The Dangerous Result of Cumulative Effect



1. Introduction:
A. Cause & Effect.
1. At times I tell my children children, "if you touch that, I will spank you"
2. This is a direct effort to teach them the principle of cause and effect, sometimes called the principle of consequences.
3. We all understand this in very simple terms. If you touch the hot burner (Cause) it will hurt (Effect).
a. If I drop this piece of chalk, it will fall down (Gravity is the cause)
b. The laws of nature are all examples of the principle of "cause and effect"
c. This is principle is used in scripture many times, for instance "he who believes and is baptized (cause) will be saved (effect)".
4. This is a very important principle for all of us to learn, and thankfully, it is also very simple to learn. There are consequences to our actions.
5. Yet, even though this is an important building block in understanding life, as much as we may try, we cannot explain all of life this way. Take for instance:
B. Cumulative effect and personal responsibility
1. This week we learned that a woman in Houston murdered all of her 5 children.
a. What was wrong with her? What could have caused that woman to do something so heinous? So evil?
b. On the face of it, there seems to be no direct "cause" for this horrific "effect".
c. Surely she must have been depressed, or mentally ill, why else would she do something so horrible? In fact, she blamed it on, "depression".
2. Remember Susan Smith? Who faced TV cameras and pled for those who "took my children" to bring them back,
when all the time she knew they were in the bottom of a lake, where she had drowned them?
a. What was wrong with her? How could she do such a thing?
3. When things like this happen, it is not only common, but natural, for us to struggle to understand them. And, more often than not, we try to explain them in terms of
"cause and effect", but often, the link is not so direct.
4. And many times our "cause & effect" answers sound so foolish:
a. For instance "he listened to the song Suicide Solution' and then he killed himself."
b. This, of course, is countered with "thousands of other kids listened to that and didn't run out and kill themselves."
c. Which makes it obvious, that the "cause" of his suicide can't be something so simple as a song, it has to be something more devious, something like
"mental illness".
5. This brings me to the principle I want to discuss with you this morning, & I call it "cumulative effect" (not cause & effect)

2. We are familiar with cumulative effect in much of life
A. Like "cause & effect" we all recognize this principle in some sense. "Long-term" is a phrase we use to describe it. You hear people say things like
"the long-term effect of exposure to lead is liver damage"
B. We water and fertilize plants in order that the cumulative effect is that they will produce fruit.
1. If I miss one watering, it doesn't cause crop failure, and one watering does not put lots of big tomatoes on the vine, but the cumulative effect of watering does.
2. Which drop of water put the tomatoes on the vine?
C. One swallow of alcohol does not make you a drunk, but repeated abuse of alcohol, will, at length, lead to alcoholism.
1. Which beer made you the alcoholic?
D. One cookie will not make you overweight, but a cookie here, a soft drink there, an extra helping, a midnight snack, all together over time will produce obesity.
1. It is silly to ask "which cookie made me overweight" Not any one cookie did, but they all contributed to the problem.
E. Any one of us could not move a car much if at all, but when we all push together, we can easily move it.

3. Cumulative Effect in the scriptures:
A. I want you to listen to what the writer of Hebrews said "Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb.3:13)
1. Here, we are warned that sin is deceitful and will "harden" our hearts.
2. Part of the deceit of sin is to say some moral concessions are "small" and "don't matter"
3. When we yield to this lie of Satan, our hearts begin to harden. It is not an all at once "Now my heart is hard" kind of thing, it's a progressive thing, like cancer.
a. If one cell in your finger dies, that normally has no effect on the cells in your toes, but if that cell in your finger becomes cancerous, the cancer can spread,
and the cumulative effect will be the death of the whole body, including the toes.
b. In this way, the cumulative effect of the "dying" finger cell is the death of the toe cells (and the rest of the body).
c. Photocopies of photocopies, the further away from the original you get the less recognizable it gets.
B. (paraphrase) Do not make friends with an angry person, and do not hang around with a furious man, because you may become like them and unintentionally set a
trap for your soul. Prov.22:24,25 And "Do not be deceived, evil friends corrupt good morals". 1 Cor.15:33
1. These passages contain a classic warning about choosing your friends.
2. You will not "walk, talk, & act" like someone tomorrow because you spent today with them, but through time, you will become like the people you consort with.
3. It works like the smoothing of a stone in a stream. Slowly, over time, the stone is made smooth by the cumulative effect of the water rushing over it.
4. Anger, especially, is contagious. The riots in LA are a good example of this. The crowd who called for Jesus to be crucified is a good example of this.
5. Solomon was warned by God not to marry foreign, pagan wives, as they would "turn away his heart" from God.
a. He ignored the command, and eventually was turned away.
b. He did not run right in and sacrifice to false God's at the start, it was a very slow process. Like erosion instead of dynamite.
C. Deut.6:6-9
1. Why bother with this? I mean, we read the Bible in the mornings for a month or so at my house, and I couldn't tell any noticeable difference.
2. But, you are laying the foundation for a life of attitudes and behavior, all of which will be built upon the fundamental way your children look at life.
Daily reading of scripture influences that.
3. Does this mean that if you read daily, your kids will be godly and if you don't your kids will turn out evil? Not necessarily, but it is a contributing factor.
4. Recent statistics indicate that the divorce rate (which in America is somewhat over 50%) is less than 10% in couples who pray together.
a. Now, which prayer keeps them from getting a divorce?
5. Taking your children to church, when "it's just gonna be ole brother so & so preaching today...I never get anything out of his lessons".
6. It works like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. CT is called a "repetitive stress injury" or in other words, it is the cumulative effect of the repetitive action.
D. Romans 1:17-32 Here we see the process that one goes through to become a reprobate. Notice the progressive nature of the process.
God gives them up 3 times before they become reprobate.
1. Being "off" just a bit is exaggerated over distance.
2. It's like arsenic poisoning, it is cumulative, i.e. Arsenic builds up in your system slowly to a lethal level.

4. Many times, we know, or believe that a certain thing is right or wrong, but when asked, we cannot give a specific reason why.
A. Even those you love may accuse you of being unreasonable.
1. When I first married, I would say, "I'm going to the hospital to visit" she would say "can't you call them instead?" and I did. I could have never explained:
"no, because her grandson will be there, and he will remember that I visited his grandmother, which will make him feel kindly towards me,
and he will call me to preach his own wife's funeral where I will meet his son, who will be converted and become an elder in the church someday."
a. We just can't see into the future that way, but that is the way things happen in real life.
B. This is why cumulative effect is such an important issue. It is so easily dismissed, or overlooked, or even scorned.
C. Attending church, reading the scriptures as a family, visiting gospel meetings of other congregations, praying together every night, etc.
D. This danger is real and extreme when you are raising children and shaping their beliefs.
1. i.e. Our trip to Moody gardens, and the "man is the enemy" indoctrination. Will that make my children chain themselves to trees or bomb a research clinic?
Not directly, but false ideas, unchallenged, and heard over & over & over will shape your beliefs.
a. LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who...speaks the truth in his heart; Psa.15:1
2. Which, in turn will shape your behavior. They may, donate to an organization that finances those who do "blow up" research centers and throw paint
on people's fur coats.
3. Their children are likely to be more radical than they, thus you may end up with grandchildren who chain themselves to trees.
4. Any false doctrine, from evolution, to the sinner's prayer, to the rapture, must be challenged.
a. "I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith" Jude 1:3

5. Cumulative effect often appears to contradict cause & effect.
A. One cigarette does not, and may in fact, if you are so conditioned, make you feel better, yet smoking for many years causes cancer.
B. There is no measurable risk in getting a suntan this summer. In fact, there is no risk in getting a suntan next summer, or the one after that, but the cumulative effect
of years of exposure to the sun is excessive wrinkles, and possibly even cancer.
1. The immediate effect of a suntan might be to make you feel better about your looks. But the ultimate cumulative effect will kill you.
C. A bowl of ice cream before bed will not make you fat. And, in fact it might make you feel better, but coupled with the other things you eat it may kill you.

6. You can't control the environment.
A. There are so many things in this life that you can't control for yourself and your kids. People you children go to school with, people they work with, songs they hear,
books they read, etc. all will have an effect on them. If the tide is going in one direction, yours may be the only voice against the throng. You may be the
only cord connecting them to the foundation of Christ.
B. You cannot afford to be sloppy, or "aw, that won't matter, don't worry about it" with your responsibilities.

7. Conclusion:
A. So is this woman in Houston accountable for these murders? Or is she just a victim of this cumulative effect?
1. If I were to pile greasy, chemical soaked rags in the attached garage to my house, and you warned me "hey, you shouldn't do that, they can spontaneously
combust and start a fire", but I ignore you and do it anyway, am I responsible for the deaths of my children if the rags do burst into flames and burn my family?
a. You better believe it. The fact that I cannot control the fire does not alleviate my responsibility for, through cumulative effect, starting the fire. I would be guilty!
2. Like wise, this woman in Houston is equally guilty, and responsible for, her actions.
B. I want you to get both sides of the principle from the lesson today.
1. The positive side: Don't allow yourself to be dissuaded from a path of doing what is right, what is good, just because you don't see the immediate consequences.
Sometimes results don't show for many years, maybe even after your lifetime.
2. Be persistent. God said "in due season you shall reap if you faint not" (Gal.6:9)
C. The other side: Don't allow yourself "small negotiations" with sin. Giving up "small concessions" to Satan, will, eventually have devastating consequences.
Your failure to see the immediate bad effect (result) does not protect you in any fashion from the painful result.
1. For loss of the nail the shoe was lost, for loss of the shoe the horse was lost, for loss of the horse the rider was lost, for loss of the rider the battle was lost,for loss of the battle the war was lost...all because of the nail.