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A "LITTLE" SIN
by Philip Owen

             I am writing these paragraphs three days after the horrendous bombings that occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Such heinous acts provoke our indignation and outrage.  And every normal person roundly condemns such acts.  We recognize them as the stark and blatant deeds that they are.  While such outrages are rightly censured, they have a propensity to encourage our carnal tendency to overlook our own sins.  The thing that distracts our attention because of its obvious magnitude may divert our attention from the thing that will actually destroy us.  After all, it is seldom the “big” sins that derail Christians (though we should never become smug in that idea), but how many have been lost to the effects of so-called small sins?  The dam that bursts bringing death and destruction in its path alerts our attention—too late for those in the path of the flood.  Yet, it is the little drops of rain, the hairline crack in the concrete, things initially almost imperceptible, that ultimately produce the damage.  It is no different in our lives.  Little sins are not little to God.

            Murmuring, or grumbling, is one of those seemingly little sins.  It’s such a small thing, so quiet, so non-threatening, often so seemingly justified that we tolerate and excuse it.  I’m sure the Israelites thought they were justified in murmuring about their lot in the wilderness.  Who wants to be without a permanent address?  Who wants to wear the same clothing day after day, week after week, year after year?  Who wants to eat the same one thing morning, noon, and night?  Who wants to run out of water to drink?  These are not small things, whereas murmuring about such conditions is a small thing—or so they thought. But God viewed it otherwise.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?  I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.  Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:  Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein” (Num. 14:26-30a).

            Note that it is on account of their murmuring that God judged the entire adult congregation (except Caleb and Joshua, v. 30b) and caused them to die prematurely in the wilderness, never to enter the land of promise.  What they felt justified in doing because of the unpleasantness of their circumstances, God declared to be a capital offense against Him and, to a person, cut them off.

            “Some men’s sins,” Paul observes to Timothy, “are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (I Tim. 5:24).  Murmuring is often nearly inaudible against the din of sins we consider to be heinous.  But it is not a small thing before God, and He will chastise those who murmur.  Murmuring is a grievous sin because it expresses unbelief, ingratitude, dissatisfaction with God’s will, and open rebellion.  Murmuring is a grievous sin because, like a small melanoma, it presents itself as innocuous, while issuing in death.  Murmuring is a grievous sin because it infects not only the grumbler but those who hear him, spreading discontent like a cancer.  Paul gives us this inspired warning:  “Neither murmur ye, as some of them [i.e., in the wilderness] murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (I Cor. 10:10).

            Remember:  it is “the little foxes, that spoil the vines” (Song 2:15).  Remember:  “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6).  We should not tolerate murmuring in ourselves:  while we may think our circumstances justify it, our gracious Savior and Lord does not.       

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