Luke chapter 15 is a collection of parables revolving around the theme of “Lost.” It begins with the parable of the lost lamb, and then the parable of the lost coin, and finally, the “Prince of Parables,” the story of the Prodigal Son. However, that last parable contains a parable within the parable as it tells the story of the older brother and reveals some of the sins of saints.
We can easily identify the sins of the younger brother, the Prodigal Son, but, as Christians, we should be especially concerned with the sins of the older brother – the so-called righteous son. His hard heart and bitterness were just as sinful as anything the younger brother did, so let’s spend some time thinking about the sins of saints.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote an early epistle to the Jewish Christians. In chapter one, he describes six sins we need to be especially concerned about. The first is the sin of double-mindedness. He even coins a word, dipsuche to describe it (James 1:8). Clement illustrates this sin with the example of Lot’s wife. She wanted to be saved, but she also wanted to continue to live in Sodom. Torn between two worlds, she was turned into a pillar of salt! How many Christians want to spend eternity in heaven, but also want to put down deep roots on earth? They want the best of both worlds and consequently can’t enjoy either.
The second sin James addresses requires some thought. It is the sin of testing God. James writes: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13 – 14). The Lord tempts no one, and cannot be tempted to do evil, but we try to temp Him. How many times have I heard Christians try to excuse their sins by saying, “But God would want me to be happy!” That’s the same as saying, “Lord, won’t you make an exception just for me?” Isn’t that tempting God?
Third, James warns about the dangers of false perceptions. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” (James 1:16). Christians need to see clearly, but so many things cloud our vision. Jesus talked about the man with a log in his eye. He was trying to take specks out of other’s eyes without regard for that massive log in his own eye! There are so many diseases affecting our spiritual vision.
Compromise can introduce spiritual cataracts – that’s a lack of clear focus. Our vision can be distracted by cares, worries, or even looking for troubles that really aren’t there, and sometimes, we just “can’t see the forest for the trees.”
In the great Pacific Northwest, lumberjacks used to raft logs down rivers to the sawmill, but sometimes the logs seemed to have a mind of their own. They piled up into log jams. It was the duty of the lumberjack to get things flowing again. A young lumberjack might get right to work moving the logs as he encountered them, but the wise old man would climb a tree to gain perspective. From that vantage point, he could spot the offending log that held everything up and quickly clear it away. It is vitally important for us to continually seek that heavenly perspective.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the last three sins James warns saints to beware of.