle us the harder it will be to unwrap the cords later.