Cut off the thumbs!

March 2, 2009

by Dr. Phil Geoffrion, Albion Evangelical Free Church, Cokato

Have you ever sprained or broken a thumb? If so, you quickly realized that it is virtually impossible to get a strong grip on anything without the use of the thumb.

A gruesome application of this simple truth is found in a gut-wrenching account in the Bible: Adoni-Bezek (king of the Canaanites and Perizzites) escaped, but the Israelis soon captured him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. (Judges 1.6)

This terrible treatment of enemies was common in the ancient Near East. Imagine being held down, in the days before anesthesia, and having your thumbs and big toes removed!

Believe it or not, this was an act of kindness. Whenever an enemy king was captured, the vital objective was to ensure that he never again led his men into battle against you. There were two ways to do this: kill him immediately without mercy, or cut off his thumbs so he could never again be able to grasp a sword.

This principle can apply to our struggle against sin in our lives. Sin, simply put, is our enemy. As long as it has any power left, it will return again and again with a relentlessness that has left many Christians miserable and defeated.

To break its iron grip on our lives, we must cut off its thumb – the one thing that makes all of the rest of sin’s grip possible.

What is the thumb of sin? It is deception.

Every sin we commit is accompanied by deception. The alcoholic says, “I can quit any time I want.” Deception. The gossip proclaims, “I probably shouldn’t have said that, but she deserved it.” Deception.

The sin of deception enables people to continue their sin. It helps them justify their deviant behavior. It hides their activities from the cleansing light of accountability – accountability is useless if we are deceiving our accountability partner.

Perhaps the most grievous sin, however, is self-deception. Here’s what could happen: when we do something that violates one of God’s commands for our behavior, our spirit begins to come under the conviction of a guilty conscience.

We are convicted of the sin in our lives. God’s Spirit urges us to renounce that particular behavior. Internal pressure begins to build inside us to expel that sin from our lives. If we are perfectly honest at that moment, we have no legitimate excuse for continuing to sin.

But when we prefer to keep the sin rather than renounce it, we begin to use deception to protect it from being rooted out of our lives. By choosing to believe a lie, we continue to live the lie.

Therefore, the essential principle for breaking sin’s grip is to cut off the thumb – to be ruthless in removing deception that permits all of the rest of the sins to flourish.

Jesus proclaimed, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8.31-32)

Free from what? Free from all of the sins that cling tenaciously to our lives through self-deception.

We need not despair if we find ourselves in the grip of old temptations despite repeated attempts to get rid of those sins. Instead of focusing on the sins which bind us, we need to cut off the thumb of deception which keeps us in sin’s grip.

We need to ask the Spirit to reveal the lies we tell ourselves in order to remain in sin’s grip. When the sin is revealed, a good prayer of confession to God comes from the lips of King David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139.23-24)

Only when we see sin as God sees it will we be finally ready to live without it. Let’s take a lesson from the scarred hands of the defeated kings of the Middle East. Cut off the thumbs!