WHAT SIN IS
- Read Luke 15:11–24.
- Barclay calls this the greatest short story in the world.
- Lenski says this is the crown of all parables.
- This colorful narrative is the story of sin:
- It tells of the havoc it has wrought in the lives of men.
- It is a picturesque view of what sin will do to an individual.
- It is the most destructive, ravaging and enslaving force.
- It breaks up countless homes each year in this country.
- It fills men's dreams with lust and hate and murder.
- It plunges nations of the world into bloody conflict.
- It blunts the will, hardens the conscience, masters the intellect, binds with the iron chains of habit, and leads one away as a slave to hard and cruel bondage.
- Sin is separation: “He journeyed to a far country.”
- It separated this young man from his father's household.
- He was tired of the restraints of the parental household.
- Self–willed, he wanted glamour and independence.
- Rebellion was in his heart before he actually left home.
- After inward separation, comes the outward.
- Sin has always separated from God.
- It was the cause of separating our early parents from God (Genesis 3:22–23.
- Through the ages it continues to be the cause (Isaiah 59:1).
- Paul, knowing this, advised to come out and be separate (II Corinthians 6:17).
- Sin is wasteful: “But when he had spent all.”
- All of his money was gone, pleasures gone, friends gone.
- Sin was so enslaving, it controlled him and he spent all.
- When sin thus gets control over one's heart, he will spend all—deprive loved ones of the necessities of life.
- He will spend a good name, his influence, the qualities of his character—honest, truth, purity, and self-control.
- Sin will cause him to lose respect for himself and then for others. It destroys man's moral fiber.
- It makes the heart hard like the beaten path. It sears the conscience like a hot branding iron. It causes one to reach the point of being past feeling.
- Sin is inevitable misery: “And he would gladly have filled his stomach.”
- There arose a mighty famine and he began to be in want.
- He got about as low as is possible for him to get.
- Clothes were ragged and he had no shoes. Possessions all gone; spent.
- In his extremity, he glued or attached himself to a citizen of that country.
- Nothing more despicable than for a Jew to feed swine.
- He would have eaten their food—the carob pod—but no man gave to him.
- Instead of plenty in his father's house, he now had poverty. Instead of freedom, he had servitude. Instead of honor, he had degradation and shame.
- He had no intention of getting into this condition.
- Had you asked him if he were going to eat and sleep with the hogs, he would have loathed the idea.
- Ask a man who takes his first drink if he intends to be a drunkard, and he would be shocked and deny it.
- Tell a young girl that the modern dance could lead to a degraded character, a destroyed
purity and a damned soul, and she would be insulted.
- Sin is progressive. Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse: walk not, stand not, sit not (Psalm 1:1).
- Sin is insanity: “When he came to himself.”
- In the whole course of sin, he was beside himself“not in his right mind”suffering from a species of insanity.
- Jesus believed and taught that a man away from God is not truly himself.
- This is spiritual insanity.
- Whoever hears God's word but will not do it is insane (Matthew 7:26).
- Paul reasoned with Felix "of righteousness." Righteousness is a reasonable thing. Unrighteousness is unreasonable. Therefore, it is insanity (Acts 24:25).
- The son determined to go to his father.
- He arose and traveled the whole distance.
- He fully confessed his sin.
- He did not blame others.
- The father was happy to have him and happy to forgive him.
- He forgave him with no recriminations and no threats.
- He treated him as though he had never been away.
WHAT SIN IS
“Then He said, ‘A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me." So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
‘But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ ”
‘And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.’ ” (Luke 15:11-24).
THE STORY OF SIN
This has been called the greatest short story in the world. Lenski declares that this is “the crown of all parables.” It is more than that. This graphic, colorful narrative is the story of sin. It tells the havoc it has wrought and yet works in the lives of those over whom it holds dominion.
It is a picturesque view of what sin is and what it will do to the individual and to the whole human race. In perfect panorama, Jesus shows the wreck and ruin left where sin has struck.
Sin is the most destructive, ravaging, and enslaving force known to the human race. It breaks countless homes (almost a half million a year in this country), leaves innocent children without the love and care and protection of both parents, subjects them to the terrors of hate and strife and to the fears of hunger and destitution. Sin fills men's hearts with lust and hate and murder. It plunges the nations and the world into deadly and bloody conflict. It is a hard, cruel, enslaving tyrant. It blunts the will, hardens the heart, sears the conscience, masters the intellect, fetters the faculties, binds with the iron chain of habit, and leads one away as a slave into painful bondage.
SIN IS SEPARATION
“He took his journey into a far country.” Sin separated this young man from his father's house. How unfortunate that it would, for there is every indication that he had a good home; a home filled with love and care and plenty. Why would he deliberately plan and leave a good home and turn his feet in the pat of prodigality?
We may not know all the answers, but he was tired, no doubt, of the restrictions and restraints of the parental household. He was tired of the advice, the council, and the caution of a concerned father. He wanted to be free of his guidance and control. Self-willed, he was attracted by the glamour of independence and resolved to have his freedom. So, you see, he was a prodigal before he ever left his father's house. His whole deplorable career that followed indicates that his unlawful desire and rebellion were nurtured and cultivated in his heart before the actual separation came.
Let us pause for a moment in this line of thinking to mention that his father “divided unto them his living.” In keeping with Jewish code and custom, he gave th elder son two-thirds and the younger son one third of the inheritance. The lesson that we may deduce from this is that God, our Father, gives to us, His children, freely and lovingly—life, health, earthly comforts, and a thousand advantages. We do not always appreciate them nor make proper disposition and use of them, but “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation, or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
After the inward separation comes the outward. It began with the alienation of his heart. It continued by turning his back on his father. He went away. He went far away from his people to a world with its glamour and glitter, with its pleasure and promise. He was tired of goodness and righteousness; he was weary of purity and holiness. So, he traded his freedom that he did not know he had for abject and bitter slavery—for freedom in sin is slavery.
Sin has always separated man from God. It separated our early ancestors from the Garden of Eden wherein they had every need satisfied and where association and fellowship with their Maker was a constant and pleasant experience (Genesis 3:22–23). Long years later, Isaiah declared, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
Paul, knowing that God could not tolerate sin nor join himself in company with one whose life is marked by the practice of it, advised the Corinthian Christians to “come out from among them, and be separate ... Do not touch what is unclean ...” (II Corinthians 6:17). “... For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols” (II Corinthians 6:14–16)?
SIN IS WASTEFUL
“And when he had spent all ...” All of what, had he spent? All of his money? No doubt, but this is not all. His money was gone, his pleasures were gone, his friends were gone. All was gone. Reference has already been made to sin as an enslaving power. It had a hold on him, control over him, and mastery of him. When sin gets control over a man's heart, he will spend all. He will spend a good name. His influence for good will be wasted and gone. If he continues in the practice of sin, continues to incline his life in that direction, he will spend the qualities of his character—honesty, truth, purity, and self–control sin causes man to lose respect for himself and then respect for others. It eventually destroys his moral fiber and the qualities that have gone into the construction of his character.
Sin makes the heart hard like the beaten path over which many feet have passed (Matthew 13:19). It sears the conscience like a hot branding iron (I Timothy 4:2). It causes one to reach that point of being past feeling (Ephesians 4:19). Truly, he had spent all. How careful and cautious we need to be lest sin and waste devastate our lives.
SIN IS INEVITABLE MISERY
“There arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want ... And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate.” Sin is both degenerative and deteriorative. It degrades and destroys. He got about as low as was possible for him—down in the pigsty. His clothes were ragged; his robe was gone, and he had no shoes. His possessions were all gone—spent. I know this is so, for he had spent all, and later his father said, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him ... and sandals on his feet.”
In his poverty, he had joined himself to a citizen of that country. This expression, “joined himself” is in the middle voice, which suggests that the prodigal was responsible. There were external forces—the present emergency and the dire need of food, but there was also pride, for he could have turned back to his father's house. He willingly joined himself to a citizen of that land and that citizen sent him into his fields to feed the swine. No employment could have been more despicable for a descendant of Jacob. But even this ugly situation deteriorated. In the muck and mire of the hog pen, he desired to fill himself with the carob pod upon which the swine foddered and fattened and no man gave to him.
Instead of plenty in his father's house, he now has poverty instead of freedom. He has servitude instead of honor as an esteemed son. He now has degradation and shame. This is a vivid exemplification of the misery and damage that comes to one as a result of sin. It shows its unceasing progress and ultimate reward. The vanity and emptiness of such a life fall like a blight on the soul. This is real famine.
Had you, however, asked this young man if he were going to eat and sleep with the hogs, he would have been shocked and would have loathed the idea. He had no such intention. Sin makes a man a companion of swine in more ways than one.
Ask a man who takes his first drink if he intends to be a drunkard and he would, with intensity, deny it. He does not intend to do so, but he has taken his first step in that direction—a path that leads to misery. If you told a nice young girl that the modern dance in which she has begun to engage so that she might be popular and accepted could easily lead to a degraded character, a destroyed purity, and a damned soul, she would be insulted. She did not intend that it be so. Nor did the prodigal intend to get down in the hog pen, but he did; for sin is a progressive thing. “Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse.”
SIN IS INSANITY
“When he came to himself.” In the whole course of sin in which he had chosen to walk, he was beside himself. He was not in his right mind. He was suffering from a kind of insanity. Jesus taught and believed that so long as a man was away from God, and against God, he was not truly himself. And it is true that neither sense nor reason exists in sin. It was a course of insanity for this son to leave home, plunge himself into riotous living, and go on and on until he ended amidst the swine and envied the food they ate.
I do not refer to literal insanity. It is not of some derangement of mind, such as manic depressive, dementia praecox, or paranoia, that I speak. God only knows how many broken bodies and distorted and deranged minds there are as a result of sin in one's life. Psychiatrists tell us that many of the mental disorders prevalent in our society are traceable to sin and its consequent problems which rise out of a sense of guilt.
I have reference to another kind of insanity. Although it is real, it is a figurative use of the term. Jesus once said, “Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand” (Matthew 7:26).
A man is a fool that would build his house on a foundation of sand. But the man is also a fool, insane, who hears and knows well what the will of God is, but will not bring his life into harmony with it. When Paul preached to Felix and other members of the royal court at Caesarea, “he reasoned about righteousness, self–control, and the judgment to come” (Acts
24:25). Righteousness is a reasonable thing. Unrighteousness is unreasonable; therefore sin is insanity. To the Christians of Galatia, Paul wrote, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth ...” (Galatians 3:1)? To one who knows the truth which is designed to save his soul, it is insanity not to obey it. One is insane who denies God: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 14:1).
THE SON DETERMINES TO GO HOME
The son came to himself, pondered his plight, and resolved in his heart what course he would now follow. He arose and traveled the whole distance that lay between him and his father's house. This is what we must do today—arise and travel all the way from the far country of sin to the house of the Father where forgiveness and other bountiful blessings await. This young man did more than return to his father; he fully confessed. He did not blame his brother or his father; he did not excuse himself for his misbehavior by shifting the blame, and by pleading the circumstances, or inheritance, or determinism were responsible for his conduct. He said, “I have sinned. My transgression and my corrupt manner of life have been a sin against heaven and in your sight.“ He asked his father for the position of the lowest slave, a hired servant and a day laborer—one who was not counted among the servants that comprised the household.
THE FATHER'S RECEPTION
The father was happy to have his lost son return home. His joy was unbounded. He forgave him with no recriminations. There were no threats hanging over him. He forgave, fully, freely, and lovingly.
Someone asked President Lincoln how he would treat some of the rebellious and recalcitrant Southerners after the war, hoping that he would make it rather difficult and unpleasant for them. He answered: “I will treat them as if had never been away.” If you will come in the spirit of penitence and need which characterized this wayward son, God will have compassion upon you and forgive you and blot out the evil past and receive you as though you had never been away.