Sins that Get in You

Dear Reader,

Our church is preparing to elect deacons for the first time as our own congregation this week. So last week’s sermon was on deacons and who is eligible and what Scripture says they should be like. As the pastor went through the relevant passage  (1 Timothy 3:8-13), I was struck by how many of the qualifications fall into two categories. On the one hand there are positive qualifications (being good managers of their own homes) that basically amount to they have proven responsible with the little (or not so little) tasks they have so far had and so can be trusted with greater ones.

And then there are the negatives, the things deacons should not be. They should not for instance be prone to drunkenness or adultery. Now we are all sinners so I wondered why does Paul single out these particular sins to speak of? The answer I came up with is that these sins in particular seem to creep deep into our souls and to cloud or judgment on other issues in life. I think we all have some picture of how addiction to alcohol can cause one to have poor judgment or can even lead to other sins like lying and stealing to cover that addiction. Paul elsewhere speaks of the particularly insidious nature of sexual sin (1 Cor. 6:16-18) which is inside our own bodies. Now to be sure those these two may be common addictions, we sinful humans have mastered the art of being addicted to many things. There are drugs of course. Or food. Or starving oneself. Or lying. Or stealing. Or money. I suppose this is why Paul sums it all up: “[deaconesses must be] temperate . . . in all things” (1 Tim. 3:11). 

Now sin is sin and it all breaks God’s law and makes us lawbreakers. But I think we also all instinctively know that some sins are worse than others.  The Bible contains a few lists of serious sins: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21) and “sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3) and “those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers” (1 Tim. 1:9-10). I don’t think our response should be to create  a list of deadly sins which are somehow worse than all others, but to realize that any sin can take root in us and grow and lead to further sins. Almost anything can become an addiction that we will do more and more and find harder and harder to tear ourselves away from. And then inevitably it seems to lead to other sins as well. We will steal or lie to cover it up. We will do anything to cling to our sin.It will creep into our souls and cause us to use bad judgment in other areas of life. And that is why deacons and deaconesses, though always sinners like the rest of us, should be free of addicting sins. And we should all examine ourselves regularly to be sure that we are not letting little bad habits become bigger sins and eventually controlling influences in our lives.



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