The Goal of Sin
Like everyone else, I sin. Some sins are intentional. Others are unintentional. Some sins are pre-meditated; others are spontaneous.
But why do I sin?
To put it simply, I sin because I believe that sin will make me happier, or at least give me more pleasure. Let’s say that I I ignore someone in need out of greed. I’ve sinned. But why? Because I thought that keeping the money would make me happier than giving it to the needy person.
I don’t sin because I aim simply to sin. I sin because I aim at something–money, accomplishments, hedonistic pleasures, etc.–that I believe will make me happier.
If you reflect on your sins, you will see that in some way they are motivated by the suggestion that more happiness or pleasures will come as a result of the sin.
This isn’t always done at a conscious level. As Dallas Willard has written, many of our sins are habits. We don’t deliberate about them before we do them. Instead, we do them without thinking because they are habits we have formed. But these habits were formed from deliberate choices about what we think will make us happier.
Hosea and the Training of Our Souls
If increasing our happiness or pleasure motivated many of our sins, what does this mean for Christian living? How do we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrew 12:1 NIV)?
The Old Testament book of Hosea tells us how God disciplines us and trains us not to sin. Hosea 2:5-7 says:
5Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’
6Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
7She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’
The LORD gives Hosea a prophesy about the sinful Israelites. In what these three verses tell us about how God planned to turn Israel back to Him, we learn how God deals with us to draw us away from sin and train us not to sin.
First, these verses show that God’s people often leave Him and sin because they are convinced life will be more enjoyable or pleasurable if they sin. Notice that their mother said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.” . We sin because we believe that our lives will be improved if we have what sin can give us.
Second, God keeps us from reaching the joys, pleasures, and pursuits for which we left God. God disciplines the mother by keeping her from the goal of her pursuits. Hosea 2:6 says in part: “She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them.”
God prevented her from reaching the pleasures and possessions that were the objects of her sin to train her soul to desire God. And isn’t this how God often works in our lives? He prevents us from reaching the joys and pleasures that we seek outside of Him.
Third, we return to God because we see that we are happier and more joyous with what God gives us than our futile seeking outside of God. In these verses, we see that the woman remembered that she was “better off” with her husband. Likewise, whenever we stray from God, what will motivate us to return is that we are reminded (by God) that God is better than what we are pursuing outside of God. The source of true joy and happiness is not sin, but God.
If you want to draw near to God, fixate on the joy and happiness you experience in God. Remember what Psalm 16:11 says: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (NIV). Your sins are not making you happier or more joyous; only God will satisfy you in the deepest ways.
Join other dedicated readers of Thinking and Believing and subscribe to the email list. You'll receive every new post in your inbox, so you never have to worry about missing a post. Click here to subscribe.