What Is Sin?

It’s two a.m. and I can’t sleep tonight.

I can’t sleep because I’ve latched onto a question that absolutely, positively must be answered.

My blogging buddy Kinney Mabry asked it in his recent post “Sin,” and he is not the first and will not be the last. It’s the first question in his post. There are lots more that go with it. Kinney is full of good questions.

Every living person wrestles with this question and the ones that accompany it at one point or another in our lives, I’m convinced. When we shrug it off as inconsequential, that says something about our character (or lack thereof). Because I’m also convinced that God has placed within each of us a rudimentary, genetically-encoded moral compass; that’s part of what Romans 1 is communicating as well as our predeliction for ignoring it.

So I’m going to take a stab at defining sin, and then I’ll let y’all whale away at it:

Sin is what we think, say and/or do (or fail to say/do) which exalts self at the expense of God (and often, others).

It is what we think because that’s where it gets started. It’s what we say and do because that’s how it comes out.

It’s what exalts self at the expense of God because we buy into the lie — just as Adam and Eve did — that we know better than God. We know what’s best for our sweet selves, and He’s trying to keep us from it.

It comes at the expense of God because it cost Him the life of His Son.

It often comes at the expense of others because they have to bear the consequences of our selfishness, too.

It includes “fail to say/do” because we can know to do good and not do it – and leave others suffering.

And a fat lot we care about it.

There, I’ve said it. Obviously I’ve thought it. Perhaps not so obviously, I’ve lived it out in what I’ve said and done. Over and over and over again. So have you. So has everyone else.

We all stand between the two trees in the garden east of Eden, folks. We could choose Life, or the knowledge of good and evil. But the only way to know what good and evil are is to experience the difference between them, and that means disobeying what God has told us right down in the deepest place of our hearts. Life sounds pretty good, but we already have it, and He gave it to us and that must mean that He can’t be telling the truth when He says we’ll die if we eat from the other tree because He planted that garden and He loves us and He wants us to have life.

Yup, we’ve got it all reasoned out. We know better than God. We know what we want. We know what He wants. And He just doesn’t want us to have something that must be really good because He’s keeping it all for Himself and denying it to us.

So we betray each other out of what we profess to be love for each other, but at the root it’s the completely selfish fear that if the other one eats, he/she will have what I want and I won’t and we’ll be different. And we take the bite. And then we know.

We know what God didn’t want us to know that way. We know what He would have taught us out of love if we had trusted Him. But we don’t trust Him. We judge Him. We judge each other.

Yes, sin is rebellion against God and falling short of the mark and all of those other Sunday-school terms that we heard and pretended to understand but really didn’t because they don’t begin to get to the root of what sin is.

Sin is what we think, say and/or do (or fail to say/do) which exalts self at the expense of God (and often, others).

The other tree is Life, which is who Jesus was, is and will be … and what He came to give and to give more abundantly and what He gives through His Spirit and what God gives us in the first place. He does this because He loves us; it is not just His nature but His identity: God is love.

And if we love, we do not judge Him or others. We give up self for Him, and them.

That, I believe, is the long and the short of it. I think it’s staring us in the face and has been all of our lives and it could not be any simpler than if it were tattooed on the backs of our hands and wired into the compass of our feet that would always keep us pointed toward Him.

But then we would realize that our path in life leads to a cross where sin pinioned His hands and feet.

It was on a tree in Eden that death hung disguised as the fruit of knowledge, and on a crosstree of death that Life bore the fruit of love.

Pick one.

Now there’s a thought that isn’t going to help me get to sleep at all.

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21 thoughts on “What Is Sin?

  1. It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m literally lying in bed reading this because I can’t sleep either. And what you’ve written here is so rich and thought-provoking that it inspires me to attempt to take a look at scripture and answer that question for myself: what is sin and how does/has it affect(ed) my life? Unfortunately, I can’t do it justice right now, in the middle of the night. But trust me, I’ll be back soon to take a stab at this…

  2. “It comes at the expense of God because it cost Him the life of His Son.”

    Keith, what came first “man’s sin” or the Son of God? (not including Adam)
    Did God have a son of his essence before sin.

    (essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is)

    Why did God plant a son of his essence, in a woman.

    “It is what we think because that’s where it gets started. It’s what we say and do because that’s how it comes out.”
    Keith, with whom did sin start.? and why ?

    Something for you to think about tonight 🙂

    • Laymond, I think my answer would be that God had to have known what could and would happen when man was given choice, and what it would cost Him:

      “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” – Revelation 13:8

  3. Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].

    Gen 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
    17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    Keith who made the first law we see in the bible. Therefore creating the possibility of transgression of Gods law. (sin)

    Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.
    Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression.

    As Keith said “I think my answer would be that God had to have known what could and would happen when man was given choice, and what it would cost Him”

    Someone else may be messing with you, not me, I didn’t write the scriptures.

  4. I want to thank you buddy for the link posted response, extended disussion and compliment. I read blogs when I can’t sleep too. Lke Kansas Bob, I agree with your definition too. Very well defined. Like mmlace said it makes us want to ask even more important questions what has it done for me/affeet my life?

  5. Keith, this is what I think about at 2am

    Gen 5:25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat
    Lamech

    Gen 5:28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
    29 And he called his name Noah,

    If we add 187 yrs,age of Methuselah at Lamech;s birth and 182 yrs the age of

    Lamech at Noah’s birth, we get how much older Methuselah was than Noah. which

    adds up to 369 yrs.

    Gen 7:6 And Noah [was] six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon

    the earth.

    If we add the age of Noah during the flood, which was 600 yrs to the age difference

    of Methuselah, and Noah which was 369 yrs, we get the age of Methuselah at the

    time of the flood which was 969 yrs, which was the age of Methuselah at death.

    Gen 5:27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years:

    and he died.
    Question; Did Methuselah die in the flood?

  6. Hi Keith,

    I wrote a similar post a while back, and I think Jesus sums up sin best. You and the commentators dance around the definition, but think about this: Paul says, without the law we would not know what sin is. Jesus says, the law and prophets are built on two commandments: Love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And love your neighbor like yourself. If we obeyed these two commandments, we would never sin. On the flip-side of that coin, when we sin we break these two commandments. Sin is not loving God with everything we have and not loving our neighbor as ourselves. That’s the simplicity of it.

    You can read more of my thoughts on the issue here:

    What is Sin?
    Do We Sin Everyday?
    Are there degrees of sin?
    Forgiveness of Sins?

    • I don’t disagree with you, but I don’t think I’ve danced around the answer, either. I’ve answered, “Sin is doing this,” and you’ve answered, “Sin is not doing this.” It’s the same answer; just phrased differently.

      If you love self more than others and God, your words and actions will express it. You’ll break the two commandments of love — and the rest is just details of degree.

      • I didn’t mean to imply a disagreement, and I apologize for my wording. I could make excuses about how I was frustrated at work when I wrote it, but there’s no excuse really. My post didn’t come across as very loving at all, which is terrible considering the issue at hand. So I ask for forgiveness on that one.

        Your absolutely right in everything you wrote.

        Die to self; Love God; Love others. Anything else is sin.

  7. I tend to think in terms that are less “right versus wrong” and more “good, better and best.” So if God has set a “best” standard for us on some area of our life, and we recognize that is His desire, really, anything less than that could be considered sin even though it might be considered, “good” and not “bad.”

    “Could be” being the key phrase. (Which would fit with sins of omission… “the person who knows to do right and doesn’t do it; that’s sin.”)

    But I like your definition as well. Years ago I noted that there are hundreds of scripture verses which read the same when we substitute “selfishness” for “sin.”

  8. According to 1 John 3:4 ” Whoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.” Romans 14:23 ” that not of faith is sin.” Romans 10:17 “faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God.” Heb 11:6 ” it is impossible to please God without faith.” Rom 10:16 faith is yielding to God’s will. So if we don’t yeild to God’s law (Christ) we sin.

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