The idiom a slippery slope means that an action will quickly lead to a series of other actions that will lead to a downfall. The imagery is that of sliding down a steep bank and landing with a crash at the bottom. Someone may have begun a walk at the top of the embankment with no intention of sliding down the hill. But, once a foot ventures onto the slick side of the hill, the outcome is inevitable. The venture into sin can begin that way. The Bible warns us against playing with temptations because they are a slippery slope into sins we may never have planned to commit.
James 1:13–15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” That is the Bible’s description of a slippery slope.
Marijuana has been called a “gateway drug” because recreational use of it can become a slippery slope into addiction to other drugs. Some people enjoy using certain topics of conversation as slippery slopes into controversy. They toss a hot-button topic at a group of people with passionate and opposing views and then watch the sparks fly. A pleasant conversation can slide quickly down the slippery slope into hurt feelings, rash words, and broken relationships.
By its nature, sin is never satisfied. It demands more and more. Often, sin first presents itself as a pleasant suggestion. It never reveals the slippery slope from temptation to disaster. Most temptation begins by highlighting a fleshly need or desire, as the serpent did with Eve (Genesis 3). It minimizes the possibility of that first action leading to another action and so descending a slippery slope. If we looked at the logical results of succumbing to the temptation, most of us would run the other way. This is why alcohol advertisements always feature the good time to be had with friends and demonstrate how fun it is to drink. Alcohol ads never show what happens when the parties are over, or few would buy the product. If tobacco companies practiced full disclosure, they would be honest about the slippery slope many tobacco users are on; instead, their advertising campaigns carefully avoid suggestions of addiction, lung cancer, and COPD. No matter how fun it is to dance along the top of the slippery slope, what happens at the bottom is never good.
Several Bible characters stepped onto sin’s slippery slope and reaped disaster. Samson, whose story is told in Judges 13—15, was chosen by God before birth to be a mighty judge over Israel. God blessed him with incredible strength that won the hearts of the nation. But Samson had a lust problem, and his compromise at various times became a slippery slope to tragedy. Because of his lust, he spent time with the wrong people, chasing the wrong women, and eventually lost both his eyes and his life. Samson began as a handsome young man interested in a girl, but the slippery slope of one compromise after another led him into grievous sin and the forfeiting of all God wanted to do through him.
David is another man in Scripture who experienced sin’s slippery slope. He was the greatest king in Israel’s history because of God’s blessing upon him. Yet he stepped onto a slippery slope that would lead to adultery, murder, and heartache. Second Samuel 11:2 says, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful.” At that point, David had an important choice to make. Would he continue looking at the beautiful woman bathing? Or would he avert his eyes from that scene and go back inside? David chose to gratify the lust of the flesh, and that put him on a slippery slope into a terrible scandal that ended with the death of Bathsheba’s husband, the death of her child, David’s agonized struggle with guilt (Psalm 32:3–4), and continued trouble in David’s family.
Sin advertises that it can meet our needs better than anything else. It insists that it is our friend, destined to make us happy. Satan will whisper anything into our listening hearts that will get us to put one foot on his slippery slope. Gambling addictions begin with that first coin plunked in a slot machine. Alcoholism begins with that first drink. Deception begins with that first white lie. When we’re caught in the slide down the slippery slope, our tempter is nowhere to be found. He will never throw us a rope. He promised freedom but brought chains instead.
The best way to avoid the results of a slippery slope is to never step on it to begin with. “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV). Once you’re on the slope, it’s very hard to get back to the top. Wise people know their areas of weakness and avoid the potential for them to be exploited. Recovering alcoholics stay far away from bars and parties where alcohol is offered. Overspenders cut up their credit cards and make themselves financially accountable to someone else. Teenagers who desire to remain sexually pure don’t spend long hours alone with their dates. We make provision for the flesh when we place ourselves in situations that tempt us and then expect ourselves to be strong enough to resist the temptations that inevitably come. It’s foolish to rely on our weak flesh to deliver us, and it’s often the first step on the slippery slide to failure. Wisdom warns us about those slippery slopes, if we will attune our hearts to listen (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Psalm 119:101).