The Downward Spiral of Sin
Consider your bad habits. Whatever they might be, pick one and think about it. My guess is that you didn’t start out wanting to develop the habit. You never thought to yourself, “Gee, I should start doing this thing that is bad for me and keep doing it until I can’t stop.” A number of my bad habits jump immediately to mind; and, frankly, I can’t even imagine how they became habits—they’re not exactly things I’m proud of or would want in my life. They just started… and now, years later, here they are—bad habits, that occasionally get me into trouble.
“The Making of a Monster:” Some bad habits are just annoying or unattractive, like, say, picking your teeth in public. Gross, but hardly a terrible thing. However, some bad habits are really, really bad, sinfully bad. And, again, my guess is that most of these didn’t start out as conscious decisions to begin negative, sinful patterns—they just developed slowly over time and now have become the enormous stumbling blocks that they are. Our sinful actions may not have started out as something horrible, but they easily grow into monsters.
On an individual level, this is the devolution of sin in our lives. We can see this most clearly in the kind of immunity to illicit substances that abusers experience. Early on, a small amount produces the desired effect; but over time, resistance is built up and more and more is needed to create the same impact. So it is, all too often, with our sin.
Frequent practice in sin often leads to a dulling, a minimizing, of our sensitivity to sin. It’s a challenge to lie to your parents the first couple of times… but after a while, it becomes easier and easier. Guilt can overwhelm the first time you cheat on your taxes or think lustful thoughts of another or gossip about a co-worker. But, if you do it long enough, the guilt fades into the background; and it becomes easier and easier to act out of our brokenness. This is just one more devastating characteristic of our sin—not only does it separate us from our loving Lord, but it also causes us to be more and more dull to its impact. Sin so often becomes a habit that we don’t even notice is slowly killing us.
Paul writes clearly about this in Romans 1, where the influence of sin upon the person is described as muddling our thinking and darkening our foolish hearts (vs. 21). In other words, not only is sin destructive to us, but we often can’t even see it as it works in our minds and hearts. Of course, you have noticed this in interacting with others. Some people are so blind to their own sin that nothing you can do can help them identify it—they are blinded to their bad habits by their own bad habits.
Which all sounds so terribly, terribly discouraging and depressing. If sin really is this bad, and if it gets worse, and if that means I can identify it less and less, then where is hope? What can break this downward spiral into depravity? Of course, we know the answer, we have the answer! Jesus Christ! The power over sin comes not from within, but from Him. Victory over this crushing, dulling, darkening impact of sin in our lives is ours in Jesus Christ. It is He Who works in us, to identify our sinful habits, to clear our minds and enlighten our hearts so that we might see the glory of the Son, and in so doing, to free us from all sinful destruction. We do not look to ourselves but to a righteousness that is not our own, a righteousness that is Christ’s.
For this week, read Genesis 42, and note the devolution of sin in Joseph’s brothers—their hearts are darkened by their own sin… but, redemption’s coming!
1. Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother from the same mother, plays a key role in this drama. Why do you think Joseph focused on him?
2. Think of all the ways God providentially shaped world events so as to save Jacob and his family from famine and death. List out some of those ways.
3. Verse 6: The brothers bow down to Joseph—sounds familiar, yes? The fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams in chapter 37. Reread those dreams to see God’s hand at work, 13+ years in the future.
4. Why do you think Joseph treated the brothers harshly and accused them of being spies?
5. List some of the ways you see sin at work, dulling and blinding the brothers? Their prior treatment of Joseph, selling him into slavery, has vastly impacted them and now causes them to not “see” correctly.
6. In verses 21-22 and in 28, how do the brothers react to their guilt? How are they trapped by their sin?
7. What motive might Joseph have had in replacing the money in the sacks of the brothers? What was Joseph attempting to do here? Various options are possible, but what is most likely?