Do you minimize sin? Do you justify the wrong you do by comparing your sins to someone else's? What attitude should we have toward sin? As the Days of Unleavened Bread approach, we need to seriously review these questions.
"YES, I realize Johnny lied, and I know he shouldn't have done it," said Mom. "But, after all, it isn't as though he had murdered someone." Johnny told Mom he had no homework. Certainly it was just a "small" lie. Nothing like murder or theft. Nothing to get worked up about, she thought. Her Johnny isn't as bad as the other children in the neighborhood. He doesn't do all the bad things the) do. How many of us would agree with her reasoning! How many of us justify our "small" sins by comparing them with the "big" sins of others?
How Do YOU Look at Sin?
What is your attitude toward sin brethren? As the Days of Unleavened Bread draw near — which picture the putting of sin out of our lives — we need to remind ourselves of the "exceeding sinfulness of sin"! Take this simple test to see what your attitude is toward sin. Which sin is worse? 1. a) To borrow from your second tithe in an emergency. b) To embezzle from your employer. 2. a) To marry an uncoverted person. b) To flee the scene of an accident in which you were involved. 3. a) To speak evil about someone behind his back. b) To kill someone in cold blood. What were your answers? All "b's"? If so, pour attitude toward SIN is the same as that of Johnny's mother. It is a wrong attitude! Let's understand why.
How Does GOD Look at Sin?
It is obvious that certain sins hurt people more than others. Adultery, for example, clearly inflicts greater and more lasting damage to more people than forgetting an appointment. On the other hand, we must realize the evil of what many people may consider to be "small" sins. After all, sin is sin — wrong is wrong — evil is evil, no matter what the degree. To ask which of two sins is worse is about like asking which was more sinful — Sodom or Gomorrah? Regardless of how "minor" or "small" men may think some sins are, God says: "For the wages of sin is death..." (Rom. 6:23). That's death in the lake of fire! No sins, therefore, should be trifled with, tolerated, or secretly harbored. The ultimate penalty for ALL sin — whether large or small — is the same: ETERNAL DEATH! That some sins exact an immediate penalty is clear. But the damage done by some "small" sins over a period of time can also be devastating. To compare one's own sins with those of other people, to minimize one's own sins, and in the process to seek justification for them is exceedingly foolish and spiritually dangerous! The Apostle James warns: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he IS GUILTY OF ALL" (James 2:10). Our attitude as converted Christians should be to seek out and eliminate every sin — every wrong thought — every evil way. We should not be hanging on to our "small" faults just because they do not seem to be as serious as certain obviously great sins.
The Danger of Self-deception
The most obvious characteristic of the Pharisees was their self-righteousness. Jesus Christ exposes this attitude very clearly in Luke 18:9-14: "And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." Here was a man who had committed no "great" sins. At least he didn't think so. Whatever sins or faults the Pharisee had, he certainly did not consider them to be as evil as those in other people. In fact, he prided himself on his obedience to God's laws. He was SURE that he was righteous before God. But what about the publican? "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a inner." The publican, quite opposite from the Pharisee, knew his sins. He did not minimize them. He made no comparison with anyone else. He did not say his sins were not quite as bad as those in someone else. And though perhaps guilty of greater obvious sins than the Pharisee, the publican was the one who was justified rather than the Pharisee because he had a repentant attitude. "I tell you," said Jesus, "this man [the publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." What was the difference between these two men? Although the publican had committed serious sins, be was repentant — he wanted to change and to overcome. But the Pharisee blinded himself to his sins. In his sight he had never done anything wrong. He had the attitude, "I'm all right, Jack." Therefore, in his own mind, his faults had ceased to exist at all. Through self-righteousness the Pharisee had fallen into the trap of thinking that the sins of other people were worse than his. By comparing himself with them he seemed pure. "After all," he probably thought to himself, "I haven't committed the horrible sins these others have!" As a result, he never comprehended his own total wretchedness in the sight of God. There is a great lesson in this parable for us, today. Are we modern-day Pharisees? Do we seek to justify our sins by comparing ourselves with others and concluding that we aren't so bad after all?
Don't Compare Sins!
Christ exposed more of the true colors of the Pharisees in Matthew 23: "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in... ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess... within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity... ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell [gehenna]?" (Matt. 23:13, 25, 28, 33.) If you are tempted to compare sins, then ask yourself this question: Which was worse — the sin of extortion (as perhaps with the publican) or the sin of being responsible for preventing someone from entering the Kingdom of God — causing them to lose out on salvation and eternal life? Put that way, the Pharisee's sins did not compare very favorably with the publican's, did they? Actually, no sin should minimize any other sin. Sin is sin — and all sin results in DEATH! It is beside the point whether or not your sins seem as great as your neighbor's. You may bay you haven't murdered anyone. Fine. That's good. But do you occasionally tell lies? If so, that is the sin which you need to repent of. If you don't repent of it, it will claim your life just as murder will claim someone else's life. We must not allow ourselves to think that the sins other people commit somehow diminish the seriousness of the sins we commit. Overcome your sins and faults and let God deal with everyone else. Follow the perfect example of out Saviour Jesus Christ. His should be the only standard for comparisons.
All Sins Are Serious
Let us return to the example given at the beginning of this article. Johnny's "small" lie may not seem too serious at first thought — especially when we compare it with murder. Granted, a "small" lie may not always have the dire results of murder. But in certain instances it could! Lying is always a terribly serious sin! Why? Because lying reveals a fatal flaw in character — a fatal defect. Lying is deception. Lying can reflect an attitude of hate, disrespect, selfishness, and even murder. Satan is spoken of in the Bible as a "murderer" and the "father of lies" (John 8:44). A liar has no real character. He cannot be trusted. He is absolutely undependable. God certainly does not consider lying a "small" sin. In fact, He says: "... ALL LIARS, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8, also 22:15). Lying is a sin so serious in God's eyes that He has set death as its penalty! How about Johnny's "little" lie, then? Anything to get worked up about? Yes! These ''small" sins are so serious that if we want our children to grow up as responsible, trustworthy adults, we had better eradicate these sins NOW, realizing how detrimental they are to the formation of holy, godly character! We also need to be vitally concerned about ALL sins! Some sins may not seem too great, but ALL are the antithesis of the righteous and perfect character of God! And all, unrepented of, lead to the lake of fire!
David's approach to sin was totally different from that of most people. Therefore, he is called "a man after God's own heart." Notice his attitude: "I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love" (Psalm 119:163). Earlier, in verses 104 and 128 of the same Psalm, David said: ".... I hate every false way." David's desire — because he had the mind of God, the approach of God — was to eradicate ALL sins from his life. Even though he sinned, he never sought to justify himself. He never excused the wrong in himself by comparing himself with worse examples. A member of God's Church who really abhors lying — who looks at lies as God does — will feel like David, and he will strive to overcome this great sin, and every sin, in his life. He won't be minimizing its seriousness by saying that "it is not as bad as..." Proverbs 28:13 admonishes us: "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." You can never succeed in hiding your sins. God sees them. Why not take the best way out — admit them, admit their seriousness, repent, change and seek God's forgiveness? Don't be like those described in Proverbs 30:12: "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness." Look at your sins, then repent of them as David did. Don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself with certain bad examples you see around you.
Your Reaction to Sin
What type of person are you? Are you shocked and moved by the SIN that exists in the world today? The violence, the crime, the pornography, the wars, abortions, racial bigotry and conflicts? HOW do you feel about the conditions that constitute our society today? Do you think sin isn't really so bad, after all? The Church at Corinth well illustrates a point. In I Corinthians 5 the Apostle Paul writes about a man in the Church who had committed fornication. He also rebukes the other members of that Church for their attitude toward that sin. "And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you" (I Cor. 5:2). On the other hand, the Prophet Ezekiel describes those whose attitude toward sin is entirely different: "And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem and set a mark [for their protection and salvation] upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezek. 9:4), The Corinthians weren't sighing and crying for all the abominations done in the city of Corinth, which was notorious throughout the entire Roman Empire for its sexual licentiousness. The Corinthians in the Church had grown up in that society. They tended to take it for granted. They tended to "co-exist" with the heinous sins around them. We today live in a society very much like that of Corinth — and in many respects even worse. And we, like them, have become hard to shock. We have seen too much violence and bloodshed on television — too much of Vietnam. Most people aren't revolted by open displays of perverted sex and/or nudity on the stage, cinema and television. And we have come to regard the taking of drugs almost as commonplace as drinking beer.
Don't Become Hardened to Sin
Brethren, we need to RENEW OUR GUARD against all the sins around us — all the rottenness of this evil, degenerate, filthy world! The Apostle Paul warns us: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the DECEITFULNESS of sin" (Heb. 3:12-13). Have some of us begun to take sin for granted? Is sin merely a "religious" word? Or do we see and HATE the awful results that follow the violation of God's wonderful laws? Some are no longer with us because they didn't fear to lie. Others have thought that to borrow from second tithe in an emergency was no great sin. Others have left the Church through dating, then marrying, an unconverted person. None intended to leave the Church at first, but that was the inevitable result of an attitude and action which minimized sin! Check up on yourself. Do you minimize your sins? Are you "coexisting" with certain "small" sins in your life? Don't allow yourself to be blinded to the seriousness of even the "SMALLEST" sins in your life — because if you tolerate them, they will eventually lead to the lake of fire! The perfect approach to all sins was given by the Apostle Peter: "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him ESCHEW EVIL, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (I Peter 3:10-12). This is the attitude we should have if we want to live forever! The more we overcome sin, and live righteously before God, the more He can bless us and use us in His Work — and the greater reward we will receive in His soon-coming Kingdom. Therefore, let's abhor all sin, brethren — let's FLEE from sin, and cleave to righteousness with all our heart and strength! In this Passover season especially, let's be reminded of the horror of sin, and diligently PUT IT OUT of our lives, even as we put the leavened bread out of our homes during the Days of Unleavened Bread!