Why does God classify some actions as wrong and others as right? Why is it wrong to break God’s law or sin? Did God just arbitrarily decide that some actions would be classified as sin?
Did God say to Himself: “We have to have some things that are just wrong, so I will choose some nice, tantalizing exciting things and they can be sin”? Then if anyone gets caught doing those things, that person can be put to death.
Is that how sin came to be sin? Is it only sin because God says so? And could it be that these things we call sin, are actually good for us, but God somehow doesn’t want us to have or enjoy them?
Is it rational to believe that a God who created this earth with all its beauty and harmony, and laws which have a clear cause and effect relationship, would institute spiritual laws, merely as some type of mental exercise?
Is sin so bad as to warrant the death penalty? If so then the reason ought to be revealed in the Bible. There has to an obvious cause-and-effect relationship between sin and death.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” We know that wages is something that we earn. In this verse wages are contrasted with God’s gift which is eternal life. One thing we earn, and the other we are given.
In effect, what we earn as our wages is death; the cause is breaking God’s law which is sin. No arbitrary penalty for sin is so much as hinted at in this verse.
Now notice Gal. 6:7-8 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever man sows that shall he also reap. For he that sows to this flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” Again here is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. What you sow grows until it finally brings forth what you reap.
The Apostle James, a leader in God’s Work and brother of Jesus Christ, reveals this same relationship between sin and death: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
In the same way that sin is an automatic result of dwelling on lust, death is the end product of sin. The one brings on the other. If we entertain lust long enough, it will end up in you to the point that you will not be able to keep yourself from sinning.
Then death is the next step along the way, the automatic result of sin. Why, is death the result of sin? The answer to this question is actually the answer to why sin is so bad. We know that modern Christianity has all kinds of definitions of what sin is, but the Bible gives the correct answer. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4).
The question is: what law is it a sin to transgress? Paul gives us the answer: “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not know lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ (Romans 7:7). We all know that Paul is here talking about the Ten Commandments. These are the laws which define sin. Verse 8: “Only if there were no laws to break, he says, would there be no sinning.”
To find out why sin is wrong, and why it nets the death penalty, we need to find out why God gave these laws in the first place. So let’s look at a specific law of God: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14).
What is wrong with adultery? Why did God tell us not to get involved in illicit sex? Swinging or adultery is the “in” thing today. Sociologists estimate that more than 14 million Americans are involved is wife swapping. To those people involved in this type of activity, they don’t see any harm in it.
Young people who engage in premarital sex and couples who swap partners do so, because they see nothing wrong with it. But God says don’t do it! God says that the result will be death. Not merely a penalty arbitrarily imposed, but an automatic result. Can God back up His law concerning adultery with logic, or is He seeking to deny us pleasure?
“ See, I have set before you this day life and good and death and evil, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live” (Deut. 30:15, 19). In other words, God is saying His laws are for our own good. God goes on to say they result in life and every good thing. So adultery will bring only curses, unhappiness, wretchedness and ultimately death. How many married couples have killed their mates because one of them committed adultery?
God is not trying to deny us something good, He is only trying to keep us from a way which brings wrong results. As our Father, He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves, so He gave us laws for our protection.
In the Book of Proverbs we find another father warning his son about potential dangers in the area of sex.
“When wisdom enters into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee, to deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words. Which forsakes the guide of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her home inclines unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.” (Prov. 2:10-11, 16-19).
Now did this father want to deny his son something good, or was he concerned for his welfare? Solomon is talking about an experience that actually destroys a man spiritually. He says that those who commit this kind of sin brings about a change in their lives which prevents them from really living. Even though they are alive, it’s as if they were dead.
Is it merely spiritual language, or just a religious type of idea, just Bible semantics? Or is Solomon talking about something that is affecting the lives of adulterers right now. “Stolen waters are sweet, the adulteress assures her prey, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Prov. 9:17). This is what we here more and more today, any type of sexual behavior is tantalizing, exciting, it isn’t going to hurt you. But what is the eventual result of this and any other illicit sexual relationship. “But he knows not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell (the grave)” (v. 18).
Now when we put the weight of scriptural evidence together, it becomes plain that Solomon is not warning his son of some religious consequences of adultery. He is talking about something which happens to a man’s mind when he sins (especially over a period of time).
Practicing sin causes its participants to become spiritually dead. The world talks about living it up, they talk about really living. The fact of the matter is most people don’t’ know what living really is. The Apostle Paul talked about a woman who lives in wantonness. He said: “But she that lives in pleasure are dead while she yet lives” (I Tim. 5:6).
How can a person be dead and yet still be alive? Paul is talking about a way of life. It’s one thing to exist, to merely live out your seventy-odd years, and it’s another to really live. Jesus Christ described this kind of life when He said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
This type of life isn’t just an existence, but is actually beginning to sample the type of life that God wants us to experience eternally in His Kingdom.
The Bible talks about two opposite ways of life. The Bible explains that: “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life” (Rom. 8:6).
At creation God revealed these two opposite ways of life to Adam and Eve. They were represented by two trees. The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Satan told them that they would continue to live and implied they would actually experience a richer and fuller life.
Question: What is life? Scientists would tell you that life is a chemical process. But this process is going on in a snail, bacteria and plant life. There is more to life than just a chemical process. It involves a quality of existence.
When Adam and Eve ate of the wrong tree they cut themselves off from the continuous abundant life that God intended. “And the Lord God said, behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil, and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat. And live forever; therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:22-24).
Adam and Eve no longer had access to God’s Spirit at that time.
Now when Jesus Christ called a young man to follow him, the young man replied that he wanted to go bury his father first. But Christ told him: “Let the dead bury the dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).
This man’s father had not died; it was a custom in Israel to bury the dead the same day. The man would not have been with Christ on this occasion, but would have been making preparation for the burial had his father died. What he wanted was to spend the remaining years with his father until his death. But Christ told him to leave that to the dead. He was referring to living human beings as dead men, spiritually speaking.
“And you hath he quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). The apostle John wrote “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brethren abides in death” (I John 3:14).
All through the Bible we read of people who are alive and yet dead. They are existing but they aren’t experiencing the quality of life that God intended. They are on a path of life which is slowly, but surely, killing them.
God tells us that this world is spiritually dead. It isn’t really enjoying life, all it is doing, is existing on temporary thrills and kicks. But not really living. Buy why is this? It is because they are cut off from the real source of life. They are transgressing living laws and reaping the automatic penalties.
What happens when a person breaks God’s law? “The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of fools shall destroy them” (Prov. 11:3).
Does perverseness, which is living contrary to God’s law, destroy people because God inflicts a penalty, or is it an automatic, built-in-result? Let the Apostle Paul give us the answer: “And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze (burned out, consumed) with lust for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong doing and going astray which was (their) fitting retribution” (Rom. 1:27).
Perversion brings an automatic penalty. It isn’t wrong because God arbitrarily decreed that it is. It’s wrong because it will hurt you. It will do irreparable damage to your ability to enjoy the fulfillment of right family life.
Now speaking of people who are primarily motivated by their carnal minds, Paul wrote: “This I say therefore that you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their minds, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph. 4:17-18).
In other words these people, because of the perverted practices, have rendered themselves totally incapable of right emotions and feelings. They don’t understand that there is a living law that you can’t break without paying an awesome penalty. They have gone in a way of life, in a pattern of existence, which has gradually dulled their ability to enjoy right relationships.
Why is adultery a sin? Because it harms the human mind, the most finely turned instrument that exists. It robs the individual of the ability to enjoy sex in a way God intended.
Somehow wholesome relationships in marriage become dull, a man’s wife or a wife’s husband no longer really attracts them in the way that they used to. Swingers may seem like they are having fun for a time. But it’s a path that leads only to frustration, heartache, and ultimately death.
Is sin enjoyable, of course it is, that is why people engage in it? That is why temptation is so fulfilling. The forbidden fruit tasted good to Adam and Eve. But the pleasures of sin are short term. “Moses chose to suffer affliction with God’s people rather than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25).
The short-term pleasure of sin brings a long-term penalty, the Bible shows that those who consistently engage in sin are, spiritually speaking, already dead; it likens them to a corpse. A corpse has no feeling, it’s dead, it is insensitive, and the excitement and interest in life has somehow disappeared.
God’s law doesn’t act like human laws, getting caught isn’t the criterion, breaking God’s law will eventually break you. God pursues a way of life which results in happiness, and He wants to share that quality of life with humans, not merely now, but for all time. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
God lives the abundant life and offers an eternity of fulfillment and joy. Before He gives us that type of life, we must prove to Him that we will live in the way that produces every right result. If we refuse to sample that kind of life now, if we persist in sinning, that brings unhappiness, suffering and grief, not only to ourselves, but to others, God has no choice but to put us out of our misery.
God doesn’t want to deprive us of the thrill in life. He only wants to protect us from that which is going to hurt us. God’s law isn’t the reason that sin is wrong, it is wrong because God decided that there ought to be a penalty for some action and a reward for others. The law merely defines sin, and sin is bad for us.
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die” (Ezk 18:23)? God doesn’t want to inflict the ultimate punishment upon people. “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, wherefore turn yourselves and live ye” (vs. 30-32).
Sin can be overcome, we can begin to really live, to sample the life which will grow until it blossoms out into all the fullness and joy that God Himself experiences. Do you see now why sin is so bad?