Nip it in the Bud

A close friend recently shared that he spoke to his daughters about their school “nipping” some bad behavior “in the bud.” They were puzzled and confused. Apparently, my friend has been slack on his parenting skills and has not shared “The Andy Griffith Show” with his children.

The phrase has its origin in the de-budding of plants. The phrase “nip in the bloom” was cited in Henry Chettle’s romance Piers Plainnes Seaven Yeres Prentiship in 1595. But most know the phrase “nip it in the bud” because of everyone’s favorite deputy, Barney Fife. He famously ranted, “Nip it in the bud! You got to nip it in the bud! ... Nip it! You go read any book you want on the subject of child discipline, and you’ll find that every one of ‘em is in favor of bud-nippin’... Only one way to take care of it.”

The reality is that Barney’s advice is fantastic for the disciples’ approach to sin. Sin should be nipped in the bud. It should be stopped before it ever begins.

James wrote, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). There are several different stages of the process of temptation. At each stage one has the opportunity to avoid sin.

First, there is the lust, or desire, stage. James says people are tempted by their own desires. Those desires were described by John as the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15–17). Each person is constantly being bombarded by Satan with desires. Desires that feed the flesh. Desires for things that that can be seen. Desires that boost one’s confidence and reputation. Sin can be stopped when that person remembers that serving God is a greater desire than their own lusts.

Second, the desire is conceived. Because the person fails to control his desire, he begins to seek ways to fulfill the lust. If his desire is immorality, he will seek ways to find privacy in order to fulfill the desire. If his desire is fame and reputation, he will seek ways to fulfill that desire even at the expense of others. Paul describes this process as making provisions for the flesh (Romans 13:14). The solution was to put on Jesus Christ. Rather than making plans to fulfill one’s lusts, they should seek to serve Christ.

The third step is when the individual gives in to sin. They’ve thought about it. They’ve made plans. It is finally time to commit the sinful act. It’s still not too late to say “No!” To stop it before becomes sin. It can still be nipped in the bud.

The problem is that too many take sin too lightly. Rather than stop it at its earliest stages, they play with the idea. They let the lust linger around for a while. And eventually, they give in. It could all be prevented if they simply followed Barney’s advice of nipping it in the bud.

Don’t play with sin. Stop it when it is no more than a desire or a thought. Nip it in the bud.