Posted in theology

Putting your thumb on mercury

By Elizabeth Prata

When I was a kid I liked to do science experiments. Once, my parents got me a microscope kit with slides containing amoebas and stuff. Another time I took a pill from one of the prescription bottles in the bathroom and put it in the sink with water to see if it would melt. I had no idea that the capsule contained the medicine powder inside. THAT would have been fun to break apart and see.

I remember vividly when I was around 10 years old. I was taking my temperature in the bathroom with a glass thermometer that had mercury inside. Nowadays they have electronic type fever detectors you wave in front of your forehead or swipe across it. But in the olden days of my youth, they were made of glass and had silvery mercury inside. You put the thermometer under your tongue, closed your mouth and waited three minutes.

I was taking my temp and the thermometer fell out of my mouth into the porcelain sink. It broke in half. The mercury spilled out into the sink. Now this was interesting! What WAS this cool substance? The silvery liquid had broken into several little balls. I tried putting my thumb on one, it squirted away, breaking into more balls. It moved quickly, sliding smoothly from one art of the sink to another. You couldn’t grab it, it just kept moving away, just out of reach. I guess that’s why mercury’s nickname is quicksilver.


Mercury is a metal, the only metal that is liquid. “Spilled mercury has a unique appearance. It is a thick, shiny, fast-moving liquid metal that can break up into little balls that reform when pushed together. It is these properties of mercury that led to its nickname “quicksilver”. (Source)

We are going through Colossians in church in our weekly Bible study on Thursday nights. We are up to Colossians 3. Chapters 1 and 2 are posited as a negative, slay sin, put off the Old Man, don’t do this or that. Chapter 3 is a positive; put ON, do this.

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

It’s all about sin. Sin, sin, sin. How to deal with it, and why. Too many new Christians think that when you become a Christian all your sin problems go away. Nope. As long as we have flesh on this earth we will sin. It is our responsibility to kill the sin that is in us. We are tempted, but we can’t give in to temptation. Indeed, we have the power NOT to give in, with the Holy Spirit in us to help us battle our flesh.

The Master’s Seminary/Institute for Church Leadership (ICL)

Sin doesn’t disappear on its own.
We never conquer it while we’re living
It’s in us waiting to come out

Mature Christians sometimes fall into the errant belief that they’ve battled such and such a sin for so long that now they’ve conquered it. Nope. Sin is like quicksilver. You put your thumb on a blob and that blob just squirts away to another location. You can’t grab it, and you can’t absorb it, (because it’s poison). Sometimes the sin just breaks apart and creates more blobs. For example, if you think you’ve conquered coveting, you haven’t. You discover this when your friend gets a new car or a new bedroom set or a new dress. Then you’re jealous. Then it turns to anger. Then you go buy a new dress that you can’t afford. Then you hide the dress from your husband, or lie about how much it cost. One sin feels lonely. Now there are more blobs of sin where there used to be one. The blobs break into more blobs when you try to handle it in your own strength.

[S]in, as the growing habit of a soul that persists in an evil temper, and therefore must add iniquity unto iniquity, is awaiting thee at the door, as a crouching slave the bidding of his master. (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Sin is an almost alive thing. “If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7)

That word, desire, is the same concept as in Genesis 3:16 when God said to Eve that she will desire her husband. It is a negative desire, a desire that wants to overpower.

Genesis 3:16
NAS: Yet your desire will be for your husband,

Genesis 4:7
NAS: and its desire is for you, but you must master

Colossians 3:5 says in part to put off ‘sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.’ Did you ever stop to think that greed is idolatry? We usually think of idolatry as the Hebrews worshiping the golden calf. But idolatry is anything we want more than God. Anything.

There are no silver bullets when dealing with sin (quicksilver bullets, lol). It’s not a ‘one and done’ deal. We are progressively sanctified, day by day, inch by inch. It takes time, and we are never completely free of sin until we die and are resurrected, glorified with sin-free flesh.

Jesus conquered death, praise Him! Anyone in Christ who has repented and turned to Him as Lord and Savior is free from eternal death too. Our flesh may die temporarily but it will become alive again on the Day when Jesus resurrects us. Until then, life is a battle. It’s a battle to tamp down sin, make the mercury blobs smaller and smaller. The Holy Spirit in us aids in this process.

Master and slave: are you a slave to your sin? Or are you working to master sin and make it your slave?


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.