The “good” side of sin.
In a recent class I was teaching on Behavior Modification, I was using the context of the “7 deadly sins” to illustration differences between simple Behavior Modification and inner spiritual Transformation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:2). In looking at the nature of temptation, I noted how what can be sin can also be a good and natural God-created benefit of humans. Sin of course, has no good side. But the underlying drives that lead to sin help us understand how we were created as humans. We often wonder why God created us with the ability, if not propensity, to sin. Questions such as “Why did God put the tree in the garden” or “Why couldn’t He have made it impossible to sin?” are frequent. The answer is often simply, “Then we’d be robots.” Though that satisfies us, it doesn’t really answer the question. Perhaps the question is too complex to answer? But, acknowledging the God-given and God-created human nature that we often use to sin may actually help us better resist it.
One of the “7 deadly sins” is gluttony. However, the desire for food is not only essential to life, but scripture acknowledges and seems to condone its pleasure. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:15 encourages us to “eat, drink, and enjoy life.” Yet, the whole point of the book is to not make the pleasures of life the reason you live. Instead, live for God. Creation itself show us that food was made to be enjoyed. Otherwise, why would it not taste like dirt? Or perhaps like air? Our very bodies are created to enjoy the taste and other sensory pleasures of food.
We were equally created to desire and enjoy sex. Envy, greed, and some level of lust can all be viewed as naturally driven by a spirit of ambition. Without such, we would not be human. We wouldn’t be too lazy to get off the couch because we would not have had the ambition to ever get up on it. All these things that can lead to “deadly sins” are things God created in us to enjoy life and live for Him in doing so.
So why did God put the tree in the garden? It was necessary to enact both the drive and the decision to love Him for which He created us. Acts 17 is a good indicator of this.
27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:27-28 (NIV)
That’s the ambition and drive that God gave us. The sin is when we use it in ways or to degrees he doesn’t desire. Enjoying food is not a sin. Eating too much at a fellowship meal is not a sin. Feasting is bible ordained (II Chronicles 8:13; Genesis 21:8). Lack of self-control is the sin and the essence of gluttony.
Sex is not a sin. The desire which could be called lust is not a sin. But to “lust after” (Matthew 5:28) or engage in sex outside the committed relationship of marriage is sin (I Corinthians 6:9).
To desire a raise, job promotion, or go to college for a degree and career are not sin. They are ambitions. The same drive that leads us to do our best, can also be used to sin. Greed is the desire for excess of these things as idols above God. Living life for “stuff” and prestige, tearing down others in the attempt to “achieve”, and the lack of self restraint is sin.
God did not create us to sin (James 1:13-15). He created us with good human qualities that can be used to sin. That’s the reason many “just say no” attempts often fail at lasting change. They may stop one behavior, which is often replaced by another from the same “drive”. Perhaps a better way would be to acknowledge the underlying nature that leads to sin. Instead of saying, “stop having that drive”, or even “stop doing that behavior,” turn a bad use of human qualities into something good. Use what God gave us for the reasons God gave it. There is nothing good about sin! But, everything about us as humans that God created is very good (Genesis 1:31).
God does not desire a change in behavior, but a transformation of character!