Have you seen those old Garden Way carts? A large wooden three sided box sits on two bicycle tires, with two props in front (instead of two more wheels) and a tubular handle that comes straight out from the bottom of the cart. You lift on that handle and pull or push the cart at an angle to the ground. Basically, it’s one giant lever.
Since I was hoping to finish that day, I started stacking the wood into the cart from the back, behind the wheels. Instead of laying the whole first layer, which would have been so much smarter, I kept stacking the back higher and higher. Then as I turned around to grab a log for the first layer on the front end of the cart, I heard a sudden WHAM! I was almost afraid to look, but when I did, I saw that the cart had tipped and fallen on its back and all that carefully stacked wood had tumbled out onto the ground. Instead of balancing the weight on, behind, and in front of the wheels, I had put it all behind the wheels. What should I have expected? God doesn’t ordinarily change the laws of physics when his children act in a less than intelligent manner.
We all have tipping points and we are often just as brainless about them. God warns us over and over that sin can enslave us. It isn’t something we can dabble in and then step out when we’re ready to. Peter says we reach a point when we “cannot cease from sin” (2 Pet 2:14). Paul says we can become “past feeling” at which point we will “give ourselves over” to unrighteousness (Eph 4:19). He also talks about people who have their “consciences branded” (1 Tim 4:2).
Slaves were branded in the first century. When, having sinned over and over, we reach the point that we have become “obedient slaves of sin” (Rom 6:16), our consciences become branded. We may think we are free, but that is part of the entrapment. Somewhere along the line we have become addicted to our sin and we cannot stop, cannot cease, have given ourselves over to this master.
And when that happens God “gives us over” as well (Rom 1:24). Whatever we want to do, He will allow, however we want to live, He will not stand in the way. “There remains no longer a sacrifice” for us (Heb 10:26).
When do we reach that tipping point? I do not know. I do know that the thought of it scares me to death. If anything will keep me righteous, maybe that is it—the idea that somewhere along the way I can reach a point where even God gives up on me. Maybe that will make me stay away from that balancing act altogether.
Does that make me yet another kind of slave? You bet—a slave of righteousness. But tipping over in that direction will bring an entirely different result.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. Rom 6:16-19,22.