Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Why Do We Sin?
If you've been following this blog at all you know that I have written a couple of series dealing with Romans 6-8 which basically gives us insights into sin and God's way of gaining victory over it. See part 1 here.) But that study has started me thinking about what causes us to sin or to want to sin.
The easy answer is that we are sinners or we have a sin nature. Romans 6:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul writes in Romans 7:21 “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” But what I'm trying to think through is what it is in our psychological nature that causes us to sin. What do we think we need or what are we trying to get out of it? Why do I argue with someone in an effort to win the point? Why do I complain so loudly when I feel that I have been taken advantage of? Why do I want a nicer car than my neighbor has?
James asks a similar, but not quite the same, question. In James 4 he writes, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” In another place he writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
So what I see from these passages is that we are born with lusts which are very strong desires. The Bible characterizes these as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). The lusts of the flesh are lusts that are normal body desires, such as to eat, or for sex, which are then magnified to strong level. Lust of the eyes involve things we see which causes us to have a desire for those things when we don't necessarily need them. They look good. They are attractive. Television commercials often leverage this strong desire to get us to buy their product. Pride of life is the desire to be someone. To use what we have either in possessions or skills to set ourselves up higher than others.
Going back then to the James passages, we wee that the wars and fights come about because of these strong desires. Why would someone lie? In order to make himself appear better, more significant or more skillful than he actually is. Why do we covet something someone else has? Because of the lust of the eyes and often also because of the pride of life. Why should that person have a nicer car than I have? We have a strong desire to be higher, better and more envied than others. Why do we complain about the weather? What am I saying when I do this?
But what is the root of all of this? I think Romans 1 gives us the answer. Paul's indictment there is that we do not give God the glory he deserves and are not thankful (verse 21), and we worship and serve the creature, namely ourselves, more than God (verse 25). You see, I think the core problem is that we want to be God. Giving glory to the God of heaven means I need to place myself under him and recognize his rightful rule over me. Being thankful means I am acknowledging that what I have comes from him and that I am dependent on him. We don't normally want to be dependent on anyone. Paul told the people of Athens that God is the one who gave them life and breath and all things and that he is the one who made them and determined when and where they would live on the earth (Acts 17:25-26). If those things are true, then we are dependent on God for everything and that means we are not the masters of our fate or the captain of our soul as William Henley so famously wrote. And the problem is.....WE DON'T LIKE THAT! We hold our fist in the air and demand sovereignty for ourselves. That is the problem.
As a Christian I'm confronted with the fact that this rebellion is in me. When I would do good, evil is present with me (Romans 7:21). When I see the righteous demands of God's law, I realize that there is no way in the world I am going to be able to meet the standard and so I say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
We'll look at God's answer tomorrow.