How Sin Ensnares Us
Throughout our lives, we all run into problems, difficulties, and pain, some large and some small. When we encounter these issues, we are forced to make choices, and it is in these decisive moments that we are most at risk of falling into the bonds of sin. In these moments, we can either choose God’s way, or some other way, and it is when we choose something other than God as a solution to our problems that we open ourselves up to becoming enslaved to sin.
Sin ensnares us by presenting itself as the answer to our problems, creating more problems for us, presenting itself as the solution to those problems, and so forth. Anything other than God that presents itself as the answer to our problems is idolatrous and will only lead to more problems in the long run. Fashion, art, family, money, drugs, power, technology, politics, sex, and countless other facets of life can present themselves as idols, though none of these things are bad in themselves.
For example, a young girl struggling with insecurity may seek comfort in fashion. When she is able to look at others and see that they are less fashionable than her, she feels a sense of superiority, and so her insecurities are masked, for a time. However, she is now chained to the whims of the fashion industry. She spends countless hours browsing fashion blogs, every season she goes through each designer’s lookbook, and she finds herself spending more and more money to ensure that she has the newest, most fashionable designer clothes.
Yet whenever she encounters someone more stylish than her, her insecurities come flooding back. Instead of being able to walk in love toward the other person, she views her as the enemy. As she spends more and more time and money on fashion, she begins to neglect other important things, becoming more insecure and perpetuating her need for fashion. She also begins to look down more and more on those who are less fashionable than her, and she soon finds herself isolated and unlikable. Consequently, she works harder to develop her style, and continues to become ensnared instead of finding security in Christ.
Likewise, a young man may see the struggles of those around him and think to himself that their problems would go away if they just had a little bit more money. Consequently, he determines that he should make enough money that he will be able to avoid the problems that they ran into. He chooses a high paying career, manages his finances with an iron grip, and puts all of his time into his work.
However, he too has become enslaved. His security rests on his financial situation, so he is constantly worried about the stock market, the economy, and his job. Eventually, he marries a girl and tells her that he will provide her the world. A while later, he finds himself with kids that he doesn’t know and a wife that wants a divorce. They complain that he doesn’t love him, that he is always working, and that he doesn’t have time for them. He lashes out in anger saying that the reason he pours all of his time into his work is so that they can have a good life.
With his trust still in his money, he tries to reprimand the situation by buying his kids expensive things, giving his wife a brand new car, and taking the family on an expensive extended vacation in Europe. However, they see that he is trying to buy them, and the situation remains unresolved. The man continues his attempts to reprimand the situation, sending his kids to college for free, buying them brand new cars, and paying for all of their expenses. They still resent him, however, so the man continues spending more and more money, and consequently having to spend more and more time working to make money, and perpetuating the problem.
Of course, these situations could unfold in many different ways. People often become disillusioned with whatever idol it is that they are pursuing, and turn to alcohol, drugs, pornography, cinema, music, travel, parties, or any number of other things to numb the pain. The girl justifies her obsession with fashion by pursuing a degree in fashion design, finds herself unemployable and broke, and turns to drugs as a means of escape. The man’s wife leaves him, so he begins to frequent clubs, turning to strippers to provide his escape. It doesn’t always end so dramatically. Sometimes the problems perpetuate hidden behind a facade, causing trouble, but never enough to become a serious enough problem that the individual might notice that there is one.
It all boils down to this one truth: mankind is incomplete without God. We were not created to exist apart from him; we were to live in him eternally. We are, however, separated from him. Because of this, there is a void in every man that only God can fill. When we search elsewhere for something to fill that void, we become enslaved and ultimately unhappy.
Blaise Pascal said it well when he said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
In my own life, I have found many sins which persisted unchecked because I never thought that the idol I was serving could be bad, and I am sure that I shall find many more such unchecked sins. Whenever I seek my identity apart from my identity in Christ, I stumble. Whenever I seek happiness or security apart from God, I find myself unhappy, worried, stressed, and in a wholly worse situation than I would be in if I were walking in faith. Living in Christ, walking in faith, is a perpetual act. Whenever I do anything else, I serve a false master.