Summary: Many people struggle with the same temptation for many years. Often, people will wonder, “How is it possible for a Christian to struggle with a temptation for so long? How did things get so bad?” I’ll tell you how: so slowly that you wouldn’t even notice what was taking place.

The Slow Slide

Text: Genesis 13:2-13


Ever seen a Chinese handcuff? Maybe you know it better by the name “Chinese Finger Trap” or “that joke your friend played on you that one time after asking, ‘Wanna see something cool?’” The genius of this gag toy is its simplicity; it’s just a small cylinder of woven bamboo strips. But when you place your fingers in the open ends of the cylinder and pull, the bamboo braid contracts, trapping your fingers inside. The more you pull, the more the trap tightens.

When I was growing up, it was the practical joke that people pull on each other. I remember one of my friends doing this to me. The harder that I struggled, the more he would laugh. When I became mad at him, he simply said, “Don’t get mad at me- I didn’t make you stick your fingers in it!”

Isn’t that just how temptation works sometimes. We get ourselves in trouble when we willingly entertain it, and the trap closes around us the more we pull away from following God and the longer we all temptation to stay in our lives unchecked. From there it just gets worse as we fall to sin and experience consequences that are sometimes far longer-reaching than we ever could have foreseen.

Many people struggle with the same temptation for many years. Often, people will wonder, “How is it possible for a Christian to struggle with a temptation for so long? How did things get so bad?” I’ll tell you how: so slowly that you wouldn’t even notice what was taking place.

When it comes to temptation, a big problem rarely begins as a big problem. It begins as the song on the radio we should turn off, but ignore because we’re too tired. It begins as the unedifying conversation at work that we don’t partake in but remain part of long after we should’ve stepped away. It begins as that argument with a spouse that we leave unresolved just long enough to wonder if the grass isn’t greener elsewhere. It begins with allowing ourselves to drive past a place we shouldn’t frequent rather than takin an alternate route. On and on I could go, but you get the point. These are small decisions that we think are irrelevant at the time, but in hindsight we realise by making them we placed ourselves in the trap that led to sin.

None of this happens overnight. You won’t turn the corner tomorrow and discover you suddenly became an emotional overeater or have destructive anger issues. It is a slow slide into bondage.

Lot, Abraham’s trouble-magnet of a nephew, can tell us something about the slow slide. It takes eight chapters of the book of Genesis (12-19) to tell his story. Let’s take a look at his progression into temptation and sin.

1. The Backstory

Lot was the son of a man named Haran, who we better know as the brother of Abraham. When Haran died, Abraham took lot in to raise as his own. We know from the Bible that Abraham was a man of great faith who loved God and sought to honour Him with his life. It was to Abraha, that God said,

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:”

Genesis 12:1-2

And God did bless him abundantly. The Bible says this future father of the Jewish nation “was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). Surely, if there were a godly example to follow, it was Abraham’s. Lot clearly benefited from his relationship with Abraham: Genesis 13:5 tells us “And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.” But a problem was brewing. Lot and Abraham had so many flocks and herds that it became hard to share the land between them, so they determined to go their separate ways.

And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

(Gen 13:8-9)

2. The Slide Begins

What happened next in Lot’s story was a decision that perhaps be looked back on with regret. At the time, however, it seemed harmless enough. Standing there with his uncle and being given his choice of the land that stretched before them on all sides, Lot did what many of us would have done in his place: he chose the land that would give him the greatest advantage.

The Bible says, “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” (Genesis 13:10) For a man with lots of mouths to feed, this was an easy choice right? NOT so fast! The plain of Jordan has a major detraction: it was close to a city called Sodom, which was known above all else for its wickedness. (Genesis 13:13)

How often do we make choices in life without considering where that choice will place us?

When Lot looked over toward the plain of Jordan, there’s no doubt he saw Sodom in the distance. There’s also little doubt he would have known Sodom’s widespread reputation! We don’t have to ask what his response should have been! The Bible clearly states in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 that we are to separate ourselves from even the appearance of sin! But like many of us, he didn’t look away because maybe he thought he could handle it or that it wouldn’t affect him! Instead, he intentionally turned toward it! (Genesis 13:11-12)

3. The Trap Tightens.

Lot’s slide began with his decision to look in the wrong direction, but he soon found just being close to the temptation represented by Sodom was not enough. Genesis 14 details the rebellion of the cities of the plain of Jordan, including the King of Sodom, against the Elmaite rule of King Chedorlaomer. When the rebellion was crushed, the king took goods and captives from those cities as his spoils of war. One name stands out among the captives!

And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Genesis 14:12

Notice that by this time, Lot was no longer living just outside the sinful city of Sodom, gazing towards it from his tent! Now, he was an official resident. We don’t know how long he’d been living in the city, but we do know that he was already discovering there were some consequences of his choices. Lot had to be rescued by his uncle, who chased after the king’s army with just 318 men, killed them all, and brought back everything and everyone that had been stolen. (verse 13-16)

And Lot learned his lesson? Right? WRONG! Look with me at the next time he’s mentioned in Scripture. Chapter 19 opens and where do we find Lot?

So, angles have come to visit the city and Lot is essentially rolling out the red carpet? This might be the opening of a pretty awesome story- until we consider why the angels happened to be in town! Genesis 18 tells us they’d just come from a visit with Abraham and that the Lord had told Abraham of His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great wickedness. Knowing Lot lived in Sodom, Abraham pled for mercy, and God agreed to spare the cities if there were even 10 righteous people living there. (18:32)

Fast forward now to the angels’ arrival in Sodom, and they don’t have to look very far to find Lot: he was sitting in right in the city gates! This is a significant detail because those who sat in the gates were typically important men, the political and business leaders of the city. Bible scholars have noted that the city gates were the centre of community life: “In Eastern cities {the gate} is the market, the seat of justice, of social intercourse and amusement, especially a favourite lounge in the evenings, the arched roof affording a pleasant shade.”

So not only did Lot continue living in Sodom, but he allowed himself to be drawn closer into its wickedness. He was now a VIP in the city! We can take Lot’s situation as a caution that sometimes sin seems like it’s actually paying off. If we’re not careful, we can get to a point in our lives where we’re not following God’s will but there doesn’t seem to be any negative consequences; in fact, it might seem as if we’re thriving. Business is booming, we have money in our pockets, our relationships are going well, and there’s nothing but sunny skies ahead. Don’t be fooled: there is ALWAYS a consequence for sin. (Galatians 6:7)

Lot’s sunny skies turned stormy very quickly after the angels’ arrival. After an ugly run-in with the men of the city, the angels displayed God’s power by blinding them and then telling Lot it was moving day. God had come to judge the city for its sin, and anyone left there would be toast. Lot escaped with his wife and two daughters and a strict order from the angles not to look back! Tragically, his wife had trouble letting go, and she paid with her life. (Genesis 19:26)

Amazingly, there’s still more bad news to this story. After his escape, Lot had an incestuous relationship with his two daughters. The results was a set of grandsons who respectively grew to establish the Moabite and Ammonite nations, which were enemies of the people of God! What a horrible slide! Lot went from being wealthy and blessed because of his association with Abraham, to having no wife, no home, no money, no VIP status, and having fathered some of the greatest enemies of God in the Bible- all because of his association with Sodom!

4. Lesson from the Slide

I wonder if, sometime in the days after fleeing Sodom, Lot didn’t sit alone in his tent, maybe even catching a hint of smoke still in the air from the charred remains of his old life, and wish wholeheartedly that he’d made a different choice all those years before when he stood beside Abraham surveying the land around them. If he had known the consequences of not looking away, perhaps the plains of Jordan with Sodom in the distance would not have seemed so tempting.

We don’t know if Lot every finally learned his lesson and mad God-honouring choices with the rest of his life, but he is a warning for any of us who would entertain temptation. There are 3 lessons we can learn from Lot’s slow slide if we’ll pay attention.

A. Lesson #1: Protect your focus

There’s an old saying, “What you focus on becomes your reality,” and this is so true of temptation. Remember, Lot’s problem began when he didn’t look away from sin. Soon, his reality was great wickedness and destruction. We can avoid the trap of temptation by focusing instead on the things of God. (Psalm 25:15; Hebrews 12:1-2)

B. Lesson #2: Pick your friends carefully

Ever hear this one, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are and where you are heading? The people we pick to journey with us through life have a profound impact on our character and behaviour. Remember that God agreed not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were only 10 righteous people, yet only Lot and two of his daughters were saved. Clearly, Lot had few godly influences in his life (apart from his uncle, who wisely kept his distance from Sodom). This no doubt influenced his choices for the worse. That’s why Paul warned, “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manner.” (1 Corinthains15:33) If we want to avoid the slow slide, we need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us to do right!

C. Lesson #3: Your choices affect more than just you!

Lot didn’t just bring himself into Sodom. He brought all those workers with him, his wife, 4 daughters, and even 2 sons-in-law. When given the chance by the angels to warn his family of the coming judgement, his sons in law thought he was joking or mocking. If you do the math, we can easily see 8 people that Lot should have influence to follow God. His uncle negotiated with God to save the city if 10 righteous people were found. ALL Lot had to do was influence 2 people of his herdsmen, neighbours, friends, in-laws, etc… and God would have spared the city.

D. Lesson #4: Sin will always false advertise and will take you further than you wanted to go and cost you far more than you intended to pay!

Ultimately, it cost Lot EVERYTHING!

E. Lesson #4: Don’t be greedy

Greed is what motivated Lot’s decision to make the plain of Jordan his home in the first place. He already had abundant wealth as God blessed him because of Abraham’s faithfulness, but he wanted more. Faced with the choice of which land to settle on, he literally picked the side where the grass was greenest. And we see how well that worked out for him.

Money is great- it helps put petrol in our cars and food on the table, and every once in awhile, pays for a much-needed holiday. But with money also comes a greater risk of temptation. Paul warned of this very concern:

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

1Timothy 6:9, 17-18

Greed opens our hearts to the trap of temptation, but generosity and trust in God to provide for our needs is the way out.


Remember the Chinese handcuff from the beginning of this message? The key to freedom from the trap is counterintuitive; rather than pulling, you must push the ends of the cylinder toward the centre in order to enlarge the opening and release your fingers. Freedom from temptation works much the same way. Rather than pulling further away from God who wants to deliver us, we must push closer to Him and make following His will our priority. If we will look away from temptation and keep our eyes on Him, we can avoid the slow slide and, unlike Lot, one day look back on our choices with no regrets!

Adapted from the book Escape: How to Have Victory over Temptation by Stephen Chappell.