“Sin” is one of those tough words in Christianity. A lot of people outside the faith don’t understand it. Many of them find it off putting. At the same time, many people who claim the name of believer don’t actually know what they mean by the word either.
When I encounter problems like these, I try to stay alert in my Bible reading to clues that might help me see things more clearly. The Book of Job, I find, is a particularly rich resource.
In the course of his self-defense against his friends, Job provides evidence of his innocence. In Job 31, he lists many sins for which he claims to bear no guilt. Here is a quick summary of his list:
- He does not walk with falsehood or hurry after deceit (31:5)
- He has not let attractive or alluring or appetizing things control his choices (31:7)
- He has not lusted after a woman who is not his wife (31:9)
- He has not denied justice to his servants when they have fair complaints against him (31:13)
- He has not refused to share his bread, support, or clothing with the poor, the orphan, and the widow (31:16-19)
- He has not let injustice against the poor occur in court without offering his help (31:21)
- He has not put his trust in gold (31:24)
- He has not worshiped the sun or moon (31:26)
- He has not rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune (31:29)
- He has not cursed his enemies (31:30)
- He has not closed his doors to the traveler or stranger (31:32)
- He has not hidden from the people who might see whether he has sinned (31:33-34)
- He has not been unjust to the people who farm on his land (31:39)
This may not be an exhaustive list of sin. But it certainly is long enough to challenge us to examine our own lives.
And most importantly, Job understands that the court of this judgment is not ultimately his own heart or the opinion of his friends, but God: “What will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account?” (31:14)
God in the Bible has given us some clear teaching about what he expects of us. He has also left us with some teaching that we find more difficult to sort out. In the end, the proper frame of reference is the judgment of God. How will we stand before God when called to account?