One of the certainties of summer in Saskatchewan is mosquitoes. This provincial pest, it seems, is as much a matter of discussion in our prairie culture as are the seasonal crops, walleye fishing and deer hunting. I sometimes wonder whether or not we should have nominated the mosquito as our official provincial symbol.
I still remember my first experience with the prairie mosquito when candidating for a Saskatchewan country church. My family was invited to a welcome barbecue and for most of that afternoon the mosquitoes had not been a problem. Later in the evening we received a little rain and had I not know better, I would have contended that it had poured mosquitoes, not water. My family felt like we were in some kind of special test like you see on TV for insect repellents, only we were without our Deep Woods Off.
I am told that there are 2500 species of mosquitoes in the world and some 70 in Canada. Dr. Aylward Downe, a professor who has studied mosquitoes for 30 years at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, states that in Canada, Saskatchewan has one of the worst infestations of them.1
Our oldest son, Thomas, once asked me why God created mosquitoes. Not having an adequate answer, my initial inclination was to tell him that God’s ways were not our ways and His thoughts were not our thoughts but I ended up telling him that they were created as food for other insects and birds hoping that perhaps it would quench his query.
On a more serious note, because mosquitoes are such annoying creatures they offer us a valuable lesson about something else that is even more malevolent, increasingly more irritating and abundantly more miserable — sin. What is “sin”? Simply put, sin is two things. It is, on the one hand, a spiritual disease that every person is born with. In essence, this ‘inherited’ spiritual disease gives us a desire to reject God. On the other hand, sin is an act that we commit by violating God’s laws like lying, stealing, envy, and so on. It is this aspect of the nature of sin where the mosquito can offer the Christian some helpful insights.
This spring, it was my intention to contrast our four-legged provincial pest, the mosquito, and sin, in order to provide a fresh approach to understanding the nature of sin. What I learned was that this flying insect can teach believers some spiritual lessons about sin. I want to caution you at the outset, however, that this contrast is not perfect or exhaustive, nor does it encompass the full scope of the nature and consequences of sin as laid out in Scripture. And yet, there are some significant points to ponder in this exercise. Let me share with you what I discovered:
Mosquitoes & Sin
1. They both hatch out of certain conditions
We all know that the mosquito thrives in certain conditions in Saskatchewan. Mix together warm temperatures, moist soil or a stagnant pool of water and you have the perfect environment for these pesky critters to hatch and thrive.
When it comes to sin, the Bible describes the conditions under which it hatches and thrives in the lives of people. The Lord’s brother, James, writes, “…each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin ….(James 1:14-15).”
The Bible points out that when we allow our own selfish desires to control what we do, think and say, that the conditions for sin to hatch are perfect. It is when our desire ‘hatches’, that it gives birth to sin. Again, James pens, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16).” It appears from Scripture that our own motives, our heart’s desires, can give birth to sin. We, not the Devil, seem to provide the suitable breeding ground for sin.
Both the mosquito and sin hatch in certain conditions: moist soil or stagnant water and warm temperatures for the insect, selfish desire for sin. As a believer, I find it helpful to know how sin can ‘hatch’ in my life. This knowledge helps me remove (with he Holy Spirit’s help) those conditions which favor the birth of sinful actions.
2. They both appear harmless
When you look at one of these mosquitoes they appear as harmless as a fly. They are not big or strong and they don’t have sharp teeth or razor-like claws. They are simply a ‘buzz with wings’ — or are they?
Science and experience tell us something far different. Mosquitoes can carry a whole host of diseases like dengue, yellow fever and malaria. One specific species of mosquito (genus culex) carries a bacterium that causes encephalitis, an infection of the brain. We know from history that mosquitos are far from harmless insect. They have been known to bring serious, even fatal, illnesses into many communities. For various third world countries these tiny, helpless, itsy-bitsy mosquitoes are carriers of death.
Sin is very much like that. It too appears harmless. A “little white lie”, a “harmless bit of gossip”, a “tiny bit of greed”, they all appear harmless, but are they? When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit, I wonder if they also didn’t think to themselves, “It’s just a little bite.” Sin appears harmless on the outside, but the truth is it is deadly on the inside. When King David slept with the married Bathsheba did he believe that it was just a “harmless little fling”? He was a mighty warrior king and she a mere soldier’s wife. What could a little adultery harm? As the story unfolds we witness the harm his little act caused — David’s adultery resulted in the deaths of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband and David’s illegitimate newborn son (2 Samuel 11).
Not only does sin appear harmless, it is fun — for a moment. Make no mistake about it, committing a sin (stealing, doing drugs, vandalizing someone else’s property) can be fun. If sin were not fun, nobody would be committing them. But after the fun we know that every sin has a deadly barb in it.
I recall reading a story by Michael Green about a workman on a road construction crew who was working on a project deep in the mountain area of Pennsylvania. “Every morning as he drove to work in his pickup, he would see a young boy at a fishing hole near the road. He would wave and speak to the boy each day. One day, however, as he drove slowly past the fishing spot and asked how the boy was doing, he got a strange reply: “The fish aren’t bitin’ today, but the worms sure are.”
When he pulled into the local gas station down the road a few minutes later, he jokingly related the boy’s comment to the attendant. For a moment the man laughed, but then a look of horror crossed his face, and without another word he ran to his truck, jumped in, and drove hurriedly away.
Later that day, the man on the construction crew found out what had happened. The gas station attendant had arrived on the scene too late to save the boy, who had somehow mistaken a nest of baby rattlesnakes for earthworms and had been bitten to death.
Baby rattlesnakes, wrote Green, are born with their full venom. And so it is with many of the sins that tempt us. They may appear harmless, even colorful, yet they contain the full venom of Satan’s poison and will destroy us if we handle them.”2
Like a mosquito, sin may appear harmless but the Bible tells us very clearly, “For the wages (consequences) of sin is death…. (Romans 6:23).”
3. They both prick the body
As small as the mosquito is it certainly can leave its mark. When I receive a mosquito bite a small red bump appears and the area around the bump swells and becomes itchy. When our son Daniel gets bit, a large white bump appears and grows to about the size of a quarter. When mosquitoes bite they actually prick the skin of the body causing all sorts of negative reactions, the worst of which is when an infected mosquito transmits a serious illness into a person’s body.
In this way, sin is very much like the mosquito, it too pricks the body. When we commit a sin, its consequence invades our body. Taking drugs damages our body, getting drunk impacts our body, sex outside of marriage can have a deadly impact — AIDS is a killer. And like the mosquito, which draws blood from our body, every sin we commit sucks a little life from our body and soul.
Note the words of King David shortly after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer …. my bones have no soundness because of my sin (Psalms 32:3-4; Psalms 38:3).”
I remember reading in the Fall issue of Leadership about a story in Anne Dillard’s book Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. Dillard wrote, “A couple summers ago I was walking along the edge of the island to see what I could see in the water, and mainly to scare frogs … At the end of the island I noticed a small green frog. He was exactly half in and half out of the water.
“He didn’t jump; I crept closer. At last I knelt on the island’s winter killed grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog in the creek just four feet away. He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent.
“He was shrinking before my very eyes like a deflating football. I watched the taut, glistening skin on his shoulders ruck, rumple, and fall. Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water: it was a monstrous and terrible thing … An oval shadow hung in the water behind the drained frog: then the shadow glided away. The frog skin bag started to sink.
“I had read about the water bug, but never seen one. ‘Giant water bug’ is really the name of the creature, which is an enormous, heavy-bodied brown beetle. It eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs. Its grasping forelegs are mighty and hooked inward. It seizes a victim with these legs, hugs it tight, and paralyzes it with enzymes injected during a vicious bite. That one bite is the only bite it ever takes. Through the puncture shoots the poison that dissolves the victim’s body, reduced to juice.”3
Our sinful acts, like the giant water beetle or the annoying bite of a mosquito, damage the victim’s physical body. Whether it is an unpleasant and itchy reaction to an insect bite or the transmission of a disease like malaria, the mosquito assails our body. AIDS, sclerosis of the liver, ulcers and nervous breakdowns are just some examples of sin’s painful and corrosive impact on our physical bodies.
4. They both come with a buzz
There is nothing worse than crawling into a warm, cozy bed after a long day, switching off the light, closing your eyes and then hearing that little buzz of our friend the mosquito. You tell yourself that it will go away — it doesn’t. You pretend to ignore it — you can’t. You try to convince yourself that it will bite your spouse — it doesn’t. You come up with a plan to lay still and let it land on a part of your body so that you can squish it out of existence — after the third or fourth time that you slap your face, you realize your plan is flawed. The interesting thing is that if the mosquito didn’t make that irritating buzz, you wouldn’t know it was there. The mosquito has a God-given buzz to warn us of its presence.
God also gave the Christian a warning system of sin’s encroachment (a buzzing sound if you like) in God’s Holy Spirit, which we receive when we accept Jesus as personal Savior. The Holy Spirit “buzzes” our conscience when we are about to commit a sin; some call it that tiny little voice that says, “Don’t do it.” The Holy Spirit’s ‘buzzing’ helps the believer avoid the consequences of a really bad action. Paul encouraged believers in Galatia to live by the Holy Spirit’s ‘buzz’ when he directed them to, “… live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16).”
5. Their bite can be avoided
Professor Downe notes that mosquitoes can be repelled best with a chemical nicknamed ‘deet’ which is found in many common insect repellents today. He states that there many false ideas out there about repelling mosquitoes like the high-pitched sonic repeller. This device emits a high-pitched sound for the purpose of warding of the pests. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes which bite don’t really hear at all. Others, comments Downe, have tried dousing themselves with onion juice, pork fat, peppermint and even mud all, Dr. Downe submits, with little or no effect. He claims that the most effect repellent of mosquitoes is ‘deet’.
When it comes to protecting oneself from sin, the believer must, according to Scripture, put on the armor of God. Paul describes that armor for fellow Christians in Ephesians 6:11-18).
The psalmist understood the sword of the Spirit when he wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalms 119:11).” I appreciated the advice of A. W. Pink who notes that, “It is particularly the commandments, the warnings, the exhortations, we need to make our own and to treasure; to memorize them, meditate upon them, pray over them, and put them into practice …. Nothing else will preserve from the infections of this world, deliver from the temptation of Satan, and be so effective a preservative against sin, as the Word of God….”4
As ‘deet’ keeps the mosquitoes from biting, putting on the armor of God (especially employing the sword of the Spirit) will keep the ‘bite’ of sin at bay.
6. Their bite can be treated
One cannot always keep all the mosquitoes away for the simple reason that there is no perfect insect repellent, just like there is no perfect saint. Therefore, if you are bitten by this little vampire you can always rub calamine lotion on the bite and obtain relief.
With sin, we need a spiritual remedy. The Bible is again clear that only one person can remove the ‘sting’ of sin — Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). How do we as Christians obtain forgiveness of sin? Confession. The apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”
Confession is the calamine for the soul, it absolves and purifies us from our sins.
In the summer of 1993, the infestation of mosquitoes was so severe in Saskatchewan that we could not allow our children outside (even with insect repellent on). As soon as we stepped out of the house those little pests would fly into our eyes, ears and nose. We could not wait until Autumn when the cooler temperatures would rid us of them.
As believers, we too await a time when we will no longer be tempted, to live out our evil desires, but until then, beware of the spiritual vampire called sin. It is like a roaring lion, writes Peter (1 Peter 5:8); it crouches at the door waiting to master you, wrote Moses (Genesis 4:7) and we know from Paul that its bite is truly fatal (Romans 6:23). Follow the Holy Spirit’s ‘buzz’ warning us not to commit an act that violates God’s laws. Put on the armor of God daily before leaving your home and if you should succumb to sin, confess it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness.
1Steele, Scott “Summer’s Sting” Maclean’s June 26, 1995; pages 46-47.
2Green, Michael ed. Illustrations For Biblical Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; 1982, pages 338-339.
3Anne Dillard as quoted (in part) by Dave Goetz in Leadership Fall, 1992, p. 46.
4Pink, A.W. Profiting from The Word London: The Banner Of Truth Trust; 1970, pp. 15,16.

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