Is it possible that the one of the biggest problems with sin is the way we view it? How we treat it? Our approach to avoiding it? Could it be that some of the greatest damage done isn’t done by our sins themselves, but by the way we think of them and how we interact with them?
The more I read and the more I learn the more I am convinced that we often operate with a faulty or at best partial view of sin.
Think about this: when we hear sin words we typically think of actions. We think of behavior. If I speak of sexual immorality we think of an act of adultery or fornication. We think in terms of the physical and the outward. But what does Jesus say? He teaches us that long before our sin became an action, it was a problem of the heart.
“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 6:27-28
Right before this Jesus teaches that the problem isn’t just murder, but anger—regardless of whether or not there is action put to the anger within. The internal heart condition is the problem before the actions ever surface.
Is slander only a problem once it comes out of our mouths? No. It is already in our hearts before that. It is on our minds before it ever makes its way to our lips. The biblical view of sin reveals that sinful behavior isn’t the only problem—it isn’t the ultimate problem. Our behavior is simply the signpost to something deeper; something darker.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
Sinful behavior is simply the result of a sinful heart. What comes out of our mouths isn’t a slip of the tongue or a momentary loss of ourselves, it’s the true self being exposed. Actions done in anger or a lack of wisdom and control aren’t just bad actions. They tell a story of the heart; of who we are.
What’s so critical for us to get from Jesus’ words in Luke 6 is not just that our problem starts in the heart but that our problem always starts in the heart. Our problem is never ultimately outside of ourselves. The problem is always within. The problem is always me; always my heart. But we don’t like to think this way…
- We lose our temper with our children and say things like, “You make me so mad! Why do make me yell before you obey?!”
- We justify our lack of loving our spouse well by saying, “Well, if you only knew what I have to put up with…”
- We explain away our road rage in traffic by reminding ourselves that if others simply knew how to drive in the rain this wouldn’t be a problem.
- When we are enveloped in gluttony and food worship we console ourselves by saying, “Everyone is so demanding of me, a little comfort food is all I need.” (like a whole package of Oreos!)
- When we tell a lie: “It’s not like I want to be dishonest, but they wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t be accepting of me if they knew.” Or the classic: “It would kill them if they knew the truth…” (aren’t we so noble to protect them this way?)
- When our behavior turns self-centered we justify by saying, “It’s not like anyone else is going to look out for me.”
The list goes on and on and on. For every sin we ever commit we have a rationalization for why it’s not our fault, but someone else’s. We are masters of justification. Ultimately, the enormous danger in this way of thinking is that we are telling ourselves a lie: If my circumstances were different, I would be different. If the people in my life were better, I would be better. If I had my way more often I would be more loving and righteous.
We are teaching ourselves to believe that my biggest problem is outside of me. But the reality is that it’s not outside of me. My biggest problem is me! My heart. My sin. My brokenness. Me. Me. Me.
No one forces us to be sinful. Certainly environment cranks up the heat at times and people push our boundaries and self-control to new limits. But my heart is where the sin comes from.
So long as I allow myself to blame others and environment and outside forces for my sin, I am in no position to experience real, meaningful, lasting change. My heart needs to be rescued. My heart needs to be redeemed. My heart needs to be restored. All of my words and actions are the result of the overflow of my heart; the good and the bad, the sin and the obedience—it all flows out of the same place; it all comes from my heart. I don’t need my circumstances to change. I need my heart to change.