By Bob Bunn
When I was a kid, I remember a preacher in children’s church telling a story about a young African boy who wanted to adopt an orphaned leopard cub. As you might expect, the adults in the boy’s village were skeptical about keeping a wild animal as a pet. But the young boy was confident that the cute little ball of fur would be his best friend for the rest of his life.
Finally, the elders agreed to let the leopard stay but not without a warning. The head of the tribal council looked the boy in the eyes and said, “Remember this: Little leopards grow in the big leopards—and big leopards kill.”
Things went fine for a while. Just as the boy wanted, the leopard followed him around just like a house cat. They did everything together without any problem. One day, though, the boy slipped on a rock and scraped his knee. When the leopard innocently licked the blood away from the wound, a switch went off in its head. The taste of blood caused the cat’s natural instincts to take over.
The little leopard had grown into a big leopard—and the big leopard was a killer.
To be honest, I think that story might have been a well-meaning preacher’s way of scaring us into good behavior. And it must have worked on some level because I still remember the story today, almost five decades later.
But I also have to admit that there’s a lot of spiritual truth in what the old man told the boy in the story. Little issues can grow into big issues, and the big issues will derail your walk with God before you even realize what’s happening.
If you need an “Exhibit A,” look no further than Samson. All his life, the biblical strong man had messed around with God, with the Philistines, and with his incredible gift. When he was flirting with Delilah in Judges 16, he was simply doing what he’d always done. It was no big deal. Nobody was going to get hurt.
But what Samson saw as an entertaining banter ended up costing him more than he could ever imagine. While he was going through the motions, the Philistines were playing a much different game—and they were playing for keeps (Judges 16:21).
Of course, God answered Samson’s final tragic prayer. Like the prophet Jeremiah centuries later (Jeremiah 15:15), Samson asked God to remember him—and He did. And it’s with no small amount of irony that the writer of Judges stated, “those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:30).
We too might be tempted to ignore the little character flaws and what we consider pets sins in our lives. We might convince ourselves that they’re no big deal, no threat to anyone. But that’s just not the case. The huge sins that sink reputations and cause incredible pain begin with little sins left unattended.
That’s a lesson Samson learned too late.