S25 - Choke by the worries and cares of the world
Luke 8:14 talks about the ‘cares of this world’. In this case, it spoke about a believer who is so concerned about the world that the person stops being effective in the church. The believer, for example, may drop out of church, or prayer meeting or simply not been involved in fellowship with other believers.
‘Worries and cares of the world’ is a legitimate concern. It is considered ‘sinful’ because it leads to ‘unfruitfulness’; we become ineffective and stuck in the rout of life. ‘Worries and cares’ also represents a lack of faith in God to look after our well being.
All of us have to learn to walk in faith and trust the Lord.
S26 - Engage in busyness
Jesus was in town. While Mary ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’, ‘Martha was distracted from much serving.’ She went on to complain to Jesus about Mary’s irresponsibility of not serving.
But Jesus replied,
‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.’ (Luke 10:38-42)
Our lives revolve around ‘task’ (or work) and ‘relationship’. Mary had chosen relationship and spent time with Jesus while Martha went about doing her task. Jesus indicated that relationship was what he sought.
There is nothing wrong with ‘doing work’ but if it distracts us from having a ‘relationship’ with the person of Christ (or a spouse or other close friends), then it is the time to evaluate our priorities.
In the Old Testament, Isa 40:31 says, ‘They who WAIT in the Lord will have new strength.’
Again, in Psalm 25:4-5, David explained,
‘Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; all day long I WAIT for you.’
Can you see David’s priorities?
Our priorities are to know God at a personal level, seek his will and fulfil his calling. Busyness may appear ‘logical’ even as it was to Martha but for its own sake, it is a misdemeanor and can be a dangerous idol.
S27 - Act recklessly and impulsively
The Greek word for recklessness is propeteis and is translated as ‘falling forward’, ‘headlong’, ‘headstrong’. Based on Strong’s concordance, it is used to describe impulsiveness or a rash behavior.
Impulsiveness is a sin because it means we do not think about the consequences before we act.
S28 - Desire (Covet) for other things
‘And the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word and it proves unfruitful.’ – Mark 4:20
Covetousness is a sin. It is part of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17).
What is the ‘desires (greed) for other things’? It is a desire for things that one does not possess. Exodus 20:17 gives some examples – neighbor’s wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
This desire ‘chokes the word’, or the word of God. It hinders God’s ability to speak audibly with us. For more details in regard to the ‘word of God’, please refer to B244 to B252 under ‘Actions/ Decision Making’.
S29 - Get drunk (or listen to/ play bad music)
The Bible never says don’t drink. Drinking alcohol is not a sin. See also B310, Drink wine but do not get drunk. In Jesus’ first recorded miracle, he turned water into wine at a wedding (John 2:6-11).
It was a lot of good wine – six water pots of stone.
Based on commentaries found in www.biblehub.com, each pot is approximately 20 gallons or around 76 liters. Hence, six pots would hold 456 liters of wine. In our current context, a bottle of wine is around 750 milliliters. Effectively, 456 liters would give us 608 bottles of good quality of wine.
How many wedding guests do you think they had? 600? That would be quite a few? A bottle per guest? It would work out to a bottle per guest and that is a lot of wine.
Rom 13:13 says that believers should walk properly …. And ‘not in orgies and drunkenness’. Orgies and drunkenness seem to be related. The problem is not drinking but one of drunkenness, and of drinking alcohol without discipline. Drunkenness can often lead to debauchery and other kinds of unbecoming and evil behaviors including rape. See also S30, Organize Revelries.
Listening and playing music almost fall into the same category. There are certain forms of music that will be bad for our souls – like those that promote violence, drug use, sex, profanities, or even suicide. Music affects us subliminally through the melody, imagery and language found in the lyrics. While music in general is fine, if it causes damage to our souls, we have to move away from it.
Eph 5:18 says,
‘Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.’
Anything that ‘will ruin your life’ is bad news.
In addition, Rom 14:20 also says,
‘Do not for the sake of food, destroy the work of God …. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’
As mature Christians, we have to be mindful of the possibility in causing a brother/ sister to stumble because of our drinking, music or lifestyle.
S30 - Organize revelries (drinking parties)
1 Peter 4:3 talks about ‘orgies, drinking parties’. It is drinking parties that we are focusing here. Drinking parties unfortunately often lead to other more sinful opportunities, including sexual orgies and the likes. The Greek word is ‘potos’ or ‘drinking bout’ or ‘carousing’. Peter highlighted that believers should not to be engaged in a lifestyle of debauchery.
S31 - Murder (Are abortion and euthanasia considered 'murder'?)
This is a straightforward sin. Even the world recognizes it.
But what is murder? According to the dictionary, murder is ‘the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.’ Then, what about abortion and euthanasia which in some countries have become ‘lawful’?
When does life begin? It is a sensitive subject since it involves two persons – the mother and the unborn baby.
- Is the mother the ‘owner’ of her body (the baby being part of her body) or a mere ‘conduit’ for the baby (the creation of which requires an input of a sperm from a man)?
- Is the baby a ‘person’ but one that is waiting to complete his/ her journey before being introduced into the world or is s/he simply a blob of tissue or a clump of unrecognizable cells belonging solely to the woman involved?
- Even though abortion might be lawful but is it ethically classified as ‘murder’?
Here is what we know about abortion from a psychological viewpoint: It is often a very traumatic event for a woman.
According to a counselor of thirty-five years (Janice Sergison), ‘there is much more trauma post-abortion than an unwanted pregnancy or adoption.’
Jesus said, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ (Matt 18:5-6).
Jesus loved little children and he was very protective of them. How would Jesus had viewed a pro-born baby? Would he love them just as much? Readers might want to note his serious tone for calling out someone who intentionally harm a little one that it was ‘better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’
It is THAT SERIOUS.
Similarly, what about euthanasia, the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering, including mental suffering? Is it ‘legalized’ murder for the person assisting the euthanasia process or suicide for the person requesting for it (For suicide, for more information, please refer to S49, Contemplate Suicide)? Will euthanasia make ‘murderers’ out of clinicians whose primary role should be to ‘do no harm’ to those under their care?
And will euthanasia weaken a society’s respect for the sanctity of life as some lives (those who are disabled or sick) are considered less valuable than others? In addition, will voluntary euthanasia lead to involuntary euthanasia and the acceptance of ‘legally murdering’ people who are perceived to be less desirable?
In the book of Job, when he was in great distress and pain, his wife suggested to him ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ Job’s wife was telling him to euthanize himself in order to escape the pain of his life. But Job replied ‘Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ (Job 2:9-10). Faith and trust in God prevented him from taking his own life (suicide).
In 1 Sam 31:4, Saul did euthanized himself in the mist of a losing battle – he told his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.’ His armor-bearer refused to do so and Saul fell upon his own sword. Yet, we know that Saul is an example of a bad king and whose actions were rather dodgy.
The devil indeed has come to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ (John 10:10). But, praise God, Jesus had come to heal, forgive, and restore.
If you have been in such situation before, whether you have euthanized someone or aborted a baby, may we suggest that you seek out godly counsel to prevent the devil from having a foothold on your life.
If you have been in a bad space before, God still forgives. If He can forgive Paul who endorsed the stoning of Stephen (the first martyr of the church) to death, surely He will forgive you (Acts 7:58).
S32 - Angry
Matt 5:22 says,
‘But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.’ The Greek word is ‘orgizo’, or ‘to make angry’.
Anger hurts relationships and can often lead to other sins, like murder on the extreme. Anger can result in unforgiveness for both parties.
Eph 4:26 says, ‘Be angry but do not sin.’ It implies that anger is sin but yet there is an anger that do sin not. Anger gives ‘opportunity to the devil’.
Also look at S106, Anger and Rage which also explains how Christians should respond to riots and civil unrest.
S33 - Brutal/ Cruel
Cruelty – 2 Tim 3:3 calls out ‘brutality’. The Greek word is ‘anemeros’ – ‘not tame’ or ‘savage’; brutality to others and even to animals. In Rom 1:31, we find parallel translations with these words – ‘heartless’, ‘merciless’, and ‘ruthless’.
Relating to animals, please see B147 – Love our animals.
S34 - Malicious
S35 - Hate peace
S36 - Practice human trafficking (slavery)
This is mentioned in 1 Tim 1:10. The word is andrapodistes in Greek and it means ‘slave dealers’ or ‘someone who forcibly enslaves, a kidnapper’. It is not a slave owner per se but a person that kidnaps and makes slaves of other people.
S37 - Fail to do good works (including that which we know we should do)
Matt 25:42 makes it explicit,
‘For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
To be a Christian is to be practical in doing good works. Jesus made it known that ‘if you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
James 4:17 says –
So whoever knows the right thing to do (the good they ought to do) and fails to do it, for him it is sin.’
Hence, in many Western nations that have a Christian heritage, the culture of helping others is fused into the people. Doing good works was how William Booth started the Salvation Army, which to these days is still acknowledged as a great charitable organisation.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. The good Samaritan had just assisted a total stranger he met along the road who was beaten by robbers. At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the enquirer who demonstrated love like a good neighbor to the injured man. The answer became obvious and Jesus counselled the enquirer to ‘go and do likewise.’
To be a Christian and not participate in good works is oxymoronic and a grave sin no doubt, serious enough for Jesus to say, ‘Depart from me you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt 25:41).
Our good works begin with our neighbors. Jesus related to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37. Out of the three individuals who could have helped the man that was left for dead, two of them (and these were religious Jews too) decided to PASS HIM BY ON THE OTHER SIDE. It took a Samaritan ((a race which is hugely despised by the Jews. For more information, please click HERE), to rise above hatred, bigotry and prejudices and instead chose mercy and compassion to assist the badly injured man and ‘bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.’
James 4:17 makes it explicit that ‘passing him by on the other side’ is not an option and it is a sin.
Now, who is our neighbor?
S38 - Practice a form of godliness but denying the power of Christ (Hypocritical)
It refers really to religions of all sorts, including churches. It is where the religious institution gives the appearance of being able to know God but in reality is just a facade. It may involve the pomp of the priestly garment, the decorum of the ceremonies and even design of the fine building. They may even implement ‘moral’ policing, whether in a church setting or otherwise.
But it is religion without a relationship with God. These institutions may even explicitly deny that God ever has any power at all. It is hypocrisy.
S39 - Preach something but act otherwise (hypocrisy)
In Matt 23:3, Jesus when referring to the Pharisees and the Sadducees described them as those who ‘preach but do not practice.’ In fact, Matt 23 provides us a blueprint of false religious and political leaders, including Christian ones.
‘They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues (religious institutions) and greetings in the marketplaces, and being called rabbi (or Reverend or Dr) by others.’ (Matt 23:5-7).
S40 - Policing outward behaviors (religiosity)
Hypocrisy – Religiosity – Luke 6:7 reads,
‘And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him.’
Religiosity causes people to behave like that.
Religiosity makes people feel condemn and unworthy. The Pharisees were always watching Jesus – what he did and who he met – despite the fact that Jesus was doing good stuff – like healing the sick, casting out the demonic and raising the dead. Religiosity forgets that believers are just sinners saved by grace.
Jesus hated a religious spirit and called the Pharisees ‘blind guides’ and ‘blind fools’ (Matt 23: 16-17). It is a grave sin because these (i.e. the Pharisees and Sadducees) were the only people that Jesus rebuked harshly;
NB: Amazingly, Jesus did not even say bad things about the Roman soldiers.
It is worthwhile for us to take note.
S41 - Outward pretense without practicing the key elements of being a Christian (justice/ mercy/ faith)
Hypocrisy – Outward Pretense – Matt 23:23,
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, and mercy and faithfulness.’
This is the hypocrisy of ‘practice’ (doing good works before men so as to be seen by them). The Pharisees were careful to practice their outward demonstration of their religious duties but they neglected matters of the heart.
In another passage found in Matt 6:5, Jesus mentioned about the Pharisees who ‘love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others’ – outward pretense.
Believers, here, only practice an outward form of Christianity without an inward change of heart. How many people would hide behind a veneer of religiosity without an inner change of heart?
On a side note, when considering ‘justice, mercy, and faithfulness’ , amazingly justice and mercy are in almost diametrically opposing camps.
Nonetheless, in the death of Jesus, we see the reconciliation of these two elements –
- Justice required that a punishment be meted out because we are all guilty of sins in front of the Father, but
- Mercy stepped in in the form of Jesus Christ who became our sacrifice to pay for price of our sins.
S42 - Outward dressing to show spirituality without an inward change of heart
S43 - Bound believers by getting them to adhere to non-scriptural practices
Matt 23:15 says,
‘When he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourself.’
Col 2:18-23 talks about some believers who insisted on the practice of pious self-denial as well as the worship of angels, both of which are non-scriptural. Paul explained,
‘These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.’
The Bible does list down some guidelines on dos and don’ts but there are some churches that go beyond even what is written in the Bible. There are churches that define how one should dress when coming to church. Another might suggest who one should marry and yet others might encourage people not to get married at all. As discussed by Paul to the Colossians, both pious self-denial and worship of angels are not of the Bible.
Col 2:23 (NLT),
‘These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide NO HELP in conquering a person’s evil desires.’
The purpose of this project is to provide clarity for believers regarding what are defined as sins within the context of the New Testament.
S44 - Bound by the rigidness relating to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it
Hypocrisy – Rigidness – Luke 13:15-17 reads, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’
The Pharisees became so blinded by the letter of the law to the point of forgetting the elements of mercy. They would rather consider healing on a Sabbath to be a sin than the fact that healing had taken place. They treated the adherence of the Sabbath as sacrosanct and forgot the aspects of grace and mercy.
When believers become legalistic, like which Biblical translation is the only one to use, then we are in danger of becoming Pharisees of our days.
See also S153 – Show more compassion for an animal than a fellow human being.
S45 - Love to judge others without looking at ourselves
Hypocrisy – Judgmental – Luke 6:42 says,
‘How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.’
There is a danger that among ‘older’ Christians (that is, Christians who have been walking in the faith for quite a while), some may end up becoming critical of other Christians or Christian leaders.
To remain malleable, let Christians pray -> for ourselves – to remain humble and teachable by the Lord, pray for for our leaders – to be bold and unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and pray for the well-being of our enemies. In addition, do not neglect to do good.
Believers have to beware of judging other believers without being hypocrites. It is easy to judge other believers.
S46 - Steal from widows' households (those disadvantaged) - Hypocrisy of Stealing
In John 12:6, it explains how because Judas Iscariot held the money bag (he was the group’s treasurer), he was also ‘helping himself to what was put into it.’ In other words, criminal breach of trust.
Matt 23:14 reads, ‘Woe to you for you devour widows’ houses’. It was taking advantage and stealing from the helpless. There are always evil people who take advantage of those who are vulnerable, even possibly through legal means.
Stealing is a sin. In the same way, stealing stuff from things that we have been entrusted with is a sin.
S47 - Show partiality in Church
James 2:9 says, ‘But if you show partiality, you are committing sin.’
In James 2, the Apostle James was talking about partiality within a church context. V2 reads,
‘For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing ….’
James made it explicit that to showing partiality, whether it is wealth or other things, is unacceptable in church.
S48 - Enjoy excessive eating (obesity), and drug use. Neglect exercising
Our body is the temple of God. We are responsible for its upkeep. Hence, if we eat excessively to the point of gluttony or we take drugs that are detrimental to our bodies, we are, in effect, destroying God’s temple. Our body is ‘holy’.
It is the same if we neglect our bodies through inactivity and laziness.
See also S79, Hedonism for more information.
S49 - Contemplate suicide, euthanasia or self-harm
This is an often asked question and it is never easy to provide an answer.
There are six incidents of suicide mentioned in the Bible and it does not answer the question whether it is the right thing to do. Here are the incidents:
- Abimelech (Judg. 9:54),
- Samson (Judg. 16:28–30),
- Saul (1 Sam. 31:4),
- Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23),
- Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and of course,
- Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:5).
Saul’s case sounded like one of ‘terminal illness’ since he was already critically wounded and had no way of escaping from his enemies.
Then, we have the experience of Job. We know from the Bible that Job lost everything – his wealth, his children, and finally his health. It reached a time when even his wife turned against him [Please do not accuse his wife as being weak. Consider what she had lost as well] and told him to ‘curse God and die’ (Job 2:9). Quite simply, curse God and commit suicide.
How did Job react? He said in Job 2:10 –
‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive disaster?’
And it concluded that throughout this period, Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2:11).
Other than Job, probably the most tragic character in the Old Testament was King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. Zedekiah tried to escape in the middle of the night despite being forewarned by the Prophet Jeremiah not to do so. He was captured but what happened after that was something even harder than death itself – Jer 39:6-7 says,
‘The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon.’
They gouged out his eyes after they killed his sons in front of him. That would be the last thing he remembered before becoming blind. He would remain in prison until his death although in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and Jer 52:31-34, it mentioned that King Evil-Merodach, the successor of Nebuchadnezzar, ‘spoke kindly’ to Zedekiah and gave him a seat of honor at his table as well as a daily allowance. That took place thirty-seven years after his deportation but could you imagine what went through his mind throughout the entire period and more? Nonetheless, he did not chose the option of suicide.
Then, there is an argument that one should not commit murder, suicide being self-murder no doubt, as it is one of the ten commandments of God (Exodus 20:13). But King David did endorse the murder of Uriah (2 Sam 11:14) and yet he was ranked as a man after God’s heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22). His killings nonetheless had consequences so much so that he was not allowed to build a Temple for God (1 Chron 28:3).
It is not a straightforward case. Here are the critical verses to draw principles by:
- Matt 22:39 says, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. It implies that we need to also love ourselves.
- 1 Cor 3:16-17 says, ‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple’.
- Matt 24:16 says, ‘Flee to the mountains’. When confronted with an enemy, Christians are not to be passive but to run as proposed by Jesus.
Here are the key principles:
- We are the temple of God,
- We should love ourselves (NB: Not overindulge),
- God holds a strong opinion for someone who destroys himself/ herself,
- Both Job and Zedekiah, despite their dire circumstances, chose not to kill themselves,
- If we can find a way out of a problematic situation, we must take active steps.
Based on these guiding principles, we believe that suicide is a sin although it does not appear to be an unpardonable one (Please see the section on ‘Unpardonable Sins’ for more information).
Moreover, Samson was even ranked as a great man of faith in Heb 11:32. Another biblical hero, David, for example, committed murder and was still considered a man after God’s heart although he did suffer earthly consequences.
Having said that, we acknowledge mental illness and depression are real events that should be tackled. And that with modern medical advancement, sick people with poor quality of life can still be kept alive when it was not possible in previous generations.
With the implementation of legalized euthanasia in some countries, there are now professionals hired to promote the benefits of euthanasia among those who are ‘critically’ ill (‘Critical’ being a definition of the law). These vulnerable people may not agree to be euthanized but under the pressure of advocates, social norms, and potentially even their own family members, they may succumb to their wishes.
The concept of suicide (and murder) has thus been muddied by the enemy. There is, therefore, no perfect answer to this subject although basic principles must apply.
S146 - Choose not to work/ Not to use our talents - slothful and lazy
Proverbs consistently highlighted the importance to work hard and not be lazy. Prov 6:6, for example, says,
‘Go to the ant, O sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.’
Genesis 2:15 says,
‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep (maintain) it.’
God classes slothfulness or laziness as ‘evil’ in Matt 25:26 when a servant failed to use the talent allocated to him; ‘failure to use one’s talent for the Lord’ is rated as ‘laziness’. Jesus said that this servant would end up in ‘the outer darkness’ where there will be ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Quite very serious stuff).
‘Laziness’ can occur to anyone of us, even ministers of the word. It happens easiest when we lack accountability and structure as these two ‘systemic’ elements motivate us to produce results.
Laziness can happen to believers – slothful in praying and studying of the Scripture. Even pew warmers may be defined as ‘slothful’ – people who sit in the pews, are nice to everyone, do no harm to anyone and put some money into the collection plate. Jesus, in addressing the Church of Laodicea, said, ‘Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth’ – Rev 3:16.
In a 2015 Psychology Today article by Neel Burton, he said:
“Many ‘lazy’ people are not intrinsically lazy, but are so because they have not found what they want to do, or because, for one reason or another, they are not doing it. To make matters worse, the job that pays their bills and fills their best hours may have become so abstract and specialized that they can no longer fully grasp its purpose or product, and, by extension, their part in improving other peoples’ lives. A builder can look with aching satisfaction upon the houses that he has built, and a doctor can take pride and joy in the restored health and gratitude of his patients, but an assistant deputy financial controller in a large corporation cannot be at all certain of the effect or end-product of his labor. So why should he bother?’
When we lose our own purpose to achieve something, when we lack a belief in what God wants us to do (or the situation has become so hopeless that we feel we cannot do anything about it) and we are happy with our status quo, then we stop trying and let the ‘why bother’ syndrome takes over.
‘Laziness’ has nothing to do with employment for even an employed person can be lazy. For those who have too many hours in their hands because they are either unemployed (or seeking employment) or have retired, consider opportunities to do voluntary work.
Slothfulness (laziness) is sin.
S147 - Eat blood or meat with blood (probably not a sin - best avoided - Read on)
Acts 15:21 says,
‘But should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.’
In Acts 15 however, when the disciples met together to decide on whether circumcision should be included for a Gentile, instead of adding rules, they simplified them to just four basic ‘not-to’ – abstain from eating food offered to idols, not to eat food with blood in it or had been strangled, and do not practice sexual immorality (Acts 15:20). Effectively, believers are not to eat food with blood on it or even to eat blood on its own.
The Hebrew Bible (or our Old Testament) specifies a lot of things that Jews should not eat. But in the New Testament, God seemed to have endorsed all food as seen in Acts 10 when the Apostle Peter was told to eat some of the animals that were forbidden under Jewish law. Nonetheless, Acts 15 clarifies that some things were not to be eaten even by believers.
The first time blood was prohibited from being eaten/ drunk came in Gen 9:2-4 when God told Noah not to eat meat that had its lifeblood still in it. It was reinforced in the Law of Moses in Lev 17:14 when it explained, ‘For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.’ Deut 12:16 reiterated, ‘Only you shall not eat the blood, you shall pour it out on the earth like water.’ That is, we are to drain the slaughtered animal off its blood.
The Apostle Paul, however, said in Col 2:16,
‘Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink’,
clarifying that since the New Testament, Christ has freed us from the Law as seen in Gal 5:1,
‘For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a YOKE OF SLAVERY.’
Certain cultures continue to eat food with blood, e.g. blood pudding, blood sausage.
Some Christians also do not consider eating blood or food with blood as sin based on Col 2:16. They argued that it was more to placate the Jewish Christians of that era. We would rather not state it one way or the other but place this as a borderline element best to be avoided.
NB: If you have eaten a ‘bloody’ steak, you might want to note that the red liquid is not blood. The red hue is actually a protein called myoglobin which helps muscle tissue store oxygen. It is the iron in myoglobin that makes it red. Myoglobin is not blood.
S148 - Eat meat that has been strangled (probably not a sin - best avoided - Read on)
Acts 15:21 says,
‘But should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.’
Meat that has been strangled has not been properly drained of its blood since an animal’s blood does not simply pour itself out.
Hence, the same logic applies as in S147, Eat blood or meat with blood.
Again, this is a borderline element which we feel that it is best to be avoided if you are aware that the meat that you are having, comes from an animal that has been strangled.
S149 - Eat food offered to idols (not a sin - read on)
Acts 15:21 says,
‘But should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.’
One struggle with the early church was the widespread practice of idolatry. Hence, food offered to idols was common.
1 Cor 10:28 says that it is perfectly fine to eat any food except when someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice.’ The Apostle Paul explained that it was more for ‘the sake of the one who informed you and for the sake of (his) conscience.’
Here is a summary:
- There is nothing wrong with eating meat offered to an idol. The meat by itself is not defiled.
- The Lord provides everything for our enjoyment – 1 Tim 6:17
- However, it is wise to avoid it if we are brought to the awareness that the food has been offered to idols. It is more to protect the conscience of the other person.
Is it a sin? Probably not but it would be sensible to avoid food offered to idols if you are made aware of it.
S150 - Withhold the rightful salary of an employee
Jesus made it clear that all workers should be paid. In Luke 10:7, he appointed seventy-two disciples and sent them two-by-two to go ahead of him to various towns. Jesus then told them to remain in any household that welcomed their presence as ‘the laborer deserves his wages.’ Jesus never shortchanged even a church worker.
Col 4:1 says, ‘Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven’ and 1 Tim 5:18, ‘The Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”‘
James 5:4 explains the rationale, ‘Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. ‘
It concurs with the Old Testament Deut 24:15, ‘You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.’
Withholding the rightful salary of an employee is not just a present-day occurrence but has been going on for the years. Some employers take advantage of their employees in order to improve their own cash flow or simply for the purpose of fraud.
Christian employers should never practice such behavior. It is a sin.
S151 - Marry a non-believer (possibly not a sin but ....)
2 Cor 6:14-15 reads, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial (or the devil)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?’
A yoke is a wooden bar that links two oxen together so that they can pull as one. An ‘unequally yoked’ situation is when we have one stronger ox and another weaker one, or matching a taller ox with a shorter one. Clearly, in either case, the law of the lowest denominator comes into play and it becomes difficult to pull the load as one. Worse, the two oxen could be at loggerheads with each other and then it could be a disaster.
The words in 2 Cor 6:15 are even strong, equating ‘unbelievers’ as ‘the devil’. Most believers consider this verse to point towards a marriage between a believer and a non-believer. It might point to more than a marital situation but marital situations are obviously the most critical.
In the Old Testament and in Genesis, Abraham made it clear that his son, Isaac, was only to marry a wife from his relatives. In Gen 24:3, he told his servant that he was ‘not to take a wife for (his) son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom (he) dwell.’ The same thing took place with Isaac’s son, Jacob, who went back to his own relatives to find a bribe (Gen 29).
Moses was explicit in Deut 7:3-4 when he said, ‘You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons.’ And in the next verse, it explains why: ‘For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you and he would destroy you quickly.’
One of the saddest narratives involved Solomon, the wisest and richest of all the kings of Israel and the son of David. He married many women; 1 Kings 11:3 said that he had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines. And in 1 Kings 11:4, it reports that ‘when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father.’
Our spouse can make or break us. Additionally, there is the issue of having children together. The critical element lies in the differing values which go to the heart of living lives together and bringing up children. Whose values should we follow?
In the Islamic faith for example, if a believer marries a spouse who is a Muslim, then s/he has to become a Muslim. Even if that is avoidable, their children are automatically classed as Muslims. For them and possibly the ‘unbelieving’ spouse, it is almost impossible to renounce the Islamic faith as to do so would be considered an apostasy punishable by the death penalty.
A friendship can be for a moment but a marital relationship, whether it produces children or not, is meant to be for a life-time. We are free to make choices in life but we are not free from the consequences of those choices.
A simple advice is simply do not get romantically involved with an unbeliever.
See also B129 – Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
S152 - Become apathetic
James 4:17 (GNT) – ‘If we do not do the good we know we should do, we are guilty of sin.’
‘Apathy’ is described as a ‘lack of interest or energy’ and shows that the person is unwilling to take action.’ It may also be defined as a ‘lack of feeling or emotion – impassiveness.’
It is not just a matter of not doing good works but knowingly choosing not to do so.
Luke 12:47 describes a situation when a servant knew the will of the Master and yet chose not to follow his instructions. In fact, the Lord attributed this non-action at the same level of an unbeliever. In Luke 12:46, Jesus said, that ‘He (The Lord) will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with unbelievers.’
Please read S139, Continue sinning deliberately and willfully even after knowing Jesus.
James made it explicit that apathy is a sin.
S153 - Show more compassion for an animal than a fellow human being
In Matt 12:10-14, Jesus was healing someone who had withered hand. But the Pharisees questioned him as to why he was healing on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response was cutting when he asked, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out?’
In Luke 14:1-5, instead of a sheep, Jesus used the example of an ox when he said, ‘Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?’
In other words, the Pharisees showed more concern and compassion for an animal (or a family member) than another fellow human being in the same scenario.
Will we be in danger when we feel a greater sense to protect and care for a pet or an animal rather than to fight for the lives of a defenseless unborn human pre-baby?
Please also see
- S44, Bound by the rigidness relating to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it, and
- B147, Love our animals.