April 21, 2009
Don’t Dance Around a Cactus
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)
We were all straining to see over the heads of other cheering bystanders at the start of the race. My husband and middle son were among those waiting to start the half-marathon, and the rest of the family sought a glimpse as they took their first steps across the starting line. Being tall, I managed to find a place where I could see, and tucked a child in front of me. My youngest daughter found a landscaping rock just a few steps back and planted herself on top of that.
As I took turns looking at her and then back at the starting line, I realized she had turned the rock into a dancing stage. Completely oblivious to the race, she now took little jumps and turns on the rock. I wasn’t worried about her falling off, because the rock was only six inches high. But I was worried about the Saguaro cactus next to the rock. In fact, she had noticed it too, and stopped dancing long enough to try and touch the cactus. I called her name and told her not to touch the cactus. She began to watch the race.
By that time, the starting gun had sounded and hundreds of racers crossed in front of me. My attention was focused on finding my husband and son, and I caught a glimpse of them as they passed by. Before I could turn around, I felt a tug on my sleeve and looked down to find my daughter holding out a hand with a few cactus spines sticking out of it.
Thankfully, I removed them easily. But instead of letting the matter go, I just had to ask what happened. I said, “Why did you touch the cactus after I told you not to?”
“I didn’t touch the cactus,” she answered. “I was just dancing.”
Her answer made me think about the times I had danced around something dangerous, confident in my safety because I wasn’t “touching” it. In reality, there is injury that can happen even when I’m not taking the wrong action. I’ve caught my mind wandering to a wrong place many times, and sometimes even settling on those wrong thoughts. Even though I may not commit the deed, in Jesus’ words, I’ve done wrong.
Matthew 5 contains what I think is some of the hardest teaching in the Bible. Jesus is calling His disciples to a higher level of obedience, one that holds us accountable for our thoughts. In verse 22, when Jesus says we face judgment for being angry, I’m convicted. I know Jesus is talking about anger that wishes another harm. Based on His teaching in Matthew 5, He’s saying I’m just as guilty as if I had committed murder when I have those thoughts. I can apply that lesson to other areas of my life too.
The reality for me is I can’t “dance” around sinful deeds, thinking I’m safe because I haven’t acted on them. Jesus is calling me to stay far away from sin … in my actions and in my thoughts. If I dance around a cactus long enough, I will eventually get stuck. And if I dance with sin long enough in my mind, I’ll get stuck too. And while forgiveness and healing is available through Christ, that kind of stuck leaves scars I don’t want.
Dear Lord, thank You for giving us warnings about sin. I sometimes think I have no control over my mind. But I know that’s not true. You have offered me help to take thoughts captive. Please reveal those areas in my thought life that need to change. I want to bring honor and glory to You in all areas of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Women’s Devotional Bible (NIV)
What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst
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Is there an area of your life where you have been dancing around sin? Identify one area that might be a danger point and confess it in prayer. Then commit to tell someone about it for ongoing accountability.
What are some practices you can implement into your life to keep your thought life pure?
Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-5. What hope and help do we have against the pull of the world?
2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV)
Matthew 12:25, “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’” (NIV)
© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Tuesday, 21 April 2009.