The Five-Second Rule

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. –Revelation 3:17-19

Have you heard of the “five-second rule”? That’s the informal rule that many people use, whereby if you should drop some food on the floor, if you pick it up within five-seconds the food is still considered to be good to eat. The rule implies that the food will not have become contaminated.

The theory has been tested repeatedly, even on the popular Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters program. As it turns out, the amount of time food was on the floor didn’t matter. What really matters is the condition of the floor. If the floor is clean, any food dropped on it will stay clean. However, if the floor is contaminated, no matter how quickly one might pick up dropped food, it will become contaminated.

There is a spiritual parallel to the “five-second rule.” It goes something like this: if we sin just a little, or if we just briefly embrace sin, it’s no big deal. A thoughtless or unkind word spoken in the heat of the moment? No real harm done. An impure thought when accidentally stumbling upon Internet porn? No foul. It’s not my fault! This approach of seeing “little sins” as inconsequential is simply misguided.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Just as a clean food falling on a contaminated floor equals contaminated food, whenever we sin, whether small or big, in passing or habitually, we become contaminated. The reality is that just as with food, there is no “five-second rule” where sin is concerned. We need to take all sin seriously!

Fortunately, we have a solution to the contamination of sin! We have the boundless grace, mercy, and forgiveness offered through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through our confession and repentance, we can be de-contaminated from sin. Jesus died and rose again to guarantee it! Not even the vilest of sinners is so far gone that God’s mercy cannot be found.

Today, evaluate your attitude regarding sin. Thinking we aren’t so bad by glossing over sin is dangerous. But, when we reaffirm both the seriousness of sin and our need for Jesus to cleanse us, we are in the safest place of all!

1. Think of a circumstance when you’ve applied the “five-second rule” to sinful behavior.

2. Will you confess this circumstance to God and ask for His forgiveness?

1 John 1:9; Psalm 51

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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