What is Good and what is Evil? Most of us have pondered these questions at some point in our lives. Regardless of your religious or political views, it’s safe to assume that TV and the Internet, and the World’s problems in our face every day, are a large influence on why we ask these questions. In an era of uncertainty we want to know, and we want it Black and White. For many, these answers are found in the pages of Scripture and our era is definitely not without its fair share of self-righteous “bible-thumpers” telling people they are going to Hell with a list of deadly sins in their hands. Unfortunately, those same scriptures tell another tale that many Christians living in the world today probably don’t want to hear.
If you are looking for the biblical definition of deadly sin, and what really turns God’s stomach, it can be found in the pages of the Old Testament Prophets, and Ezekiel in particular. Out of all the many pagan peoples mentioned in the the OT, none called down the Wrath of God more so than those whom he called to be his own—the House of Israel. And for this reason he brought destruction and devastation upon them, destroying their cities, and even the Temple itself, by the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Throughout most of the Book of Ezekiel God explains Israel’s harsh punishment, dwelling on a few recurring themes that explain the great sins of his people. One of the best examples of this can be found in Ezekiel 18 and I encourage everyone to read it. Over the course of the chapter, the same list of iniquities is repeated (more or less) tree times, so you know it’s important for understanding what God considers to be grave sins. Over the course of the Book of Ezekiel, God calls attention to many of the sins mentioned in this passage but two sins stand out more than any others—Idolatry and Social Injustice. Later on we read,
Behold, the princes of Israel in you, every one according to his power, have been bent on shedding blood. Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. You have despised my holy things and profaned my Sabbaths. There are men in you who slander to shed blood, and people in you who eat on the mountains; they commit lewdness in your midst. In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness; in you they violate women who are unclean in their menstrual impurity. One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter. In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take interest and profit and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; but me you have forgotten, declares the Lord God.
(Ezekiel 22:6-12, ESV)
So to sum it up, God’s idea of grave sin includes:
Despising God and the Sacred
Dishonoring Yourself and Your Family
Extortion of both Neighbors and Migrants
Neglect of the Needy
Dubious Business Practices
Look at this list. Look it over really good. I’m probably not the only one who has noticed that quite a few Christians today (myself included) spend a great deal of time focusing on a couple of items on that list while ignoring the rest. We are very quick to judge people for their sexual sins and for not going to church every week, but where are we when it comes to caring for widows, orphans, and dare I say it—refugees? Where are we when corrupt CEOs lay off thousands of hard working people so they can have a new private jet? Where have we been while medical companies and the pharmaceutical industry have turned our hospitals into businesses that care more about making money than healing the sick?
Most of the time we are disgustingly silent on those matters. Instead, we raise up and applaud corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle that care more about the lobbyists that fund their campaigns than the people who vote for them. Instead of actually doing something about it, we blame the other party for government corruption and the abandonment of our nation’s ideals. And a lot of the time Christians end up fighting with each other.
Politics aside, most of the issues that people fight over come Election Season would be solved if the Church actually came together and did their job as a Kingdom of Priests. We must raise the call and fight against extortion and corruption, of both Government and Business, we must care for the Needy—the widows, the orphans, and yes, even the jobless and refugees. It’s unfortunate, but the Needy constitutes much more than it did in ancient times and it’s the duty of the People of God to help them get back on their feet, and if that’s not possible, to care for them in a way that human beings made in the Image of God deserve to be.
And yes, we must continue to raise the call and do our best to stem the tide of the ever growing wave of sexual immortality, but it must always start with ourselves first and foremost. Sexual sins, in essence, are sins against the Self—the Soul—and the Body, which is the Temple of God.
If you are married, these sins are committed against all spouses as well. If a married man commits adultery with a married woman, he isn’t just sinning against himself, but against his own wife and against the husband of the married woman as well. That is a sin of Triple Betrayal. Sexual sin arises, not from pornography and the immorality of others (although that doesn’t help), but from a lack of respect for ourselves and for others. If we care nothing about honor and only about self-gratification, of course sexual sin will be crouching at the door. The true fight against sexual immortality in the world today begins with instilling a renewed sense of honor and respect within the generations to come, not with self-righteous cries against other peoples’ actions.
In all these things it must be the Church that leads the way. In the era of the Old Testament, Israel was called by God to be a Kingdom of Priests—to be that city on a hill and a light to the world, teaching the nations about the holiness of God and what it means to live as true human beings made in his Image. As we read, Israel refused and corrupted that call and it brought devastation and Exile upon them. As Israel’s Messiah, Jesus inherited the Kingdom of God and renewed that covenant of old, bestowing that call upon his co-heirs—the Church (Matthew 5:13-16). If, like ancient Israel, we refuse to be that Light to the World, and let the practices of others corrupt us, are we no better than they were? Would we not deserve the same fate? In the words of Jesus, when the salt of the earth has lost its taste “it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
So let us continue the work of the Kingdom of God. First in ourselves, then our families, our communities, and unto the ends of the earth.