The Five-Second Rule

September 15, 2016
Volume 20, Number 30

You know right away what I’m referring to, don’t you?  It’s an almost universal maxim that children follow (their parents often do, too).  If you accidentally drop a chicken nugget onto the floor, do you eat it?  “Five-second rule!” is the usual reply, meaning that if you pick it up within five seconds, it’s OK to eat it.  Germs and bacteria will not have had time to latch onto that tasty nugget.

Science has again spoiled our fun.  Researchers at Rutgers University have shown (according to a story carried by Associated Press on September 9) “that bacteria can contaminate food that falls on the floor instantaneously”.  It is true, the article pointed out, that longer contact time allows more bacterial transfer.  Still, food is contaminated once it strikes the floor.  Bacteria, it turns out, are fiercely opportunistic organisms.

Another web site ( made this recommendation about dropped food: “When in doubt, toss it out.”  Not all bacteria will make you sick, the article admits, but some have the potential to mightily disrupt your digestive system.  Parents would do well to tell their children that the five-second rule is just not true (after they have learned it themselves, of course).

Does this principle of contamination only apply to food?  How about things we allow into our minds and hearts?  Some may think that a certain TV show or musical recording only has “a little bit” of questionable content.  Does that mean it can’t do great damage?

How long did David gaze upon Bathsheba as she bathed herself (2 Samuel 11)?  That was likely an accidental sighting, but David didn’t turn away; he allowed the scene to arouse impure thoughts in his heart.  That incident illustrates the truthfulness of James’ lesson on temptation: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).  Death!

Like David, we sometimes stumble upon enticing images without meaning to.  Other times, though, we have a pretty good idea that watching an R-rated movie might contain some lurid scenes.  Do we show good judgment in choosing to watch it?

We’re not sure if David’s words in Psalm 101:3 were written before or after the Bathsheba event, but they present a principle all should follow: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”

By refusing to eat food dropped on the floor, I make it more likely I’ll not get sick.  By determining not to allow darkness to invade my soul, I’ll more likely maintain my purity.  This is, after all, the teaching of Jesus (see Matthew 6:22,23).

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.


Copyright, 2016, Timothy D. Hall. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version (Copyright, 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.).

“LightGrams” is produced by the Central Church of Christ, 2722 Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37601, and is written by Tim Hall, minister. It is sent free of charge every Thursday to all who request it. To subscribe or to receive more information, write to “” (our E-mail address), to the U.S. mail address above, or call (423) 282-1571.

Permission to reproduce and/or use the messages for noncommercial purposes is freely granted provided the messages are not altered.