Effects of Sin
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is quite
revealing for many reasons, but especially in regards to the effects of sin on
people and their decision-making. At least four circumstances in the story
show the different, deleterious effect of sinfulness on the people involved.
Sodom has a reputation for great sinfulness (Genesis 13:13). The report has
come to God, and He sends His angels, in the form of men, to the city (Genesis
18). They lodge for the night with Lot, Abraham's nephew (Genesis 19:1-4).
Then the difficulty begins.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom,
compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every
quarter; and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, "Where are the men that
came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them."
And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. And he
said, "I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two
daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto
you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do
nothing, forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof."
And they said, "Stand back."
And they said, "This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a
judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them."
And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door
The Sodomites demand to do a horrendous thing in violating guests. Lot tries
to bargain with them, but they will hear none of it.
We will set aside the ethical questions involving Lot's wager and instead
focus on the reaction on the Sodomites. They are offended at Lot's "judgment."
But what did Lot say that was so condemnatory?
Some reason that the Sodomites' reaction comes, in part, from previous
experience with Lot. That may or may not be; we cannot say either way. But we
do see that Lot "dares" to say that the Sodomites intend to "do wickedly"
(Genesis 19:7). That, it seems, sets off the Sodomites. This sojourner now
presumes to judge their behavior!
They are exactly right, but so is Lot: their intended action is wicked. Even
in the twenty-first century, most people would recognize that what the
Sodomites intended to do is wrong.
The Sodomites cannot really argue against what Lot says, and so they condemn
him for his righteous judgment. Their consciences were pricked by his words,
but it did not lead to repentance!
Such is the reaction that many have when their sinful actions are exposed for
what they are. Their claims are bolstered in America by the growth of
relativism in postmodern thinking: every individual decides what is right and
wrong for him or herself. Therefore, if a person does not feel that their
actions are sinful, they're not, no matter what anyone else might tell them.
The entire idea that any behavior can be objectively called "sin" is even
under fire! In such a climate, therefore, the reaction makes sense: who,
really, can be the judge of such actions?
Too many in the modern world forgot the same thing that the Sodomites forgot:
there is a God, and He does have an objective standard of right and wrong. Lot
can call their actions "wicked" because God calls them "wicked" (Genesis
19:13)! The Sodomites can attempt to justify themselves, but they will not
It is important for us to remember that God is the ultimate Judge, not
ourselves, and we must always speak His truth with love and compassion (James
4:12, Matthew 7:1-5, Ephesians 4:15). Nevertheless, we must call out sin for
what it is (Ephesians 5:11). People might demand to know who we are to "judge"
them. We can remember that the Sodomites asked Lot the same thing, and it
certainly did not justify them. Avoiding the matter does not change the sin--
but it does show the level that many will go to in order to justify their
actions. They know, deep down, that their actions are unjustifiable or at
least open to criticism, but it is easier to condemn the messenger than it is
to repent. Therefore, we see that one effect of sin is the willingness to
condemn anyone as a "judge" who calls out their behavior for what it is,
rather than coming to terms with the error of their ways.
The story continues, and things do not improve.
But the men put forth their hand, and brought Lot into the house to them, and
shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house
with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find
the door (Genesis 19:10-11).
The angels intervene to save Lot from certain death, striking the Sodomites
with blindness. We are not told exactly how this blindness was accomplished,
but it certainly does not stop the Sodomites. They persist in their futile
attempts to satisfy their lusts.
Such represents the blindness that sin causes. They do not understand their
physical blindness as an indication of the folly of their pursuit, and they
continue, ever doggedly, in their attempt for satisfaction.
Most people do not experience such an evident and specific sign from the power
of God, but how many ignore or deny the consequences of their sins? How many
drug addicts, sexually immoral persons, gamblers, abusers, and others suffer
great physical, emotional, or mental anguish because of their sin and yet
persist in it?
Such people are likely not thinking clearly, just like the Sodomites of old.
They have so entirely given themselves over to their sin that they obey its
every command, regardless of the consequences. Any qualms or desires to change
are often suppressed because of fear or frustration in failure. Even after sin
has made life miserable, many such persons remain in it.
Sin, therefore, often blinds those who serve it, and they intend to fulfill
the lusts of the flesh no matter the cost.
And the men said unto Lot, "Hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy
sons, and thy daughters, and whomsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out
of the place: for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed
great before the LORD: and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it."
And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, who married his daughters,
and said, "Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy the city."
But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one that mocked (Genesis 19:12-14).
We will speak shortly regarding Lot's compromises, but here it is clear that
the men to whom his daughters are betrothed have more affinity with the
Sodomites than with Lot. We are not told why it is that they think he is
joking with them, but it is clear (as if it weren't already) that the
Sodomites have no fear of God. Lot's words do not faze these men in the least,
and they of all people have a reason to give him at least some credence.
Most people who have an inkling about the power of God, realization of what He
has done in the past, and the ability to perceive wickedness, would probably
at least schedule an impromptu vacation when such a message was brought. Those
who were wise would not trifle with such a message.
But Lot's sons-in-law do not have that fear. "Who is this God who would
destroy the city?" they may ask themselves. Perhaps they did not understand
why God would think to destroy Sodom. Lot was a foreigner anyway. It must be
one of his crazy foreign ideas.
Peter speaks of people in his own days who mock the idea that God will come
one day in judgment (2 Peter 3:1-7). He reminds them of the days of Noah and
the flood, and we could add to that the day of God's visitation upon Sodom.
Yet how many today openly mock the idea that Christ will return and all people
will be called into judgment? How many others think that they have no reason
to fear for such a day, since they do not perceive the wickedness around them
or in themselves (cf. Matthew 7:21-23)? How many think that those who proclaim
the return of the Lord to be joking?
God, on the other hand, is quite serious, and the resurrection of Jesus is the
proof (Acts 17:30-31). Human beings have developed sophisticated technology
that allows for warnings for all sorts of natural disasters, and many people
are more than willing to drop everything and flee when the signal is given.
God has provided constant warning regarding spiritual disaster, and yet how
many are willing to heed it and obey (Matthew 24:45-51)?
A life of sin in the midst of sin separates people so thoroughly from God that
they often do not pay any attention to His warnings, just as Lot's sons-in-law
would not listen to him. Sin, therefore, separates from God and leads to great
hostility with Him, so that God's word seems to be folly or a joke (1
Corinthians 2:11-15, Romans 8:1-9).
God visits Sodom in judgment; the city is destroyed with fire and sulfur from
Heaven (Genesis 19:17-28). Lot's wife did not make it; she looked back and
became the pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Lot and his two daughters make it
safely to Zoar, and then flee to the hills.
And the first-born said unto the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not
a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come,
let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may
preserve seed of our father."
And they made their father drink wine that night: and the first-born went in,
and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger,
"Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this
night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our
And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose,
and lay with him; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus
were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first-born
bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites
unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi:
the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day (Genesis
In a very concrete way, Lot now lies in the bed he prepared for himself. He
was given the choice of where to live, and he picked the verdant valley
(Genesis 13:10-11). His tent moved from being pitched toward Sodom to being in
Sodom, sitting in the gate of the city, and even betrothing his daughters to
Sodomites (cf. Genesis 19). His wife is now a pillar of salt because of it
all, and now his own daughters are compromised.
They know that there are still men running around; they are just convinced
that they are cursed, for whatever reason, and will not obtain husbands.
Therefore, in their minds, they will either be wards of their father forever
and childless, or they can compel their father to become drunk and have
children through incest. Their choice is evident.
Even if we were to grant that such is their choice, and that no man would want
them after the events in Sodom, they still break one of the great social
taboos of most of history. It demonstrates that regardless of any attempt of
Lot to instruct his daughters in righteousness, sinful, worldly,
result-motivated thinking dictated their decisions. Only in a sin-affected
mind does it make more sense to have children through incest than to have no
children at all!
We have been called to live in the world to be witnesses for Christ while
remaining not of this world in our conduct (1 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 12:2).
That is a tough balance to strike. But the effect of pervasive sinfulness is
made evident in the example of the daughters of Lot. They probably did not
learn from Lot that it was more important to have children sinfully than to be
childless, but they learned the lesson anyhow. And, for whatever reason-- a
lack of instruction, the influence of their mother, or just the influence of
Sodom itself-- any teaching of Lot to the contrary did not win the day.
How many other "good, righteous" young men and women turn away from God and
begin living according to the standards of the world, choosing the worldly
perspective and not the godly one? They may not make the same decision as
Lot's daughters, but when confronted with the righteous, sacrificial way of
life versus the sinful, desire-satisfying way of life, they choose the latter.
Perhaps it was a lack of instruction. Perhaps one or both parents were not the
influences they should have been. Maybe they just imbibed too deeply from the
well of culture, or allowed their friends to change their views. The result is
Sin is not just a problem of the flesh; it is also a problem of the mind.
That's where it starts (Matthew 5:28, Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5,
James 1:14-15), and that's when the calculations begin. Lot's daughters knew
what they were doing. Because of it, Lot is now thoroughly disgraced.
Lot goes from a man of much wealth and stature to a man residing in the hills,
an exile from men, with his daughters and (grand)sons. Moab and Ammon will
obtain shares of land near Israel but will always be inferior. Lot may have
survived the destruction of Sodom, but he did not emerge unscathed. Such goes
to show what happens when righteous people accommodate themselves to sin.
Sin's effect can even be felt among the righteous, leading them to no longer
think according to God's ways, but accommodating themselves to the worldview
of their environment. When their minds are conformed to this world, their
actions soon follow (Romans 12:1). Such is why it is not enough to simply
oppose sin in the flesh-- we must also oppose sin in the mind, and learn to
conform even our thoughts and perspective to the image of Christ (Romans
Sodom is now a byword for sin, and its effects are evident. Those in sin are
hostile to God, ignorant of Him, often blind to the consequences of their own
behavior, condemnatory to those who call them out for their behavior, and an
influence for ill upon others. Such is why it is so important to follow the
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9b).
By Ethan R. Longhenry
From Expository Files 16.6; June 2009