“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
Towards the end of February and at the beginning of March this year it rained. It rained and it rained and it rained and it rained!
In fact, it rained so much over so many weeks that in the places that were not openly flooded the ground was so soggy that if you walked on the grass, the mud and water would seep up over the tops of your shoes and straight inside your socks.
It was really crazy weather! And because everything was so wet for so long, it was really hard to control the leaking roofs and the flooded floors and the mould that seemed to sprout out from everywhere and anywhere overnight.
About halfway through this very extreme weather event, I woke up one morning to see the entire inside of my home covered in a thin wet layer of mist. And as I walked through my home, I noticed a thin layer of mould growing on the outsides of cupboards and around doorways. I immediately set to work scrubbing and bleaching to eradicate the pest, but I must admit that I spent the next few weeks wiping over surfaces and trying to stay ahead of the mould as the weather simply became wetter and wetter and wetter.
Mould is a horrible thing! I am not talking about the wonderful mould that is used to make penicillin or even the yeasts that go into wine and beer and bread. I am talking about the awful black mould that is the product of rising damp! It grows from microscopic spores, which means that the mould begins to grow before it is even visible. And by the time the mould is actually visible to the naked eye, whole colonies of the stuff have been growing for weeks if not months or years, and it is almost out of control. And this sort of mould is dangerous too! It is not a great thing for anyone – but it is especially problematic for people who have weakened immune systems or people who are already sick.
And I have been thinking about that rain and that dampness and that mould over the last few days because that mould reminds me of vices.
Just as virtues are good habits, vices are bad habits. And bad habits are not born of a day – they are established over days and weeks and months and years of behaviour. And the behaviours to generate vices over those days and weeks and months and years are SIN… And just like mould, sin starts off small – like tiny microscopic spores – with one small temptation.
After all, Judas Iscariot did not start off by betraying the Son of Man. Instead, he started with little bits of selfishness – completely justifiable in his mind at the time.
Who – after all – could possibly be so evil as to betray so INFINITELY GENTLE a PERSON as Christ unless they could justify it to themselves in small steps?
And those tiny little temptations are the trickiest and most dangerous temptations of all!
Just think about it… The Evil One did not tempt Christ during His forty days and nights by starting off with something big. Christ was hungry – so the Evil One started with food. “I can give you food,” he said to God. And how easy it would have been for Christ to say, “Yes. Okay. I’m really hungry after all. What harm could a little food do?” And yet, Christ said no such thing. Instead, He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
How easy it is to forget that those invisible spores grow stronger and more visible the more I give them opportunity. And how easy it is to ignore the problem growing silently inside my soul as I ignore the spores of my sins. And yet – how terrible the damage to a weak and sick soul such as mine when those spores take root and the mould overgrows… Such vices can kill a soul through sin, just as mould can kill its host…
And I think of this today, as I think of the words of my Beloved, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
And my heart fills with shame, because when I was tempted with a little bit of food – I ate…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.