Big Sins, Little Sins

Four-year-old Andrew is running through the house. Michelle is on the phone as he flies by the kitchen table. He stumbles, piling into the table and knocking off a plastic cup full of water. Michelle picks him up, makes sure that he is okay and tells him not to worry, it was only water that spilled. He smiles, Michelle smiles, gives him a pat on the head and resumes her phone conversation. Even though Michelle told him not to run through the kitchen a million times before, she doesn’t mention that to him this time; after all, it was only a cup of water, and she’s in the middle of a conversation.

The next day Michelle is again at her kitchen table talking on the phone. This time, however, she is cleaning her fine crystal stemware. Andrew again races through, stumbles, piles into the table and knocks a piece of her fine crystal to the floor, where it shatters. Andrew looks up with a small smile, expecting the same result as yesterday. Instead, Michelle hangs up the phone and angrily tells Andrew that he has really done it this time.

“How many times have I told you not to run in the house? Now look what you’ve done! Do you know how expensive that was?” Andrew starts crying. He is confused. Yesterday, what seemed to be the same thing was treated as if it didn’t matter. Today, he is a monster. Yesterday, a little sin was overlooked. Today, a big sin is punished.. Big sins, little sins.

What was the difference between the two events? The first time the only apparent damage was spilled water, certainly nothing to engage in discipline over. The second time the damage was a shattered piece of treasured crystal. But think about this with me. What was the real sin? Was it not Andrew running when he was told not to? Yet Michelle is concerned enough to discipline only when a major loss of crystal occurs. You see, the wrong comparison here is the shattered crystal and the spilled water. Both are the results of Andrew’s disobedience and Michelle’s failure to require obedience. Ordinary things are too important to Michelle. Whatever is important to God is holy. If you distinguish this way between little sins and big sins, your thinking is not holy, but ordinary.

If Michelle had been concerned about the seriousness of disobedience, Andrew would have been disciplined the first time. Not for spilling the water, but for running when he was not supposed to. Perhaps the second incident with the shattered crystal would never have happened if Andrew had been properly challenged the day before.

It is dangerous to judge the seriousness of sin by the consequences.

Excerpted from Chapter Six of Everyday Talk.


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