What Sin Really Hurts

When we look at God’s laws, we can see the ethical demands that He put on His people, requiring that their behavior was not damaging to others. (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-10)  However, we can sometimes forget that there are two elements of sin.  There is the offense against the other human that fails to love them as ourselves.  More importantly, however, there is also the failure to love God in obedience. (Deuteronomy 6:1-8)  When we sin, we not only hurt others, but we hurt our relationship with God.

Joseph was aware of this concept when he was put in a tempting situation by Potiphar’s wife.  Her repeated sexual advances were rebuffed because Joseph understood his position and the responsibility that came with it.  “Behold, with me [here], my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.  There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9)  Joseph understood at his core that a violation of his master’s trust, and adultery with his wife, would have violated his relationship with God.

David’s sin against Uriah the Hittite is well documented, and the list of sins he committed is long and egregious.  Nathan the prophet was not shy about enumerating them. “Why have you despised the word of YHWH by doing evil in His sight?  You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.” (II Samuel 12:9)  God hints here at something that David fully understood later.  “Against You, You only, I have sinned / And done what is evil in Your sight / So that You are justified when You speak / And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4)  Yes, David’s sin had hurt, violated, and killed other people, but he had truly failed God and that was the most heinous failure.

Achan had committed the classic “victimless” crime.  He had pilfered a few items as loot from the destruction of Jericho.  All the people were dead and weren’t going to miss a garment of clothes and some silver and gold.  However, what Achan did was a direct violation of God’s commands. (Joshua 6:18-19)  In the end, Achan’s sin endangered Israel, caused the defeat at Ai, and also caused the death of 36 soldiers. (Joshua 7:1-5)  At the man’s sentencing, we see that he understood his sin, and the root of the problem. “Truly, I have sinned against YHWH, the God of Israel, and this is what I did...” (Joshua 7:19-21)

All sin is a violation of God’s commands and expectations.  Even when that sin hurts others, the true violation is against God.  Let us keep that in mind before we act, and also when we confess and repent, seeking to repair our relationship with Him.