The Sinfulness of Man

What is sin? Sin is doing what we know is wrong. It also means leaving undone what is right (James 4:17).

There is a difference between temptation and sin. We must try to understand this clearly. It is not a sin to be tempted to do wrong. We know that Jesus himself was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). We sin only when we do not fight against temptation. Jealousy, hatred and pride can live in our thoughts before they are seen in our actions (Matthew 15:19).

We can sin by our words. They can be untruthful, unkind, impure. We can speak disrespectfully of God’s house and laws. This is a prayer in the Bible which all Christians should pray, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth keep the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3). We can sin by our actions: stealing, gambling and cheating are sins which can be seen. These outward sins make the world dark and unhappy, yet the sins of thoughts and words are just as evil in God’s sight. We see, therefore, that sin can be inward or outward. Some people think they have sinned only when they have sinned outwardly. But actions begin with thoughts, the seed is there. Jesus showed that a man has already done wrong in his heart before he does wrong outwardly.

Sin is the most terrible thing in the world. It is the cause of all the unhappiness that men suffer. There are great world evils like war, hatred between nations, hunger and famine. There are evils like drunkenness and gambling. Yet all evils, both small and great, come from the sinfulness and selfishness of men.

Sin breaks the laws of God. The important thing for Christians to remember is that we know about sin because we know about God. It is God’s voice in our hearts that makes us conscious of sin. Sin comes between us and God. It breaks the link of fellowship with Him. This is why sin makes us suffer. This is why we say sin offends (or hurts) God (Isaiah 59:2). We can understand the words of David when he said “Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight” (Ps 51:4).

God has set His law in our hearts. His law we call conscience, which warns us against wrong. It makes us glad when we have chosen the right. It makes us miserable and guilty when we have done wrong. A guilty conscience is a heavy burden. Many people carry this burden. Joseph’s brothers knew they had wronged him. When they met him in Egypt years afterwards, their consciences were still making them suffer. Judas had such a guilty conscience that he killed himself in despair. All of us can understand these feelings because we have all shared them. The Bible tells us clearly, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Bro Emmanuel Maugente (Magunje, Zimbabwe)

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