Troublesome Topic: A Misunderstanding of Sin

Job understood the ramifications of Adam and Eve’s sin. He knew that bad things happen to good people because we live in a sin-dominated world. And he knew that evil people often get away with their sin for a long time. We cannot predict how or when God will punish, nor tell God how to do His job.

Therefore we cannot make assumptions when we see people in hard times. We cannot assume anything about the condition of their soul just by the presence or absence of hardship. Job knew that hardship is common for all humans because of sin.

Job’s friends, though talking constantly about evil and wrongdoing, ignored talking about sin in a truly biblical sense—they did not adequately portray the sinful condition of the world as a result of the first sin. They see sin as simply displeasing God, therefore God must be appeased through punishment, and then everything will be OK.

A proper understanding of sin is the basis for the rest of our theology. Without understanding sin we cannot understand anything else.

We see some of the same problems today, though different arguments are used.

We see a refusal to talk about sin, especially about the sin of Adam and Eve and how it affected all of us. It is a refusal to mention that we live in a sin-filled world and that, as a consequence of sin, there is suffering, pain and death.

Today our culture does not assume there is a God, and some even question if there is such a thing as right or wrong (that is, until someone does something to them, in which case there suddenly is right and wrong).

A modern-day Job would have faced a different line of thinking from so-called “friends,” one that would go something like this:

“How do you even know there is a God? I mean, like, think about it, if there is a God, he sure doesn’t care about you. Like, no way, man! How can there be a God if bad things happen to good people?  I mean, you don’t deserve this; I know I haven’t done anything to deserve the bad stuff that has happened to me, and you have it, like, lots worse than I do. Life is hard, man—that’s how I know there’s no God.”

Notice that there is an assumption that life should be easy and happy, I don’t deserve anything bad to happen to me, rather I deserve the good life. It assumes that pain is not normal (that is a very American way to think—many other parts of the world see pain as normal).

There is likewise no consideration of the sin issue in our culture. It is precisely because of sin that we have pain, suffering and death. Death is the curse (singular) of sin and suffering simply goes along with it. Take note how many times in Scripture the curse is mentioned in the singular, not in the plural. 

Then there is the idea that, if we are basically good people we should go to heaven. If our good outweighs our bad then we are okay, right? This mentality is not far removed from how Job’s friends thought.

In our modern thinking we have also failed to give room for a God who can graciously bless without us deserving it. Many people think that if good things happen to them it is because they have done something good and therefore deserve good to happen to them. But in the process we have also smoothed over the holiness of God because His holy demands are impossible for us to fulfill on our own. Like Job, what we deserve is punishment, but God graciously offers us the opportunity to repent and draw close to Him.

The Real Question Behind Evolution

Because of the teaching of evolution many think that, if there is no God and no heaven or hell, then we are all there is; if any consequences come our way they must be directly related to our own actions.

In my estimation the entire evolutionary model (and it is a model not a theory) rests, not on issues of science, but on this question: if there is a God, why is life so hard?

The answer is the presence of sin in this world. We live in an environment spoiled by sin—all creation suffers because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Christian parents desperately need to teach the next generation the importance of sin and its effects on life, i.e. that suffering is an unavoidable part of life because of the sinful environment we live in. We cannot ignore it, down-play it, or dance around it. Without a clear understanding of sin there is indeed a huge question that hangs over us and there is no satisfactory answer. It is because people don’t want to talk about sin that evolution has the foothold that it does.

We need to be ready to clearly and biblically address the primary question of our day, “Why is life so hard?”

America’s Assumptions about Life and Suffering

This ignorance of the sin problem, coupled with the influence of evolution, has brought our society to the following erroneous conclusions:

A.  If there is a God he is not good. Suffering “proves” this.

B.  I deserve a life without suffering.  Life should be easy for me. I don’t like suffering, and I shouldn’t have to deal with it. I don’t deserve to suffer because I haven’t done anything that bad. (Rather than acknowledging that God establishes what is right and wrong, each person thinks he can determine what wrong means and each person usually sees himself as not that bad, and therefore not deserving any punishment.) We focus on the word “deserve,” when really we should stop using it for about 20 years so it can return to its proper usage.

C. All that matters is me.  It is OK for me to do all I can to look out for myself even if others get hurt.

Where Is Our Focus?

If we focus on ease or on what we think we deserve, God’s actions look like punishment.

If we focus on how sinful we are, God’s actions prove He is gracious, merciful, compassionate, and slow to anger, desiring all to be saved, and extending the opportunity for all to be saved.

If we focus on His Grace it will transform us—it will transform how we understand God, how we understand life, and it will change how we live.

We should thank God every day that we do indeed have a gracious God who initiates with grace and mercy.

Our worldview should overflow with the reality that we have a God who will extend to us— 

mercy instead of punishment,

acceptance instead of abandonment,

opportunity instead of stagnation,

hope instead of despair,

His aid instead of being on our own.

The Questions:

God is a God full of grace, overflowing with mercy, characterized by compassion; but do our lives tell others what our God is like?

Does the world need us?

I pray that we would be in the position, like Job was, where God can say that the world needs us, needs our prayers for them, needs our example.

Are we able to show the world a different perspective?

Like Job, we will not be perfect, but I pray we will be close enough to God, and on track with the right truth about God to be able to show the world a different perspective.

The next lesson is: The use of “Rahab” in Job