Other People’s Sins

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In the 1991 movie “Other People’s Money”, Danny DeVito, playing anti-hero Lawrence Garfield (a lawyer who represents groups who try to buy up businesses to liquidate them) says at one point, “I love money. I love money more than the things it can buy. There’s only one thing I love more than money. You know what that is? OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.”

While money is something we all need at least some of in our society as it is structured, sin is something we know we do not.  We go to church, we pray, and we turn over a new leaf to try not to sin because we have all felt its negative ramifications.  Sin leads to trouble.  The Bible teaches us that it leads to death.  The whole topic of sin is uncomfortable.  That is why when the topic comes up, it is far more interesting to consider other people’s sins rather than our own.  We want to voice our opinion, our disdain of it, and even our judgment over it because it makes us feel better.  We are on the side of right, not wrong when we speak against sin.  It throws the spotlight on someone else.  It can even make us feel better about ourselves.  “Well, with all my challenges, at least I don’t (fill in the blank).”

But have you ever wondered why we go to movies and watch heroes (not anti-heroes) do things that most of us consider sinful?  We watch people kill other people.  We watch people enact vengeance on each other. We watch people jump in bed with each other. I grew up watching movies like “the Hot Rock” and “the Thief Who Came to Dinner” which both were about the heroes being thieves trying to steal various items.  And you list the sin and I bet we can think of a movie where the hero, not the villain, does it.

What is lost on us, and largely not reflected upon in society, is that we enjoy sinning.  As my high school Bible teacher once asked us rhetorically, “Who ever told you sin wasn’t fun? People would never sin if it wasn’t enjoyable, would they?”  We might know the long term ramifications of it are not good but in the moment, it is very appealing.  We each are attracted to different types of sin.  But some sin (or sins) are alluring to all of us.

The key is to recognize that we are flawed, that sin, despite its allure, leads us down dead end paths, and that the way out of our problems is the straight and narrow path that looks difficult and not nearly as fun in the moment.  It is also to recognize that pointing out how other people aren’t on the path (something we are notoriously bad at evaluating) doesn’t put us any closer to being on the path ourselves.  Jesus spent precious little time pointing out other people’s sins (except for the hypocrites, which seemed to really punch his buttons, and he would go out of his way to point out that sin when he encountered it).

If sin is a topic which engages us, and it should, we need to focus upon our own challenges (or the challenges we see in our family, community, or among our immediate friends).  If what gets us worked up are the sins of people we don’t know, don’t hang around, and who we don’t socialize with – we are getting further and further from the path rather than closer to it.

What we need to collectively confess is this:  “I love to sin. I love to sin more than the things which I often should be doing. There’s only one thing I love more than sin. You know what that is? OTHER PEOPLE’S SIN.”  It is not admirable that we are like this but it is what it is and we need God’s grace to find the way out. It should not be lost on us that Jesus probably turns a jaundiced eye toward us today when we do it just as much as he did two thousand years ago.  Maybe more so.  And we do this as conservatives.  We do this as liberals.  We do this as this faith group.  We do it as that faith group.  We do it as this nationality or as that nationality. This is human nature.  There is no way out of it but to recognize it, fight against this pull, and ask for God’s help.

Let us seek God’s grace.  As followers of Jesus, let us be a people of grace.  And let us stop focusing on other people’s sins and try to get ourselves on a better course.

Until next time,

Tom

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