Sin…what a word! It’s used in titles of many movies. Las Vegas is considered “Sin City” which is visited by millions of people each year. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Sin seems to be more encourage in our society than discouraged.
The definition of sin, or how we think of sin, has definitely changed over the years. What was once considered very sinful is now wholly acceptable. What was sinful in Las Vegas 50 years ago doesn’t compare to what goes on today in Las Vegas.
There was a time when it was very sinful to tell a lie. A person’s honor, their ability to keep their word, was held in high regard; a word was as good as a legally binding contract. But lies are acceptable today. Misleading someone for financial gain is excused with, “Well, they should have known better.” Casual lies are acceptable as well and we’re all guilty. We call these white-lies; as-if to excuse the behavior. How often do we say, “I’ll call you next week” with no intention of doing so. Our society has gravitated towards sin becoming a non-issue. In fact, I am not sure what is considered sinful today.
So why is the understanding of sin so important especially for Christians? The best way to explain this is to provide an example: If you were randomly placed on a large body of water, how would you know how far you have drifted from your original location? After a few hours, you may have drifted 10 feet, 100 yards, or even 1 mile. But you cannot know the distance without a stable marker. A stable marker (point of reference) is critical to keep our perspective.
In a society where we have no definition of sin, we have no marker, so therefore, how can we know how far we have drifted towards absolute corruption? For society to be healthy, it needs a stable marker; something that is solid, something that does not yield. God is this solid marker, but we have slowly removed God from our society. It seems we have lost sight of our marker, we simply do not care how far we drift towards corruption. We’re content with not worrying about staying near the center.
So we need to look to God to discover how far we have moved towards corruption. God’s definition of sin has not changed; God’s definition of sin is solid, unyielding, forever, and it so critical to God that He sent an incarnate form of Himself (Jesus) to earth to be our solid marker.
The Ten Commandments:
- I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange Gods before me
- Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
- Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day
- Honour thy father and thy mother
- Thou shalt not kill
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not steal
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods
Now the Ten Commandments do not completely encompass God’s definition of sin. Truth be told, if the Ten Commandments were all inclusive acts of sin, we would still fail. Have you ever worked on a Sunday? I am sure you have, therefore, you have violated the 3rd commandment. And in God’s eyes all it takes is one sin to be a “dirty rag”. In fact, even thinking of sinning is a sin. Whew, we’re all sinners.
Okay, if God sees us as all sinners, and we cannot avoid sinning, then why should we try to avoid sin? Why do we need to worry about how far we are drifting? God’s either going to forgive us of our sins or not. Enjoy life! If it makes you feel good, do it!
Consider the following: If I challenged you to jump 10 feet up in the air using your own ability (no tricks), you could not do it. So why try? I would agree. Why risk injury trying to do the physically impossible?
But what if I said to you that if you did not try jumping 10 feet in the air, it will cause someone else, maybe a loved one of yours, to experience pain. Would you then try to jump 10 feet in the air? I am sure you would and I am sure you would give it great effort. You may try so hard that you break your ankle. You would justify the risk of injury if it meant not propagating pain to someone you love.
So what does trying to jump 10 feet high have to do with sin? Because we fall into the trap of thinking that if something cannot be accomplished, then it’s not worth trying. Not trying would be fine if not trying had no consequences. However, not trying to avoid sin has great consequences.
God’s definition of sin is not about accomplishing an end-goal, it’s about seeing a marker and struggling to stay as close to it as possible.
How does sin cause pain?
Lying. Have you ever had a friend that you trusted lie to you? You know the pain; the scars, the internal pain of feeling foolish because you allowed yourself to be used by another individual. Ever have a parent mislead you and when you found out, you suffered emotionally.
Lust (the desire to suffice an emotional and physical need) eventually leads to adultery. How many of us have suffered through adultery? The divorce, children suffering, a spouse experiencing the sense of betrayal.
White-lies. I had a friend who repeatedly would say to me he was going to do something, and very seldom followed through. One day he said he and his wife were going to come over and have a meal with us. He never showed up and so I called him asking him where he was, and his response to me was that they decided to not come and he hoped that we were still not waiting for him. I was dumfounded at how a person could think like that. How could he only think of himself, what they were doing, without regard to what we had planned and the time we spent preparing and waiting for him. You see, this very act by a friend has stayed with me for many years. I lost respect for this person. A close friend lost due to white-lies.
Avoiding sin is not about our ability to entirely avoid sin, it’s about our willingness to try. God set a command before us, and by not trying we are in essence rejecting God’s will upon our lives; we become content with just drifting along. We must acknowledge that our sin causes pain.
So what is sin? How do we know if we are drifting away?
Someone suggested the Ten Commandments is to demonstrate to us that we cannot follow the law. I will accept this conclusion, but even so, this still does not succinctly define sin. The Ten Commandments is something deeper, it’s way to convey our worship of God. It’s our commitment to try that is the root of what God desires. It’s a reflection of our willingness to listen to Him; to follow His command even if it cannot be entirely accomplished.
If the Ten Commandments is not the definition of sin, then what is sin? There is one word that is the foundation of all sin. That word is “selfishness.” Any act that you do that is rooted in selfishness is sin.
“Thou shall not kill” is pretty obvious. The act of taking another person’s life is rooted in selfishness. Stealing is a self serving act. “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day” is refusing to give thanks towards God for everything you have, and instead, only thinking of ourselves as we try to gain more wealth.
Something as silly as eating the last piece of cake that you know someone else would enjoy; do you eat it while they are gone, or do you offer it up in completeness to another person? Selfishness is thinking of one’s own goal and pleasure.
So God sent His son to help us deal with sin (the inherent part of us which seeks to be self-centered, selfishness), and what Christ constantly teaches is that we are to resist the temptation to “let go” of the struggle to stay close; to not drift away.
Jesus is the polar opposite of selfishness. Have you ever noticed that every act that Jesus did was in a serving role. He came to serve up forgiveness in abundance. He healed the sick, He comforted the weak and poor, He taught, and He ultimately demonstrated the complete and pure act of “selfless servant” by allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross. And God, what did He sacrifice for us? He allowed His son to be sacrificed on our behalf; and yet God withheld His anger, “Forgive them Father for they not know what they do.” Do you see how selfless our God is? We owe it to Him, we owe it to our loved ones, our neighbors, to at least try to keep our selfishness at bay, because if we don’t, we will drift ever so closer to absolute corruption.
We need to stay connected to the definition of sin by God’s standard. To know what sin is and to see the warning signs. If we are about to act in our own self interest, then we’re likely heading down a path that will cause someone else pain in some form. So at least be aware and try to avoid an act of selfishness. We won’t be able to jump 10 feet high, but God is only asking for us to try.