I remember watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie that caused me great concern as a child and still comes to mind periodically. Although the exact details of the show may have escaped me, here is what I remember: Caroline Ingalls sends her family off to another town to start enjoying the festivities of the annual Fair. The Reverend has asked Caroline to make her Blue Ribbon pies to raise money for the church. Charles and the girls want to wait for her, but she shews them away promising to follow behind in a day or so, with the Doctor, or preacher, or some other main character whose name escapes me.
Caroline goes to work, making her pies, alone. Suddenly, the shelf holding the baked goods falls, and a sharp knife slices her leg, causing a deep gash. Caroline wraps her leg to stop the bleeding, but the wound is severe, and she needs the Doctor. Caroline races outside when she hears the neighbors’ horse tromping by. Caroline waves and yells for the town folk to stop, but they assume she is acting ‘neighborly’ and trails off.
Hours go by, and Caroline must stitch up her wound. With her darning basket by her side, she threads a sharp needle and attempts to sew up the gash. Unfortunately, the surgery is too much for her, and she passes out, missing the group who came to pick her up. Since Caroline does not open the door, her friends take the pies left outside to cool and drive off to the Fair, thinking she’s gone ahead without them.
The day slips away and her wound festers. A nasty infection starts to form, and Caroline is desperate. At that moment, Caroline takes a large knife, possibly the same one that caused the original wound, and sets it next to her. She then opens her Bible and reads Matthew 18:8, which says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.”
The scene ends with Caroline sticking the blade into the fire and holding it over her leg. Sure enough, she passes out and wakes to Charles hovering over her. Charles finds the knife and sees that she has opened the wound, which allows the infection to secrete, but left her leg intact.
So why am I telling you this story, besides providing an excellent example of people taking verses out of context? The body itself is not spiritually sick, nor sinful. Genesis tells us that before the fall of man, that God considered all He had created, and then called it, “very good.”
Thus, for Caroline to think that her injured leg would cause her to stumble into hell is a fallacy. It’s a given that bodily pain and suffering can trigger sinful responses, or cause us to fall into temptation, but the flesh itself is not corrupt.
Our flesh finds a willing ally in the world. The “do as you please” culture soothes the conscience and helps suppress the guilt that would otherwise curve our desire to act sinfully. It is at the time of greatest temptation that we are least likely to seek out Godly advice, pick up the Bible and read, or pray for a way out. As we saw from Caroline’s reading of Matthew 18:8-10, sin is so severe that we do need to learn how to “cut it off” before it hinders our relationship to God and allows our mind to fall towards unbelief.
Whether you are a mature Christian or a new believer, conquering sin is tough.
However, God is not unjust; He has provided the Holy Spirit to us to make us—uncomfortable. Galatians 5:17 says: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, these are in opposition to one another so that you will not do what pleases you.” (Paraphrased) Praise God for the Holy Spirit who rubs our conscience raw, and pricks our hearts with a warning.
Friends, let’s not ignore that ill feeling when we are considering an act of sin. All precautions, uneasiness, and the sense of entrapment are from the Holy Spirit who is working against your flesh and is actively working to conform you to Christ’s image.
So then, the next time you feel tempted to do something wrong, and your feet are leading you somewhere that causes you to sin, run. Don’t hesitate, don’t think twice, and don’t even discuss it with a friend. Listen to your conscience, for it is always a Christian’s best advisor.