New Ways to Understand ‘Sin’

The greatest good, in our current culture, is for you to become your best self. It’s your principal task, to become the best you. And it’s my job to encourage you and to give you the freedom and power you need to fulfil your potential.

If this is, according to present culture, the greatest good, the greatest evil or sin, is the opposite. If, instead of encouraging you and giving you freedom; I restrict your choices, or impose my values on you, or abuse my power – this is the new greatest evil.

So what sins does our culture believe are the greatest evil? Slavery, abuse, discrimination, and closed-minded indoctrination. Do you see the logic? All of these new deadly sins are an attack on the freedom and independence of the individual.

Notice too another shift. What we now define as the greatest of sins are sins against other people, especially the vulnerable. When the powerful ‘weaponise’ their resources to control the vulnerable – this is the greatest of atrocities. (And it is wrong, very wrong).

What has been lost is the recognition that sin is first and foremost an offence against God. Paul has a great line in Colossians 3.5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: … greed, which is idolatry.”

Greed is wrong, not just because it causes someone in the developing world to work in a sweatshop. Greed is wrong, so Paul tells us, because we place our hope and meaning in possessions. Possessions can be an idol, which displaces God as the preoccupation of our lives.

We are called to love God with all our heart as our highest calling. Greed is not a victimless crime, and therefore somehow less evil than discrimination. Greed is, I suggest, the most common and most socially acceptable sin of a capitalist society. And greed captures our hearts, which belong to God alone. That is a grave evil.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister


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