Yard work had not been at the top of my priority list in recent weeks – that was embarrassingly obvious. On Saturday I donned my grubby clothes and began pulling weeds. I was fairly confident that the vines before me were poison ivy. When work gloves were not easily found, I started pulling anyway. Six days later, the rash on my arms has begun to clear up, but not before a couple of nights of being awakened by intense itching. (May I recommend to you a product called Caladryl?!)
Dealing with the itch has led me to reflect on the subject of sin and its effects. A man’s desires to stray beyond marital fidelity has been termed “the seven-year itch”. Perhaps there are some parallels that might help us better understand sin.
First, it’s best to avoid the poison. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it has been said. I affirmed the value of that maxim as I tried to get to sleep with my arms itching. While it may not always be possible to avoid poison ivy, I am resolved to be better prepared for my next encounter.
David learned the value of avoiding sin. He wrote, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3, NKJV). How many are lured into sin by allowing their eyes to gaze upon sinful things? The place to begin is in the heart. When we can say as David did that we “hate the work of those who fall away”, we’ll not be so tempted to indulge in things that poison the soul.
Second, it’s important not to scratch the itch. With the physical rash, it can lead to problems. Doctors now claim that scratching does not spread the rash, but experience says it can lead to problems nonetheless. We’ve learned that a little scratching doesn’t satisfy the itch. Stimulation causes the affected area to cry out for more. Repeated scratching can further damage the skin, making healing even harder to accomplish.
Peter may not have been thinking about poison ivy, but his comments in 1 Peter 2:11 certainly apply spiritually: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” The fleshly lusts we feel demand satisfaction. But giving in once will not silence that cry. Only by resisting such temptations will we ever overcome the sins. It takes strength to resist, strength which the Lord is glad to give to those who seek it (see Matthew 26:41).
Sin is a strong and deceptive force in our world. When people fail to heed God’s counsel, problems multiply. In time we will see how wrong our choices have been. But by learning early how to deal with the itch of sin, we’ll live happier, more contented lives.
Sin and its effects require serious attention.