The apostle Paul admonished, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22 KJV). The admonition does not just deal with not committing sin. It deals with staying out of potentially sinful situations, situations wherein we might find ourselves unduly tempted to sin. The idea is to stay away from not just the sin, but also the temptation that could lead to sin.
There are all kinds of circumstances in which a person would be wise to apply this principle. One of the greatest problems with rehabilitating people who spend any kind of serious time in jail is recidivism, a fancy word that means, they end up back in jail! A huge percentage of people who are released after being incarcerated do indeed end up back in jail, often rather quickly and many of them repeatedly.
Now the nicest jail is not a nice place; it’s still jail! How is it that somebody who spends time in jail would put himself in jeopardy of ending up back in jail once he’s released in the first place? One of the biggest reasons is that a great many people, upon being released from jail, go back to the same environment and the same acquaintances that contributed to their ending up in jail in the first place. One of the most important realities an inmate has to understand is that he cannot go back his old environment and friends, with all of the temptations that go therewith, if he wants to stay out of jail in the future. He must change his lifestyle. It’s the same principle admonished by Paul, noted above- “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Another way to express this principle is, “Blow out the match!” We teach children to not play with fire. The reason is simple. Somebody who plays with fire is apt to start a fire. It’s easier to prevent a fire than it is to put one out. It’s better to just blow out the match than to risk having to put out a fire that carelessness with that match might cause.
The best protection is to not light the match in the first place. A recovering drug addict needs to stay away from the people and places where he obtained his drugs when he was using. A person with a drinking problem needs to stay away from alcohol, totally. A person with a gambling problem needs to stay away from anyplace where gambling is done. A person who cannot control his spending needs to not go shopping- he might do well to not have a check book. Somebody with a gossip problem needs to not listen to gossip. A person who finds it difficult to overcome sexual temptation must not allow himself to be in a situation in which he might be tempted sexually.
The list could go on and on. We need to recognize that the devil is actively engaged in trying to lead us into sin (1 Pet. 5:8). Sin, unchecked, will bring about our eternal destruction (Rom. 6:23). We need to guard against falling into sinful practices by staying away from tempting situations that the devil might use to break us down. Remember, it’s easier to prevent a fire than it is to put out a fire. So, make up your mind, just blow out the match...
Gary L. Hutchens