I’ve always wondered why the mouse, even after seeing the lethal contraption of the mouse trap and his impending demise, still decides to sneak out in the middle of the night to get the cheese. You would think that after using the same basic device for generations, that the household mouse trap would be rendered obsolete and ineffective. You would think that after centuries of using the same trick, and after the downfall of millions of mice, that the little mouse would consider the death of all his relatives who’ve gone on before him, and say ‘no’ to the cheese. But he doesn’t.
You see, the problem with sin is that our flesh is severely enticed by it, and it attracts the fleshly part of us like the luring scent of cheese to a mouse. For this reason, there is always a bitter conflict taking place on the inside of the believer, which Paul explains as “the flesh lust[ing] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: [for] these are contrary the one to the other…” (Galatians 5:17). So it is that there are times when the alluring taste of sin tugs at our taste buds and we develop a ‘craving’ for something that is detrimental to our walk with God.
The idiom “Nip it in the bud” means to put a stop to something while it is still in its early development. In botany, a bud is described as the “undeveloped or rudimentary stem or branch of a plant;” it “is a flower before it blooms.” Hence, if you nip it, you put a stop to its growth, and in so doing you prevent it from blooming. In other words, to nip something in the bud is to prevent it from growing into a much bigger, less manageable thing, and in so doing you prevent an ultimate disaster. This is necessary when it comes to temptation because there is a process to sin that allows for a quick progression from just ‘committing a sin’ to full-fledged ‘living in sin.’
It is clear from his epistles that Paul understood the struggle of sin. He knew exactly what it felt like to wrestle with his fleshly desires and proclivities (Romans 7:14-25). He knew what it meant to not “want to do what is wrong, but [to] do it anyway” (Romans 7:19). However, he also knew that there is grave danger in conceding to sin’s seduction. For that reason, he spoke often of the death that accompanies sin (Romans 6:23; 8:13) and exhorts the 1st century church to “walk in the Spirit” who is responsible for keeping us from fulfilling the “lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Sin’s approach can sometimes be subtle and seemingly innocuous – a habit, an activity, a relationship, a thought – but once indulged, its repercussions can be devastating. Indeed, we can often prevent a catastrophe by simply choosing to use the scissors of our decisions and actions to amputate the ‘bud’ of sin before it sprouts.
Today, let us choose to be watchful in the Spirit and walk carefully, lest we give sin an occasion to bloom in our lives. Let us say ‘no’ to the traps that led to the downfall of our fore-parents and the generations that have gone before us. Let us examine ourselves continually and live victorious lives by ‘nipping sin in the bud’ as soon as we’re made aware of its presence. In so doing, we set a new standard and render the snares of the enemy ineffective.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” – Romans 6:12 (NKJ)