Guard Against Sin’s Callousing Effect
YOU love what is right, do you not? Of course, you do, or most likely you would not be reading these lines. This being so, you will want to be on guard against sin’s callousing effect, which would make you indifferent to what is right and what is wrong.
The Creator has endowed you with a conscience by which you can judge between right and wrong. Lower animals do not have this faculty, just one of the many evidences of the great chasm that yawns between man and beast. A dog can be trained not to take certain things but he cannot be taught that it is wrong to steal. To appreciate moral principles requires reason, and reasoning is beyond the capacity of dumb brutes. It follows that if a man lets his conscience become calloused, seared, hardened, deadened, by repeated careless or willful excursions into sin and wrongdoing, he becomes like the dumb beast. It is as though his moral warning signal no longer works because of his repeatedly violating it. As the apostle Peter warns, he will pay the price of God’s wrath for such wrongdoing.—2 Pet. 2:12, 13.
This callousing effect of sin is seen on every hand, even as foretold: “In later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, . . . marked in their conscience as with a branding iron.” As of the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day, it can be said of them: “Did they feel shame because it was something detestable that they had done? For one thing, they positively do not feel any shame; for another thing, they have not come to know even how to feel humiliated,” or how to blush. They are like the unfaithful wife who commits adultery and who says: “I have committed no wrong.”—1 Tim. 4:1, 2; Jer. 6:15; Prov. 30:20.
The callousing effect of sin might be illustrated by the effect of the tobacco habit. Because of the pleasure obtained from satisfying an acquired craving countless millions today keep on smoking cigarettes in spite of the ever-mounting evidence of how extremely harmful cigarette smoking is. Among the latest such evidence, incidentally, is that given out by the American Cancer Society showing that the death rate from coronary disease in the United States among cigarette smokers is three times that of nonsmokers.—New York Times, May 9, 1966.
Yes, sin is like that. Those who by carelessness or willfulness let themselves get calloused by sin become indifferent to ever so many worthwhile things. Thus many a middle-aged man has sacrificed the happiness of family, wife and children, because of an infatuation for some younger woman, which may well have started by flirting. As a result, he becomes more concerned with self-gratification than with having a good name, which God’s Word tells us, “is to be chosen rather than abundant riches.” Now the counsel to keep considering whatever things are righteous, chaste, lovable, well-spoken of and praiseworthy falls on deaf ears. If he is a Christian minister he may even become indifferent toward having a “fine testimony” from others and even as regards his hope of everlasting life in happiness in God’s new system of things.—Prov. 22:1; Phil. 4:8; Acts 16:2; 1 Tim. 3:7.
Today there is so much inducement to sin, against which one must guard himself. To begin with there is the wicked environment in which we find ourselves. Truly these are the foretold “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Never before has lawlessness of every kind been so rampant. Ethics in business, politics, religion and family life are at an all-time low. Criminals, far from being deprecated because of their crimes, are being romanticized because of their audacity, skill and success; as in the case of the British thieves who made away with two tons of bank notes to the value of $7 million and of which only about 10 percent has been recovered.—Life, April 8, 1966.
Then there are the sinful tendencies within our bodies, even as acknowledged by the Creator, Jehovah God, right after the flood of Noah’s day: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” Some 2,500 years later the apostle Paul testified to the same law operating within his members: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” But the apostle never relented in striving against it.—Gen. 8:21; Rom. 7:19.
So there is within us a tendency to gravitate downward, against which we continually must strive. It may be the temptation to cheat in school examinations or steal from one’s employer or loaf on the job. Unless we strive against such tendencies we will become calloused regarding them and so suffer the loss of self-respect as well as making ourselves liable to more gross forms of dishonesty. Alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual aberrations are extreme cases where more often than not victims do not want to be cured because of the callousing effect of sin.
To guard against sin’s callousing effect you must heed Jesus’ counsel: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is eager, but the flesh is weak.” Yes, recognize your weaknesses and erect guards against them. Do as the apostle Paul said he did: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave.” Not literally beating it, of course, but making it behave.—Matt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 9:27.
Feed your mind on the right kind of mental food, in particular read the Bible and related literature; choose as your associates those who feel about these things the way you do. Also, note that prayer, to be of help, must be earnest, “with holy spirit.” That means not glibly asking God’s forgiveness but resolving and promising him to do better and then acting in harmony with your prayers.—Jude 20.
If in such ways as these you, as the apostle Paul did, ‘are exercising yourself continually to have a consciousness of committing no offense against God and men,’ you will be guarding yourself against sin’s callousing effect and like him be able also to say: “I have behaved before God with a perfectly clear conscience down to this day.”—Acts 24:16; 23:1.