The Expository Files


 Sin is All About Choices

Throughout history, men have used just about every conceivable excuse to justify sin in their lives. Consider the time at the foot of Mount Sinai—in the midst of Israel’s wicked idolatry—when Aaron tried to justify his poor choice. When questioned about the calf he fashioned for the Israelites to worship at their request, he told Moses, “And I said to them, ‘whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out” (Exodus 32:24). Whether it is a one-time act, or a continually repeated sin that besets one, statements such as, “The Devil made me do it,” “I had no choice,” or “I could not help myself,” have often been heard. Nevertheless, such thinking is foreign and contrary to the word of God.

The Bible teaches that sin is a matter of individual choice (cf. Ezekiel 18). It begins with discerning good from evil (Hebrews 5:14) and then refusing the evil and choosing the good (Isaiah 7:15). A sure and consistent pattern for such thinking can be clearly established from the beginning of time.

In the garden, Adam and Eve were given free will, as well as some very specific instructions. They could eat of the fruit of every tree except one, which God declared off-limits. When tempted by Satan, Eve made the wrong choice—she partook of the forbidden fruit, as did Adam (Genesis 3:1 ff). Though Eve blamed Satan, and Adam blamed Eve, they each bore the consequences of their individual sins, as each had made the choice to commit that sin. Pointing the finger elsewhere never justifies sin, nor does it remove the consequences.

In like fashion, Moses committed a sin when—instead of glorifying God and obeying His instructions—he glorified Aaron and himself, choosing not to follow God’s command. This incident is found in Numbers 20:7-13. The Israelites needed water and God specifically instructed Moses on how to provide that water (v. 8). Moses did not head the instructions exactly (vs. 10-11), thus he suffered the consequences of his wrong choice. Even when the choice to sin is made in the heat of the moment, the consequences remain.

King David is another testimony to the fact that sin is a matter of individual choice, and God will hold man accountable. David, walking on his roof one evening, came upon an awkward situation. A woman (not his wife) was bathing where she could be seen. David, now faced with a choice, subjected himself to the temptation—instead of turning away from the compromising situation. In so doing, one sin led to another—before long a great evil was done for which David suffered grave consequences (2 Samuel 11-12). Even if we are faced with a tempting situation, the choice to turn away and avoid its consequences is still available—thus, rendering our actions inexcusable.

In truth, the examples are boundless. Sin is all about choices. James wrote, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:12-15). From this passage, we can acknowledge some simple facts about sin, temptation and choices.
God does not tempt man. God might allow man to be tempted (cf. Job’s temptation by Satan), but He does not directly tempt man. As a matter of fact, with each temptation man suffers, God is faithful, in that He, “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This verse is bona fide proof that we, as individuals, must bear the burden of choice with each and every sin!

We are tempted by our own desires. Often, we place ourselves in bad situations. We considered the example of King David, who made the choice to be enticed, and in turn, was enticed. In like fashion, people today do the same thing. For example, men and women often allow themselves to be in compromising situations with those of the opposite sex, who are not their spouses. Too often, the outcome is fornication, infidelity, and broken homes. Likewise, when recovering alcoholics frequent establishments that serve alcohol, they set themselves up to sin. Consider the folly of recovering drug addicts choosing to befriend people who abuse drugs (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). The list is unlimited. The fact is that we choose our circumstances, be they our workplace, our companions, or our environment. Why do we burden ourselves with situations that we are certain to stumble in and commit sin?

Temptation is the birthplace of sin. We need to realize that we have not sinned until we give in to our temptations. This does not mean we should push the threshold of temptation to the maximum. Rather, we should know that even if we are tempted, we do not have to give in! We can still turn it around! We can still avoid sin! We need to simply say NO! This is why the Spirit teaches us to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). We are instructed to “resist the devil and he will flee from us” (James 4:7). We are told to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). We are commanded to “abhor what is evil, cleave to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We must acknowledge that even in the heat of temptation, as Satan is turning up the thermostat, we choose to avoid sin by not giving place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27)!

Indeed, sin is all about choices. We make choices between right and wrong, good and evil, acceptable and unacceptable, pleasing and not pleasing, truth and error every day of our lives. These choices will determine our eternity. Ultimately, the choice is between life and death! It is important to understand: it is one thing to know right from wrong and another thing altogether to choose right over wrong. Ask yourself, “What kind of choices am I making?”

By Jonathan L. Perz
From Expository Files 16.3; March 2009