5 Acceptable Sins in the Church

Dear Jack,

The past few weeks I’ve been leading a Sunday School lesson at a local church based around the Crown Financial‘s teaching material Discovering God’s Way of Handling Money.  I’ve really enjoyed doing this.  Part of this past week’s lesson was on honesty, and it triggered an interesting thought during my preparation for the class, and also sparked an interesting conversation during the class.  Namely: Christians find very clever ways to be dishonest, and not necessarily always feel bad about them.  This led me to think of sins beyond dishonesty as well.

Sure – most people would agree that grand theft auto, adultery, murder, and underage drinking are all examples of things we shouldn’t do.  But what about the more subtle sins that we seem to overlook?  I say this not from a pulpit of condemnation, because I’m just as guilty, but I want to share with you a list of five sins, in no particular oder, and only from my perspective, that the Church as a whole has seemed to gloss over and not put a whole lot of weight into.  I’m sure there are multitudes more, but here’s just five.

  1. Petty theft.  I’m talking about piracy here.  Examples: putting a new Microsoft Office Suite on more computers than the license allows.  Stealing your neighbor’s wireless Internet.  Splicing the cable wire outside and then splitting the cost with the neighbors (the same ones you’re stealing the wireless from!).  Taking office supplies home that aren’t yours.
  2. Taxes.  Originally I clumped this under petty theft, then realized it needed its own space.  Not reporting all your income on your tax forms is blatant sin.  Let me repeat: not reporting all the money your earn on your tax forms to the IRS is not what God wants you to do.  Just because we don’t agree with all that the government does with our tax money is NOT reason to cheat them.  Jesus said it plainly: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And Paul enforced the idea again that we are to subject ourselves to the government that God himself has put into place.  That means obeying them in paying what we owe.
  3. Speeding. I’m super guilty on this one (well, actually not in the past 5.5 months).  This is a sin that we don’t necessarily argue against from a logical or interpretative standpoint – it’s just one that’s willfully ignored.
  4. Gossip and Slander.  Especially in the form of special group prayer requests.  “Dear God, we pray for Jane’s son who is sleeping with his girlfriend, and who may have even started using drugs, and just yesterday mentioned dropping out of school.  Lord we know he frequents the bars almost nightly, and hasn’t been to a Sunday service in 3 months.”  Even outside of the prayerful gossip, Christians are notorious for wanting to degrade leaders, friends, and enemies alike.  We focus so much more on the negative than on the positive in life, that I’m sure it breaks God’s heart.
  5. Being Stingy.  Yes, I’m calling this a sin.  There’s no reason not to tip more than 15%, even if the service is terrible.  There’s no reason to keep track of each dollar spent on each family member and being sure the debits and credits are reconciled.  There’s no reason to spend more on vacations than we do in charitable donations (ouch – did I just put that in print?).  There’s no reason not to buy the homeless woman a cup of coffee standing outside the coffee shop, even if your schedule’s cramped.  And the part that really gets me steamed: we trick ourselves into thinking that by starving generosity by withholding a few dollars here and there, we’re being better stewards.

Jack, once we’re in good standing with Jesus, sinning doesn’t send us to hell.  And we’re no longer enslaved to the Law – so there is no code that we have to follow per say.  But sin still breaks God’s heart.  And although we’re already forgiven from our sins, we should still do all we can to avoid it.  Additionally, we’re called to live radically different from the world around us – and intentionally seeking a holy, set apart life is a phenomenal way of living a life that demands a Gospel explanation.

My admonishment to you is simple: don’t overlook the “small” sins in our lives.  Yes, it’s a huge victory to stay faithful in marriage, but disrespecting your wife behind her back is still equal grounds for repentance.  As I said in my last letter, the power of perspective is monstrously powerful.  Till next time, Jack,



5 thoughts on “5 Acceptable Sins in the Church”

  1. Good conversation going on via Facebook over this topic – and I wanted to repost a snippet of that conversation. This is from a good friend, Kyle.

    Kyle: These seems to get very close to just equating legality with morality. I get that you’re interpreting certain bible verses to mean that not following the law is a sin, but laws are passed for many, many reasons besides protecting others’ rights, or for protecting the nation’s ‘morality’.

    Laws around drinking age have more to do with politics than they do any real national or citizens’ interest. Same goes for marijuana prohibition. Was drinking a beer in 1933 a sin, but suddenly not a sin in 1934? Speed limits are set in a lot of towns not to protect the residents, but as a way to raise funds by pulling over out of towners. Some states still have rules on the books concerning exactly how you’re allowed to have sex, even within the confines of a ‘traditional marriage’.

    Flouting certain laws may have legal consequences, but I really can’t see a moral argument. I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty certain that passage in James 2:10 has more to do with keeping the Jewish law than it has to do with anything the Romans laid down.

    Oh, and to clarify – Jeremy, I certainly think that the point you’re trying to get across is perfectly fine, even admirable. I find it admirable in the same way that I would admire someone who commits to losing 30 lbs., lowering their cholesterol, and running a marathon. From a personal growth and discipline perspective, it’s cool. But automatically calling all these things ‘sin’ is a much, much bigger beast. That has major implications for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. Claiming that their supreme creator of the universe is in anguish (sin causes pain for God, right?) because they run 29 mph in a 25 zone is quite a stretch.

  2. This is my response:

    @Kyle – I was waiting for you to weigh in 🙂

    A few thoughts (and we really need to grab drinks sometime to talk in more depth about it). I’m not necessarily equating legality with morality… but I am equating morality with legality, if that makes sense (which mathematically, it definitely doesn’t).

    Not everything that is legal is necessarily moral – but I would argue that it is moral to live a life that is legal. Does that make sense? Drinking a beer in 1933 was not sin, not based on morality, but based on legality. When prohibition came along and it was now illegal to drink a beer in 1934, then drinking a beer is sinful – not because of the morality of alcohol, but the morality of obeying the legal laws.

    @Kyle – and now the issue of sin. Which is huge, and which wasn’t necessarily addressed in the post, and in no way can be contained to a Facebook conversation. A lot of assumptions and beliefs laid a foundation underneath the points I made in the actual post.

    First: an understanding of sin (which is, admittedly, loose). In my understanding, sin is anything that runs counter to what God has identified as just, loving, and redemptive in the world. As Christians, we’re no longer held accountable to the Law and all the commandments laid out in the Old Testament – we’re held “accountable” by living under the Grace of God. There are few black and white lines anymore (Insert a stiff right hand slap from PBU here).

    Jesus, in numerous occasions, doesn’t say he came to make the law not applicable – in fact, he ups the ante. Adultery isn’t just adultery anymore… it’s even if you lust in your heart after another woman. Murder isn’t just murder anymore, it’s even getting angry with a brother.

    External actions are no longer the measuring step – our internal heart motivation is. Thus, the points in my post. It’s not about “stealing” a $20/month wireless internet connection, compared to stealing $20,000 from the local bank. It’s about the heart’s condition of theft.

    So, I find it okay to make statements that God’s heart hurts when we speed and disobey the government law – because I ultimately believe that it does hurt his heart. Just the same as when we slander each other, or disrespect our parents, or neglect to take care of the poor around the world.

  3. Great post, jeremy.

    The point that hits me the hardest is number 5. Do you know Mike Stoltzfus by chance? I remember hearing him talk about tipping waitresses extra generously as an expression of the Gospel.

    1. Mike Stoltzfus as in Pequea Valley Mike Stoltzfus? Yep – he goes to our church. I love the concept… especially if you’re dining with people who plea not to tip well… great way to have a Gospel-sparked conversation.

  4. Great reminders of our subtle ways of making poor choices. I like the fact that you actually used the word “sin” where appropriate. It is a word not spoken about very often these days as so many of us try to justify many of our actions that truly do displease our God. He does care about everything we do and do not do. ~~~ m

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