That Little Something Extra

When in Louisiana, you may be treated to some “lagniappe” (pronounced LAN-yap). This isn’t a Cajun dish. It is a colloquial term that means “a little something extra.” A merchant, clerk or salesman may throw in an additional perk or two as a way of showing kindness and generating goodwill. This is similar to a “baker’s dozen” where a thirteenth roll is added to the 12 ordered by the customer. Mark Twain liked this practice – and word – so much that he described it as the “word worth going to New Orleans to get.”

Christ calls us to give a little extra. He doesn’t want us to settle for the average of what others are providing. The measure of our success is whether I am better today than I was yesterday. We will ultimately be judged by our own abilities and actions, not the actions of others. This is emphasized in Scripture as a fundamental concept for personal action: Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 14:12; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:5. The real test is not whether I’m doing as much as others or whether I’m doing what’s required, but whether I’m doing what I can.

The Lord prods us to strive to do a little extra in our lives, to reach beyond our comfort zone and to do more than the average. Consider three areas where this is stressed:

First, we should give up the extra coat. John the Baptist preached the necessity of repentance. This was his major theme (see Matt. 3:1ff). His listeners knew they must “repent,” but they were unclear about what it meant for them personally: “And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:10-11). This illustrates that living penitently before God extends to every area of our lives. Generosity is a fruit of repentance. We show real repentance by acting in a way that is consistent with saying we regret our sins against God, and determination against avarice, by being as generous with others as He has been with us.

Second, we should go on the extra mile. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said His followers will do more than required: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:41). Jesus was referring to a provision in ancient Roman law called “impressment.” Under the impressment law, a Roman soldier could force non-Romans to carry his equipment (sometimes weighing up to 100 pounds) for one Roman mile (about 1600 yards). This lesson from Jesus illustrates how His followers will relinquish their individual rights in order to serve the greater good of God and His kingdom through self-sacrfice. We no longer live for ourselves, but Christ (Gal. 2:20).

Third, we should grind out the extra work. One of the greatest chapters about the resurrection of Jesus is I Corinthians 15. Paul laid out all the evidence: Old Testament prophecies, numerous eye-witnesses, changed lives. He ends the chapters by calling us to do more than the minimum to serve God, because He will surely reward us in heaven: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58). “Abounding” refers to material that overflows its container. We should do all the extras we can, because Jesus rose again for us.

How to Know When to Pray

Prayer is one of the divine privileges granted to God’s children. The Bible says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (I John 5:14, 15).
Since prayer is a gift to be used wisely. we ought to be aware of the times when prayer will benefit us the most.
1. Times of worship call for prayer.
In Acts 12, while Peter’ was being held prisoner by the Jews in Jerusalem, we read of the church being gathered together in one place and making prayer for him (Acts 12:5)
When God’s people come together for any reason, especially worship and Bible study, they ought to offer prayers to God. Prayer brings us closer to God, and makes our worship of Him more meaningful to us.
2. Times of worry call for prayer.
Jesus warned us about the “cares of this world” and how they could choke out the word of God from a hearer’s heart (Luke 8:14).
Worry is wasteful. Not an ounce of work gets done while we worry about how hard the work is going to be.
Worry is worthless. Jesus asks the worrying Christian, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matt. 6:27) A person has never grown an inch by worrying about how short he is.
Worry is wicked. Again Jesus says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Of, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek)… “ (Matt. 6:31, 32). Jesus said that only the heathen, that is, the “Gentiles,” worry about things like food, drink, and clothing.
Prayer is the cure for the ailment of anxiety. Paul prescribes, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6,7).
3. Times of weakness call for prayer.
When we are sick, or suffering, or have sinned, we are usually at a very low point in our spiritual lives. James tells us to pray, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray…the prayer of faith shall save the sick…Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:13-16).
Jesus endured tremendous torment the night He was betrayed and arrested by praying to the Heavenly Father: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). If prayer helped our Savior, it will also help us cope with the difficulties we are facing.
Lots of work, even doing good things for others, can drain us and leave us wavering. If we will pray it through, we can find more strength. We should “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). And, remember “always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
And take to heart the words of this song: “O, how praying rests the weary, prayer will change the night to day. So when life seems dark and dreary, don’t forget to pray.”

Ecclesiastes: Man’s True Purpose

Whether we read the Book of Ecclesiastes as a description of the search for happiness as it is in progress, or as a memoir of one who is reflecting on detours in life that turned up empty, the message is the same: Nothing on earth can bring real fulfillment; genuine satisfaction is found only in serving One Who is above the sun: God.

If we begin with the end in mind, the main lesson is found in the final verses of the book: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The Whole Story

A pivotal phrase in Ecclesiastes is its reference to “the whole duty of man” in the passage quoted above. The material in the first dozen chapters addresses what is not part of our real purpose in life. “The viewpoint of the book’s author is that of an older, wise man reflecting back on what he has learned about life. Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. The content compares the meaning of life without God to life with God at its center” (Blackaby Study Bible). “Solomon provides a vivid tour of the life of a man who took the ‘not quite enough’ philosophy to its logical conclusion. As you read Ecclesiastes, think about how life might be different if you were to simply acknowledge that everything you really need in order to find contentment already lies within your reach” (Mens Devo. Bible).

Overview of the Book

“In this book, Solomon seeks to answer the question, ‘Is life worth living?’ First, he states the problem and argues for the negative (chapters 1–2). Then he examines the problem from many different angles (ch. 3–10) and argues for the positive. He concludes that life is worth living if you put God first and obey His Word (ch. 11–12)” (With The Word).

Here and Now

“There always have been two kinds of teaching about the way to holiness. One is by withdrawal as far as possible from the natural in order to promote the spiritual. The other is to use and transform the natural into the expression of the spiritual. While each kind of teaching has its place, some people need one emphasis rather than the other. Ecclesiastes definitely teaches the second.” (Constables Notes). “Six times Solomon advises you to enjoy life now and be grateful for God’s gifts (2:24; 3:12–15, 22; 5:18–20; 8:15; 9:7–10; 11:9–10). This is not the pleasure- seeking philosophy of the epicurean (‘eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die’) but the joyful outlook of the believer who accepts life as God’s gift to enjoy and employ for His glory (1 Tim. 6:17–19)” (With The Word)(Compare I John 2:15-17).

Principles from Proverbs: Finances

Solomon, one of the wealthiest men of ancient times, had quite a bit to say about how we may acquire and use financial resources.

One volume of Solomon’s writings – the Book of Proverbs – contains a large catalog of passages dealing with money, including (open your Bible and follow this list through that book): 3:9, 10; 8:18-21; 10:4,15, 16, 22; 11:4, 24-26, 28; 13:7, 8, 11, 21, 22; 14:20, 23, 24; 15:6,16, 27; 16:8; 17:6; 18:11, 23; 19:4, 7; 21:5, 17; 22:1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 16; 23:4, 5; 27:24; 28:6, 8, 11, 22, 25; 30:8; 31:18.

When we assimilate the array of passages on the topic, Scripture teaches that financial resources are a product of our employment and investment coupled with the blessings of God’s providence. The providence of God refers to the manner in which He foresees our material needs and arranges through natural channels for those needs to be fulfilled. Jesus taught that we should not worry about our physical needs because the Father would satisfy each one: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33). The providence of God is not a substitute, however, for our prudence in managing the resources by which those needs are met. The Lord expects us to provide goods and services to participate in our economy and to be wise stewards of our financial means.

To help us keep money in the right perspective, consider some of the passages in Proverbs that tell us about things that are better than money:

Wisdom is more valuable than money.

The benefits of wisdom is more valuable than any precious jewel: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her” (3:13-15). Wisdom often brings enduring wealth (8:18, 21). Wisdom yields better fruit than money (8:20). Wisdom enables one to rightly use money (17:16). Wisdom gives one proper restraint on the means for making money (23:4).

Fearing God is more valuable than money.

Fearing God is better than having a lot of money: “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” (15:16). Humility and the fear of God often lead to the acquisition of wealth (22:4).

Righteousness is more valuable than money.

Righteous people can have great riches that involve no trouble (15:6). A poor, but blameless man (i.e. one who is righteous) is better off (i.e. before God) than a rich, but perverse man (28:6). “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool” (19:1). God often rewards the righteous with money (13:21). It is better to have a little money with righteousness than much with injustice (16:8).

Understanding and applying these principles requires a value system that places a premium on things that cannot be purchased with money.

Principles from Proverbs: Character

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of concise observations about life and how to navigate it successfully. Success is synonymous with living wisely. And wisdom entails doing what is good for yourself and others, today and into the foreseeable future. These four considerations provide a framework for discerning the best way to live, from a practical and a godly standpoint.

There is not a clear outline to the Book of Proverbs. It’s assembled as a sort of scrapbook of wise sayings, somewhat in the form of ancient “tweets.” It is possible, though, to divide the book into two main sections: The Pursuit of Wisdom (chapters 1 through 10) and its Practice (chapters 11 through 31).

One of its major themes is honesty. A wise person pursues a genuine life. One in which what we say we believe matches our show in our behavior.

The Source of Character

The Book of Proverbs emphasizes that integrity has two components: Personal accountability, and accountability to God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). We should accept responsibility for our conduct; and we should direct our behavior in a manner that demonstrates submission to God. When a person is living by those standards, there is little need for extensive policing or threats of force to ensure conduct with w

hat is good and right.

The Substance of Character

Proverbs also describes how a person of character will behave. The book warns repeatedly against dishonest practices. For example, on four specific occasions false balances and scales are condemned:

  • “A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight” (Prov. 11:1). This goes beyond Lev. 19:35-37 and Deut. 25:13-16, which condemned this practice, to explain the “heart” of the law: Honesty is honorable to God and He blesses it.
  • “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are his work” (Prov. 16:11).
  • “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 20:10).
  • “Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good” (Prov. 20:23). “Different weights” implies some were intentionally inaccurate.

Amos described how shopkeepers were dishonest with their scales, gouging shoppers: “Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? 6 That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? 7 The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works” (Amos 8:5-7). Honesty is the best policy.

It is better for all of us, today and tomorrow, to be conscientious in our dealings with one another.

Do I Have Enough Faith to Forgive?

Jesus gave us some very specific teaching about having a forgiving spirit: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:3-6, ESV).

“Forgiveness is the act of granting a free pardon or giving up a claim of requital for an offense or debt… the cost or penalty for a wrong, whether actual or perceived, is borne by the forgiver and not by the one forgiven.” (Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics).

The crux of the above passage is that practicing Jesus’ plan for forgiveness calls for a lot of faith. Notice how the first responses of the apostles after Jesus called for unlimited forgiveness was “Increase our faith!” What kind of faith is needed for me to practice forgiveness like Jesus taught?

FIRST, PRACTICING FORGIVENESS CALLS FOR ME TO HAVE FAITH IN GOD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ME. Everyone is tempted to be unforgiving. Jesus gave the parable of the unforgiving forgiven servant (Matt. 18:21-35), illustrating the illogical manner in which we can withhold forgiveness. It made the unforgiving creditor a slave. Jesus also gave the parable of the prodigal son and the bitter brother (Luke 15:11-32), showing the immature manner in which we can relish resentment. It made the unforgiving brother an outcast. The Lord knows forgiveness is good for you and me. Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him – for His own sake, there’d be no bitterness in His heart (Luke 23:34). Here’s this concept distilled in a single proverb: “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh” (Prov. 11:17).

SECOND, I NEED FAITH IN GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF ME. The parable about the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21-35) depicts the cycle that should continue from our receiving God’s forgiveness. There is a direct correlation between our appreciation for being forgiven and our propensity to be forgiving. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). There is a rhythm to redemption that is a pattern of God forgiving you and me, our accepting that forgiveness on His terms, and then you and I practicing that with others: “Bear with one another and forgive one another. If anyone has a quarrel against anyone, even as Christ forgave you, so you must do” (Col. 3:13 (MEV).

THIRD, I NEED FAITH IN GOD’S VINDICATION OF ME. An unforgiving spirit is a form of vigilante justice – “I don’t trust that you’ll get your due from anywhere else, so I’m going to make sure you suffer for how you’ve hurt, wronged or disappointed me.” As Christians, we are called to do good for and to pray for those who hurt us (Matt. 5:11-12, 38-39). As “living sacrifices,” we trust justice to God (Rom. 12:1-2, 17-21).

This is part of loving others as God has loved us: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). Three important practices are bound up in that verse: (1) Let go of grudges and any matter that tempts me to feel resentment; (2) Be pro-active in loving and being kind to others; and (3) Do all of these things out of respect and reverence for the Lord.

FOURTH, I NEED FAITH IN GOD’S POWER TO CHANGE SOMEONE. One of the great messages of the Bible is that imperfect people can change their direction to become useful to God through Christ. One example we can follow in the New Testament is the mission worker John Mark. He accompanied Paul on the first missionary trip, but left the group and returned home early in the mission (Acts 13:13). Whatever his reasons might have been for quitting, it prompted serious problems a couple of years later when plans were being made to include him in another mission trip (see Acts 15:36-41). Paul strongly disapproved of John Mark’s involvement. Meanwhile, John Mark was changing, maturing. Later, Paul said he enjoyed working with him because of how effective he had become (II Tim. 4:11). People can change for the better. Practicing forgiveness is firmly latched on to the belief that a person who hurt me yesterday can, with the Lord’s help, become a better person, who can help others one day.

Small Seed, Big Harvest: In Jesus’ Family, the Kingdom

Jesus mentioned the mustard seed three times in His teachings: in a parable about His family, the kingdom (Mark 4:30-32); in teaching about faith Matt. 17:15-21), and in teaching about forgiveness (Luke 17:3-6). In each instance, He used the tiny item as the star of a different lesson. It wasn’t necessarily the very smallest seed of all, but its abundant production from such a minuscule size made it a readily-identifiable figure.

Three gospel accounts record Jesus’ parable about the kingdom, (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; & Luke 13:18-19), where He compared the growth of a mustard seed to its expansion:

“And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” (Mark 4:30-32).

A parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly truth,” and this one takes the planting and astonishing growth and production of a mustard seed to convey some vital principles about the operation and growth of Jesus’ family, His kingdom, the church. The parable can be divided into three significant phases:

First, FORMING: The seed must be planted. The outcome of the great harvest would not have been possible without the initial contribution of planting the seed. The seed had to be planted in order for the process to be activated. Nature was not going to unilaterally empower it to grow out of sympathy for its being so tiny. Action had to be taken for it to join the soil. If you want the results that God has promised, you must take the steps within your power to participate in the process. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).

Second, STORMING: Once planted, and with healthy conditions, the small seed will experience rapid and exponential growth. Christianity began with one Man and a dozen close followers, then 120 (Acts 1), then 3000 (Acts 2). Isaiah prophesied, “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time” (Isaiah 60:22).

Throughout His ministry, Jesus was conditioning His disciples to expand what they expected from the Heavenly Father; it’s a message hidden in plain view in the gospel accounts. Consider these quick hits: He called the disciples, many of whom were fisherman, to follow Him and become fishers of MEN; in the Sermon on Mount, He taught us to live by a higher standard and to a higher level, follow the Golden Rule, go the EXTRA mile; He promised the apostles, GREATER works will ye do; in Matthew 11, He pointed out, Greater are those in the kingdom of heaven; for His kingdom, He explained, “We’re going to need NEW wine skins;” Who has sinned? There’s forgiveness for ALL through Him; when He fed the multitude, they had their fill AND THEN SOME; see Him on the cross? Something INCREDIBLE is coming next;  and in His parting commandment, He commissioned His disciples, “Now teach THE WORLD.” Jesus extends our expectations to the degree that only God knows how amazingly good they can be!

Third, PERFORMING: The tiny seed grew into a tree. It’s not only good for shade, but the birds can rest there, make their home there, and find food from it. As a result of its growth, it’s able to share its blessings with others. Jesus was pointing out the benefits His kingdom would bring: Internally, it is coherent and congruent, reflecting its sound doctrine and spirit; externally, it is welcoming and engaging, part of its being loving and serving. In the process, “both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:56).

Cross-Shaped Christians

The cross is so much a part of Christianity that a cross-shaped emblem or pendent is immediately identified with Jesus and His followers. In a symbolic sense, every follower of Christ should have a cross-shaped life.

In the last chapter of Galatians, Paul emphasized the primacy of the cross in the life of every Christian, beginning with his own: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world….From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:14 & 17). The last verse could perhaps refer to how Jesus also bore marks from His own crucifixion (see John 20:24-29).

These passages present at least three results that are produced by the cross:

FIRST, THE CROSS CREATES A NEW MAN. In his references to the cross earlier in Galatians, Paul’s theme has been that it has the power to generate a new person. It defines our forgiveness (1:4-5), life (2:20) and liberty (3:1ff). In 6:14, he said the cross crucifies the world to him and him to the world. His old life ended and a new one began for him there. This is how the cross-shaped gospel operates: It consists of facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, promises to be enjoyed and behaviors to be evidenced, that are all tied to the message of Jesus’ death.

When we obey the gospel (II Thess. 1:6-9; I Peter 1:22-23), we are purified and made new in Jesus: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:4-6).

SECOND, THE CROSS CONVEYS A NEW MENTALITY. Again, in Galatians 6:14, Paul explained that because of the cross, he looked at the world in a different way. An alternative reading for the verse is: “For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate” (The Message). “It is striking how much of the Gospel is involved in this statement. The cross speaks of the atonement necessitated by human sin… The full name of the Savior speaks of the significance of his person and the role he played (lit., “God who saves, the Messiah”). Finally, the pronoun ‘our’ speaks of the personal aspects of Christ’s redemption, for it becomes ‘ours’ through the response of faith.” (Expos. Bible Comm).

Paul wrote in an earlier section: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24). Augustine commented on this verse: “The ‘cross,’ the great object of shame to them, and to all carnal men, is the great object of glorying to me. For by it, the worst of deaths, Christ has destroyed all kinds of death.” Jesus taught that following Him would require difficult choices, such as the path of life (Matt. 7:13-14); our associates (Mark 10:28-30); and our possessions (Matt. 6:24-34). The process of making those choices is a function of our decision to believe in the cross and follow the One who died at Calvary and rose again for us.

THIRD, THE CROSS COMPELS A NEW MISSION. In Galatians 6:17, Paul emphasized that he was unaffected by what others thought, because he would continue to emulate the same self-sacrifice that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. As a result of that mission, he would bear the scars of suffering for Him. While Jesus finished the work of redemption by His sacrifice on the cross (see John 17:30), our responsibility to live faithfully to the cross continues. In Colossians, Paul explained: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:21-23). Jesus calls us to follow Him: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Notice again that Jesus said we must take up our cross daily and then continue on a daily basis to follow Him. Our new mission will be motivated by His self-sacrifice for us. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32-33).

The Five Most Popular Ways to Sin

Christians have plenty of reasons to be opposed to sin: It defiles the innocent; it degrades society; it destroys the soul. Another significant reason: It costs Jesus His life. Paul explained that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3b).
Any sin that might be committed will likely fall into one or more of these five common categories:
1. SINS OF ACTION. These sins are committed by doing, saying, or thinking things that violate God’s law. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (I John 3:4).
2. SINS OF INACTION. We sin by failing to do what God says we should do. James said that “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). It can be sinful to do nothing.
3. SINS OF SUBSTITUTION. Some sin by doing something different from what God has said. The prophet Malachi rebuked Israel for offering God injured animals instead of the best of the flock (see Mal. 3:8). God won’t accept second place (Matt. 6:24).
4. SINS OF ADDITION. Adding to God’s standards, even if what is added is otherwise good, constitutes sin. Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). God’s law is perfect as it is (James 1:25). We must not go beyond what is written, even if good men urge us to (I Cor. 4:6).
5. SINS OF SUBTRACTION. The devil’s deceiving of Eve in the Garden of Eden involved his inserting the word “not” into one of God’s commands, attempting to take away a warning He had given (see Gen. 3:4). John explained that “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (I John 3:8). We must obey all of God’s will, and exclude none of His commands or warnings (Rev. 22:18-19).