"Little" Sins and the Smelly Snake

Have you ever heard a child say something like, But it's only a little sin. It doesn't matter that much.? In our curriculum To Be Like Jesus, we include this powerful story told in Africa to help illustrate to the children the meaning of Proverbs 4:23—Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life, and Romans 6:12—Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
One day a man sold the best house in all the village. However, as the sale was being concluded, he declared that he could not sell one nail in a wall. That nail was to be eternally his. After a week the previous owner returned to hang his coat on the nail. The new owners were puzzled but determined that since the nail was his and the coat was his, there was nothing that they could do. However, in the second week the previous owner returned again. This time he took his coat off the nail but replaced it with a piece of raw meat. Again the new owners deduced that since both the coat and meat belonged to the previous owner, they could do nothing. The smell in the house got worse and worse as the days transpired. Finally, the previous owner returned again to reclaim his now rancid piece of meat. This time, and with a knowing nod of his head and twinkle in his eye, he left a long, dead, slimy snake on the nail. With shock the new owners moved out, and soon the previous owner moved back in.

Story taken from Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts by Gailyn Van Rheenen, copyright 1991, pages 43-44.)

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