“Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14).

He had been crippled for thirty-eight years. Unable to walk, this man depended on others to lift him and move him. There were no wheelchairs or motorized scooters in those days. There were no handicapped parking places except for spots where invalids were laid to ask for money or look for a miracle. For all those years this man watched as people around him came and went as they pleased while he sat immobile.

There are many afflictions of the body that try the soul, but being unable to move around must be a tremendous test of patience. What could be worse? Jesus said there is something worse.

When Jesus told this man to rise up and walk, he did. But Jesus did not feel so sorry for the man’s physical condition that he neglected to talk to Him about his soul. This man may have been crippled, but he was guilty of sin. That was more serious than the condition of his body. Losing the use of his limbs was bad, but the danger of losing his soul was far, far worse. For the first time in thirty-eight years this man was able to go where he wanted when he wanted. But Jesus didn’t caution him about running too fast. He didn’t tell him to enjoy the use of his legs. He told him to repent or he would face greater suffering.

There is something much worse than sickness. There is something worse than dying. It is everlasting damnation in hell. A person who rejected Moses’ law died without mercy, but a “much worse punishment” awaits those who despise Jesus’ law (Heb. 10:28-29). Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

Preachers and elders have forgotten this. They have let the news change their priority. They have allowed the world to shift their perspective. Instead of focusing on sin that destroys the soul they have become medical Pharisees whose main concern is to protect the body. Rather than teaching people to “Go, and sin no more,” they admonish the flock to avoid getting sick above all else. They have replaced the fear of God with the fear of man. They dread illness more than hell.

If churches do not stop following the world and get back to spiritual priorities, they will become social organizations with purely earthly concerns. They will die spiritually. The worst thing facing our land is not political upheaval. It is not the threat of civil war. It is not disease or loss of income. It is sin and the destruction it brings in this life and especially in eternity.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

-Kerry Duke