“If your hand causes you to sin, cut if off… And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Mark 9:43-48).
If you think these passages are about self-mutilation, you are mistaken. It is Jesus’s way of reminding us that “little” things can make or break us. A minor action can compromise or destroy our integrity. Small matters matter.
Even in nature, “small” organisms are surprisingly the most harmful. Microscopic viruses, like COVID-19, can wreak havoc in our lives as they do now. Mosquitoes are deadlier than crocodiles or snakes, for they kill around three million people annually by infecting them with malaria, dengue, and other diseases. Termites destroy more houses than earthquakes do.
In the moral realm, we often take for granted the ripple effect of routine actions we do every day. Every time we do something, our action forecloses other possibilities contrary to what we are doing, and generates a cascade of unexpected consequences. A reckless indiscretion, no matter how small and harmless, can eventually result in a spiritual and moral meltdown.
In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise for deciding to eat a seemingly trivial fruit. The downfall of the powerful and intelligent King David began with one lustful glance at a bathing woman, which led him to commit adultery and murder.
Addiction to online pornography can start with a casual “window shopping” on the internet. Alcoholism begins with a sip or a gulp. Cigarette addiction kicks off with a quick puff. Corruption can be triggered by a seemingly innocent handshake. Syndicated robbers and kidnappers could have been former pickpockets or hold-uppers. Many notorious drug lords today must have been casual users and small-time pushers.
Nothing dies harder than a bad habit. We go through destructive life patterns, not because we are destined to do so, but because of the wrong deeds that we repeatedly do, unmindful of their consequences.
So, before you light again a cigarette, inhale or swallow drugs, drink alcohol, waste time on a video game, a Netflix serial, or a lewd show in the internet. listen to the vigilant little voice within you that says: “No, don’t do that!” or “Stop doing that!”
We call this voice “conscience,” the God-created software in our makeup that tells us to do good and avoid evil. It does not explain; it merely points the way.
There is a positive payback for following this voice. We develop inner peace, sobriety, and strength of character. We also refocus our strength and vitality for a more peaceful life, and a rewarding relationship with others and with God.
Our refusal to heed this voice constitute sin. Sin is basically a bad decision. So, if our life pattern consists of blessings and rewards, it must be because of the right decisions we are making, notwithstanding the risks and difficulties we encounter.
Many people belittle the effect of sin in their lives. They say: “I am only human. God will not punish me.” Actually, we don’t need God to punish us for the sins we commit. Every sin, especially the small, seductive, sugar-coated ones, bring their own punishment.