We have to guard ourselves against the visible sins, the high-profile sins, of course. These would be open, black-letter sins. Don’t rob banks. Don’t shoot out the street lights. Don’t engage in computer fraud.
But we often find ourselves avoiding such sins, not out of a zeal for holiness, but rather because we have capitulated to some of the invisible sins. Being obsessed about what kind of reputation you have is a sin, an invisible one, while being concerned to have a good testimony is a noble desire. What do you do to tell the difference? Or do you just assume? As you are bringing your children up, what are you pounding into them? An obsession for the externals? Or an actual concern for the name of Jesus?
Envy is another related sin that creeps up on us. We find ourselves competing with others in ungodly ways—at work for pay levels, promotions, or awards, at school for grades and awards, on the court for MVP or most points scored, and so on. While we compete in ungodly ways and with ungodly motives, we tell ourselves that it is “just” healthy competition. This is made more difficult by the fact that there is such a thing as healthy competition.
Generally, the people who acknowledge that envy and striving and selfish ambition are a genuine threat to them are those who are dealing with the threat. Those who blithely assume that they don’t have “any trouble with that” are those who sunk down deep in it. He who thinks he stands should take heed lest he fall. The man who checks his motives in this area, and mortifies the first stirrings of selfish ambition, is the man who is most aware that warnings such as thing are greatly needed, and who acts in the world in such a way as to demonstrate freedom from that sin.