Where does sin begin in us? Are thoughts sins? Is it only a sin when I act on it? Join us as we look at the nature of sin and how to deal with it.
The Conception of Sin
How did the Jews of the 1st Century view sin? When Jesus gave that sermon on the mount he had to address the fact that they were misunderstanding the law itself. Apparently sin wasn’t based solely on deeds and actions, but also intents and desires of the heart. What? So now a thought can be a sin?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. ’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
(Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)
With all the admonition in the scriptures about avoiding sin, how can we do this if a thought can be sinful? Jesus gives more when talking to the Pharisees in Mark:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
(Mark 7:20-23 ESV)
But what about James’ statements about sin being born out of desires and becoming full-grown?
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
(James 1:14-15 ESV)
James is not saying sin doesn’t exist prior to actions. He’s giving us a the life-cycle of sin. The key, as Barney Fife would say, is to “nip it in the bud”. As detestable the concept of abortion is, the abortion of a sin prior to its birth is the best way to be rid of it. Paul gives us some insight on how to fight sin at the thought level in the second Corinthian letter:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV)
Killing sin once it has reached maturity is not impossible, but harder. We must strive to capture those thoughts and deal with them instead of justifying them and playing with them and building strongholds around them. As Christians our regeneration, our change in desire, should put us at war with our flesh. This warfare will be waged until we die, but the victory will come if we have put our trusting faith in Jesus and thus have the Holy Spirit to help us in the battles.