When is a sin a sin? To many, the question may seem trivial: “Well, obviously, a sin becomes a sin when a sinner does something sinful.” Duh. I would agree with that. But the hard part is not in naming the particular sins – Romans 1:28-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Revelation 21:8 do that pretty well for us, among others – but in recognizing a sin as a sin when it is staring us right between our eyes.

Consider this: a man eats a fruit that was given to him by his wife that both were told was not theirs to consume. Who has the bigger fault? Some would argue that it was the woman, since she was the one that picked it and gave it to the man, thereby leading him into temptation. Others say that it was obviously the man, as he never stopped the process, and allowed himself AND the woman to sin, thereby being responsible for her as well.

The answer, of course, is both of them; both of them have sinned and done something wrong in God’s sight. Why is it then, that when we study the story of Adam and Eve (the same), that we tend to assign more blame to one than the other? And moreover, why do we not recognize the compatible sins within our own lives?

We have to be able to recognize the two types of sins that exist in this world, commonly called sins of commission and sins of omission, both of which were at play in this story from Genesis 3. The woman was at fault because she did something wrong (sin of commission), and the man was wrong because he failed to do anything about it (sin of omission). Both equally wrong, and both were banished because of it.

So how does this translate to our regular life? The sins of commission are simple, especially given examples from Scripture. In 1 Samuel 15:18, God told Saul to “Utterly destroy the sinners, the Amelekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.” Did he do it? Nope, and the “kingdom was torn from [him] and given to [his] neighbor.” How about with Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10? They were told what to do, they did something else, and fire rained from Heaven and consumed them. Pretty simple.

But what about sins of omission? These are often the unsung ones, the silent killers that go unnoticed by all of us at one point or time, and can be missed completely if we’re not observant enough. They creep in and rationalize a behavior or try to shortcut around the commandments – things that don’t appear bad, but when broken down are just as sinful (if not more so) as the other. 

For example, we look at the parable of the good samaritan and exalt the third passer-by for his kindness and generosity. And that is the correct emphasis of the story, that he was so willing to go out on a limb for this unknown person that he would give of himself and help someone in need; we should all be so hospitable. But is it necessarily wrong for us to be the levite or the priest in that story, to just walk on by without saying or doing anything? Those people probably went about their way without a second thought as to the condition of the injured man, and went all the way to their destination believing that they had done nothing wrong.

But had they? James 1:27 talks about part of pure and undefiled religion being to “visit the widows and orphans in their affliction.” Galatians 6:9-10 tells us to do good to all men, “but especially those of the household of faith.” Jesus describes the Judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46 as somewhat dependent on one’s hospitality to others less fortunate. Yet we look at those, correlate them in our own lives with giving to charities, visiting an ailing person in the hospital, or fixing a flat tire for someone on the side of the road, and often fall into the trap of thinking that those are “extra” good deeds, as if we get spiritual bonus points for doing them.

Instead, that’s what we were created to do (Eph. 2:10). Were we created for worshipping Him in spirit and truth? Yes. Are we supposed to keep ourselves free from the temptations of the world, such as drunkenness, lasciviousness and the like? Absolutely. But just as imperative to those is the hospitality, kindness and love that we are to show day in and day out to our fellow man, and especially those that are Christians. Those aren’t optional, they are commandments from God, and we are just as wrong if we omit them as if we commit another sin.

By not taking the easy way out and only doing the things that are most visible, God calls on us to go deeper, to think higher and consider more seriously our actions in every day life. We cannot be people that define Godliness for ourselves and subscribe to a legalistic mindset of righteousness. Rather, we have to emulate Him in every aspect of our life, and consider in our minds the reflection of Jesus day by day.

Last modified: January 27, 2019