Recognizing Sin when It’s Most Subtle, and We’re Most Vulnerable

It isn’t those parts of my life where I’m prepared for sin’s attacks that worry me; it’s those areas of my life where I don’t know to be prepared.

Consider Joseph, for example.  It was due to his selfish, indeed sinful, brothers that he found himself in a hopeless situation.  Yet, he made the best of life in prison by keeping a clean jail cell and conducting himself respectfully, such that Pharaoh’s advisors would recommend Joseph to interpret his dreams.  So, by all accounts, Joseph was upright in his activities and he made the most of the situations in which he found himself.

I doubt, however, that Joseph expected Potiphar’s wife to make sexual advances at him (Gen. 39).  Yet, Joseph was prepared.  Not prepared in the sense that he knew something was coming such that he executed his pre-calculated exit strategy.  Instead, he was prepared for what he couldn’t anticipate.  He was prepared for sin’s subtlety in a time and place when he didn’t know to be prepared.

Sin’s subtlety is sin’s scariest side.  Indeed, the first time sin is mentioned in Scripture it is described as “crouching at the door” (Gen. 4:7).  One may be prepared for the assault of internet pornography by installing software to block such sites.  But, how do you prepare for the woman who unexpectedly knocks on your hotel room door then throws herself at you once you open the door out of genuine concern?  This was the story of a business friend of mine; it was also the beginning of the end of his marriage.

Or, what about the pastor who typically avoids being the last one out of the office, but an unexpected phone call kept him ten minutes later than usual—just long enough for a promiscuous church member to catch him alone and vulnerable?

Further, what about the stay-at-home mom who felt sorry for her neighbor when his wife left him, and a friendly “how are you doing” led to emotional then physical intimacy?

Taking inventory of personal sin struggles then crafting a plan of attack is important, but it isn’t enough.  Christians must also prepare for the subtlety of sin that “crouches at the door,” seeking to catch us with our guard down.  We need always be on high alert for susceptible situations that sin might seek to exploit.  We also must maintain proper self awareness when we are discouraged or tired, for these are the times when sin subtly breeds thoughts that we would otherwise not entertain.

-Dr. Benjamin Quinn

Photo: “Temptation of Joseph,” Guido Reni, 1631

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