I love the story of The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and one of the most impactful lines comes in an exchange between the Lorax and the Once-ler:
The Lorax: Which way does a tree fall?
The Once-ler: Uh, down?
The Lorax: A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.
I don’t know if Dr. Seuss read the book of Galatians before writing that line, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
We sometimes wind up in a lifestyle we never intended to be in, habitually committing the same sin and scrambling to figure out how we wound up in the destructive cycle. For some of us, it’s anger. For others, it’s lust, pornography, or an illicit relationship. It could be gossip, overeating, occult involvement, or many other things. And Paul, in Galatians, helps us to answer the question, how’d I get to this point?
It’s because we leaned toward sin.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
– Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
It’s all about our trajectory. Andy Stanley called it The Principle of the Path. Dr. Seuss might say, we got to where we are because we leaned in this direction.
Let me slow us down a bit and follow Paul’s logic. When you follow – that is, when you make a conscious choice to stick with the thought that popped into your head… And why did that thought pop into your head to begin with? Because of your sinful nature. Even when we are saved and delivered forever from the penalty of sin, we still walk around in a human body in a fallen world and we have this tendency to be selfish and sinful. When we follow our sinful tendencies, the results are clear…
A life controlled by sin is the inevitable result of choosing to follow and giving in to what our sinful flesh wants.
We just keep falling in whatever direction we lean. If you want to break the pattern and end the repetitive cycle of sin, the pathway has to be short-circuited. But Paul doesn’t say it’s simply a matter of having more willpower or resisting temptation in the strength of the same flesh that got us here to begin with. Instead, he points to the One who can and will help every time we humble ourselves and lean into him.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
– Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
If you lean toward sinful thoughts, the inevitable result will be sinful actions, which will produce a sinful lifestyle. If you lean into the Holy Spirit, the inevitable result will be a life filled with the good, fresh fruit that only the Spirit can produce.
So, which way are you leaning? What path are you following? In what direction are you headed? Your very next choice matters. A lot.