Sin. Why is that one three-letter word so dangerous to mankind? Because it is the one thing that will keep us from ever being happy and fulfilled. Sin has the power to turn us away from God, instead of toward the light of Christ. Sin leads us away from Jesus and heaven, and towards the devil and hell. Sin can turn us over to Satan, who is a roaring lion and who wants to devour us all. Sin can make us do bad things that we shouldn’t want to do, and can keep us from doing good things that we need to do. Sin can make us lazy. Sin can make us fat. Sin can give us venereal disease. Sin can make us hate. Sin can make us say things that hurt people. Sin turns us into slaves. Sin kills. Sin is leprosy for our souls. There is absolutely nothing good about sin, so we must engage in spiritual combat in order to avoid hell.
The Original Sin
History records the first sin of Adam and Eve. That sin was pride and disobedience. By listening to Satan and disobeying God, they hoped to become like God, knowing the difference between right and wrong. Their punishment for that sin was to be banished from the beautiful garden, and to endure suffering in their lives. We are all still living with the effects of that sin from our first parents. What the devil didn’t say was that if you sin enough, then you lose the ability to distinguish between good and evil. This effect of sin is so prevalent in our society today, where abortion, the killing off of our next generation, is now seen as a human right, and is called by the innocuous name of “choice.” The Bible says that the punishment for our own sins today can be handed down to the fourth generation, to our great grandchildren. It is amazing to think that we today can be suffering for the sins of our great-grandparents (if this seems harsh, just remember that all generations still suffer the punishment from Adam and Eve’s disobedience, known as “original sin”). The really good news is that the Bible also says that God rewards down to the thousandth generation those who truly love Him.
The next recorded sin in the Bible was the murder of Abel by his own brother, Cain. Cain was jealous of Abel, because Abel’s offering to God was better than his. Rather than blaming himself for his inadequate offering, Cain took it out on his brother, and murdered him. How often today do we repeat this sin in our hearts and minds? Things that go wrong are never our fault for not doing enough. So we try to drag down others, through thought, word, or deed. Cain’s punishment for spilling the blood of Abel on the ground was that the ground would no longer yield produce for him, and he would be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.
Sin in the Old Testament
The Old Testament is full of stories of sin:
- Sodom and Gomorrah’s residents committing the sin of homosexuality, resulting in the cities’ destruction;
- Saul’s turning away from God and getting the Witch of Endor to conjure up Samuel, resulting in his suicide;
- David committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband, resulting in the death of his first son;
- Jacob, the younger son, conning his father into getting the oldest son’s blessing; resulting in his being conned into marrying Leah instead of Rachel;
- Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; resulting in them starving and begging Joseph for food later on.
It’s good for us to take a look at these sins, and to see the punishment that God meted out in each case.
The lesson from all of this is that there is a payback for sin, (what goes around, comes around) and the payback is worse than the original sin itself. The problem is that we don’t see sin as something which has a debt attached to it. It’s like a credit card that runs up a balance; the balance has to be paid back, with a LOT of interest, at some point. We humans can’t see it, but it is still there nonetheless. Sin is also like a boomerang: you throw it, and it feels great, but when you least expect it, it comes back full circle and hits you in the back of the head, much harder than when you threw it. And the deadlier the sin, the deadlier the payback.
There is a false teaching in some churches that there is no debt for sin, and that Jesus paid it all back on the cross. Jesus did pay back the debt for our sins, and that payment opened the gates of heaven so that we could enter. But sin still has consequences. There is still suffering in the world, and that suffering is a direct result of our sinfulness. Further, the Old Testament “saved” were still in prison at the time of the crucifixion, and Jesus went to preach the gospel to them in their spiritual prison after his death (1 Peter 3:19). The gates of heaven are still open for us now, but in order to enter, we each have to pick up our cross as individuals and follow Jesus in (Matthew 16:24).
How do we overcome sin, especially the sins of our ancestors which may still be afflicting us? Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are three great ways, along with the frequent reception of Holy Communion, where we become, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, living tabernacles of Jesus Christ. Eating the life-giving fruit of the tree known as the cross (which is the body and blood of Jesus) overcomes the sin of Adam and Eve, who ate the life-killing fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Prayer immediately after Holy Communion is the most powerful prayer, because at that moment, Jesus abides in us, and we in him (John 6:56). And all of these things need to be done not just from the head, but also from the heart. Our prayer also has to be as specific as possible. Frequent confession and penance are also life-giving. While confession removes the sin, there is still the debt to be paid. It’s like removing a nail from wood. Confession removes the nail, but there is still a hole in the wood that has to be filled in. Penance and sacrifice fill in that hole.
Indulgences, or the remission of temporal penalty due to sin, may be obtained from the Church if the penitent fulfills the obligations for the indulgence. A full indulgence, or plenary indulgence, may be obtained if the penitent goes to confession and receives Holy Communion within 20 days either before or after performing the indulgenced act, prays for the intentions of the Pope, and has no attachment to sin. The last condition is the hardest one to fulfill, but saying your rosary every day and asking for this grace every day will surely help you to achieve this goal. The indulgence has to be requested of God by the penitent, and it may be applied to you or to someone you love (by your request) in purgatory. If all of these conditions are not met, then a partial indulgence only is obtained. This is important to achieve in this life, because the pains of purgatory are a lot worse than any pain and suffering in this life. The Church has the authority to grant indulgences under the binding and loosing power that Jesus gave it in Matthew 18:18.
Two Kinds of Sorrow for Sin
It is important to remember that there are two ways to be sorry for sin. One way, the imperfect way, is to be sorry for committing a sin because we fear the pains of hell. The best way, the perfect way, to be sorry for sin is to fear offending Almighty God, to be sad at having hurt our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Perfect contrition of our sins leads to perfect forgiveness of them from God. There are also two kinds of sin: the evil things we do (the sin of commission), and the good things that we fail to do (sin of omission).
Every sin we commit is like joining with the Roman soldiers in spitting on Jesus’ face. Every sin we commit is like adding weight to Jesus’ cross. Every sin we commit is like adding another lash with the whip for Jesus. Every sin we commit is like putting a nail in Jesus’ body. The two types of sins are venial sin (minor sins) and mortal sins (major sins). Mortal sins kill charity in our hearts and sever our relationship with God. Just one unrepented mortal sin can send us to Hell forever.
Biblical Lessons on Sin
Some great biblical references to the horror of committing sin are as follows:
- Genesis 19:24-25: “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”
- 2 Samuel 12: 13-14: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.'”
David was forgiven for his sin, but his son had to pay the penalty for the sin of his father.
- Deuteronomy 5:9: “you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”
Here God tells us that He punishes down to the fourth generation.
- Deuteronomy 7:9: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”
Here God tells us that He rewards down to the thousandth generation.
- 1 Kings 11:11-12: “Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.'”
- Sirach 7:8: “Do not commit a sin twice; even for one you will not go unpunished.”
- Luke 11:48-51: “So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation.”
Here we see the New Testament punishment of one generation for the sins of other generations.
- 1 John 5:16: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.”