Years ago a Christian magazine surveyed its readers by asking about the greatest challenge to their spiritual growth. In order of importance they listed:

  1. Materialism.
  2. Pride.
  3. Self-centeredness.
  4. Laziness.
  5. Anger/Bitterness (tied).
  6. Sexual lust
  7. Envy.
  8. Gluttony.
  9. Lying.

While far from a scientific experiment, it seems the readers were honest. I imagine if they were asked to list the “greatest” sins, the answers would be different. Murder, idolatry, and blasphemy would probably be in there somewhere. But they were asked about their greatest challenge.

In the letter titled simply XII, in The Screwtape Letters, the senior devil, Screwtape, passes along some advice to his protégé, Wormwood, on the power of sin. Sin doesn’t need to be “big and bad” to be effective. The opposite could be better. He writes,

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”1

Gradual, gentle, soft. Sounds inviting. That’s the point.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” – Proverbs 6:10–11.

  1. C. S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1961), 156.

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