That Subtle Sin


Do you know which sin is the subtle enemy of simple faith?

Materialism and greed? Anger? Lust? Hypocrisy? No. All of these sins are certainly our enemies, but none of them qualify as subtle enemies.

Stop and think. Once you decide to trust God in simple faith and allow Him complete freedom to carry out His plan and purpose in you, as well as through you, you need only to relax and count on Him to take care of things you once tried to keep under control.

From now on you won’t step in and take charge. “God is well able to handle this,” you tell yourself. Then, in a weak moment, the adversary of your soul whispers a doubt or two in your ear, like, “Hey, what if—?” If that doesn’t make you churn, he returns in the middle of the night and fertilizes your imagination with several quasi-extreme possibilities, leaving you mildly disturbed if not altogether panicked. No one can tell by looking (and you certainly wouldn’t think of telling anyone), but in place of your inward peace and simple faith, you are now immobilized by . . . what?

You guessed it, the most notorious faith killer in all of life: worry.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Being something of a wordsmith, I find the term worry fascinating, though the reality of this in our lives can be downright maddening. To begin with, the word used by Matthew (translated here as “worried”) is the Greek term merimnao. It is a combination of two smaller words, merizo, meaning “to divide,” and nous, meaning “the mind.” In other words, a person who is anxious suffers from a divided mind, leaving him or her disquieted and distracted.

Of all the biblical stories illustrating worry, none is more practical or clear than the one recorded in the last five verses of Luke 10. Let’s briefly relive it.

Jesus dropped by His friends’ home in Bethany. He was, no doubt, tired after a full day, so nothing meant more to Him than having a quiet place to relax with friends who would understand. However, Martha, one of those friends, turned the occasion into a mild frenzy. To make matters worse, Martha’s sister, Mary, was so pleased to have the Lord visit their home that she sat with Him and evidenced little concern over her sister’s anxiety attack.

As Luke tells us, “Martha was distracted with all her preparations” (Luke 10:40). We can imagine her scurrying around the kitchen, kneading dough, basting the lamb, boiling the vegetables, trying to locate her best dishes, hoping to match tablecloth and napkins, ultimately needing help to get it all ready at the proper time. But Martha didn’t have help, and that was the final straw. Irritated, exasperated, and angry, she reached her boiling point; and her boiling point led to blame. “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me” (10:40).

But Jesus was neither impressed by her busyness nor intimidated by her command. Graciously, yet firmly, He said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (10:41-42).

Worry occurs when we assume responsibility for things that are outside our control. And I love the Lord’s solution: “but only one thing is necessary.” What a classic example of simple faith!

Martha had complicated things by turning the meal into a holiday feast. Not Mary. All Mary wanted was time with Jesus . . . and He commended her for that. Mary’s simple faith, in contrast to her sister’s panic, won the Savior’s affirmation.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “That Subtle Sin,” in The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece (Dallas: Word, 1994), 632-33. Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

About the author


Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

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