I sometimes think it is the nibbling things that will do me in, do us all in. What do I mean by nibbling things? I am talking about little things here or there that we ignore or accept as ‘not so bad’. I can easily think of dozens of examples. Of course eating comes to mind and that old ad that says, “I bet you can’t eat just one!” For me that would be one cashew or peanut when a full dish sits on the table. Aren’t they supposed to be eaten by the handful just like popcorn (my other favorite snack)?
There are thoughts that nibble away at the truth inside us as well. It can be as small as a friend who doesn’t return a phone call or fails to remember a birthday. A stray nibbling begins— ‘I wonder if she really likes me’, ‘I thought she cared about me’, etc.
All the ploys have one overarching purpose—to deceive us. Deception is Satan’s trademark and he is truly gifted at it as we see all the way back in the Garden. The problem is that we too often miss his subtle devices today since he really doesn’t show up as a serpent while we are out admiring the apples on our trees in the orchard.
Back in that other garden he created a doubt in Eve’s mind and then deceived her into over-riding what she knew she should do. He does that with you and me as well, but it doesn’t stop with one bite of an apple (or cashew). His ultimate goal is to get us to tolerate sin within us little by little in small ways. Sin seduces us into tolerating it or sinking into despair.
The result? We become self-deceived and that sets us up to be able to do things that have escalating levels of sin and a conscience that gradually falls asleep and never gets bothered by what we are doing.
No, it doesn’t happen all at once nor to all of us to the same degree, but when we do not or will not face the truth of what we choose we open ourselves to a pattern of self-deception that automatically leads to deceiving others (sometimes without even having an awareness).
Isaiah 50: 2 warns us about the path we can find ourselves on:
“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!” (ESV)
How do we get caught in the trap Satan sets for us? In many ways deception acts like a narcotic because it numbs us and prevents us from feeling the pain we do not want to feel. It helps us justify the choices we make. We’re late so we speed. We’re stressed so we eat chocolate. We need copy paper for our printer at home so we take some from the office. Our spouse hasn’t been showing us much attention so we flirt just a little with the neighbor.
It can be a bit like the story of the frog in the kettle. The kettle is on the stove, but the fire is not lit so the frog jumps in. While enjoying the water, the fire gets lit and soon the frog cannot get out. The frog did not believe he was at risk to be hurt or die until it is too late.
We can start to believe what we have rationalized as being okay won’t hurt us either. Now Satan has us where he wants us. We are deceived, lying to others and ourselves about our choices. Over time our heart gets hardened so we no longer recognize or repent of our poor or sinful choices.
Too often from the very beginning, no one holds us accountable. If we are blessed with someone who loves us enough to hold us accountable early on, we will regain our footing on the solid rock of Jesus.
God meant for us to be in community one with another. We don’t see ourselves accurately many times and when we have someone who walks with us on life’s journey extending us love, grace, and mercy PLUS accountability, we improve our vision significantly and repentance becomes a habit so that our heart doesn’t harden and our soul doesn’t die. That person helps us see the small thing long before it grows into the dragon that intends on devouring us.