[b]The Cost of Sin[/b]
[i]by Peter Kinley[/i]
AS WE HEAR, in one form or another, news of what is going on in our country and in other parts of the world there is always sooner or later a reference to finance. Government spokesmen speak of the large amounts of money that are being poured into the public services. The affluence of the industrialised countries is compared with the poverty of the Third World nations. Appeals are made to deal with the problem of that poverty. Investors keep their eyes on the changing fortunes of shares in the Stock Market and what the Bank of England has decided to do about interest rates. Political parties have to try to achieve a balance between their promises to make life better for the voters and their families and the amount of tax they need to take from us to keep those promises. Ordinary households have concerns about mortgages, pay levels, the cost of living, and much else besides. Every week, and more than once a week, perhaps millions of people buy lottery tickets in the hope of amassing a fortune in one fell swoop.
A visitor from another planet might gain the impression that we are obsessed with money. Yet the extraordinary thing is that comparatively few people are concerned about the cost of sin even at its monetary level, quite apart from its far more serious consequences.
Let's look at that from the Government angle first. What are some of the matters about which any government should be concerned? Crime is an obvious one in all its different forms. It costs the nation an enormous sum of money. There is the need to finance police forces. There must be prisons to house criminals who are punished in that way. These have to be staffed and the prisoners fed. Between investigation, arrest, and conviction there are courts to maintain, judges and lawyers to play their part along with others, and great sums of money being expended in the judicial process. These are only the major components in a system that has to be in place to deal with criminal activity.
Nor is it only this system that is costly. Crime has its financial aspects in other ways. Think of credit card fraud running to billions of pounds. Some criminals make vast sums of money from drug trafficking and many can only find the money to pay for these drugs from other criminal activities. There is all the cost arising from malicious damage and much more, without even beginning to think of the far greater emotional cost in violence against the person. Without naming every type of crime they can all be summed up under one heading, sin. It is sin that costs the nations so much in this particular form.
Apply the same line of reasoning to other areas. We have a housing problem in this country. Part of that problem is caused by the break-up of families, and that comes about largely because of sin. We spend vast sums on the National Health Service. We have recently been told of the concern that exists over the growth of sexually transmitted diseases. What is responsible for this increase but sin? The same can be said of some, perhaps many, and there are those who would say all, of the abortions carried out within the NHS. Bodily abuse, something completely different from the toll taken by increasing old age and unavoidable sicknesses, is another of the costs of sin.
Think too of all the money taken out of the legitimate economy by the pornographic "industry".Here sin is obvious in its producers, in the clients who provide the demand, and those who are employed to service it.
Then again there is the financial costliness of war. The highly technical element means an enormous expenditure on equipment and weaponry. Provision for national defence against possible aggression involves large sums of money. At this materialistic level war is a terribly expensive business, and the underlying causes of war are to be found in human sin.
One might think that any government hoping to reduce the financial burdens on the nation would want to encourage the preaching of the gospel that provides the remedy for and the power to overcome sin.
There is an even greater cost arising from sin, human unhappiness. If we look at the examples already given of the financial cost of sin, we can see in them the cause of so much sufFeririg and grief. Crime, as it thrusts its way into our lives, is capable of causing incalculable human damage. News reports bring home to us how terribly some people can treat others. The consequences of this for those who suffer are obvious.
The same is true, but in a different way, when marriages break up, especially when it involves adultery. Trust is destroyed when promises are violated, and where there are children the effects can pass on into another generation. Sinful human behaviour can lead to mental breakdown. It can also communicate a fatal disease to an innocent party.
The human suffering caused by war is only too clear. We shudder at the terrible loss of life with all its attendant misery in the two world wars of the past century, let alone all the other conflicts that have taken place before and after. There are those alive now who will carry the emotional scars of war to the grave. The amount of human misery caused by such violence is mounting every day in Iraq and other areas of conflict. Terrorism affects people in many parts of the world. Consider too the effects of sinful human tyranny imposed in the cause of some ideology or other.
Sin continues to take its toll, and its end in time is physical death, from which there is no escape. Death is not natural. It is the consequence of man's disobedience to God. As we have inherited the nature of sinful Adam so we experience the result. Every cemetery bears its witness to the universality of death and would remind us, if we did but understand, of how costly sin is and of our need to get right with God.
It is evidence, though, of the spiritual blindness of the natural man that he is unable to recognise these things. He does not see the cost of sin. In fact, he seems blind even to the biblical concept of sin, with the result that any religious belief he professes is without any eternal value to him at all. If this were not true our society would look very different. Saddest of all is that even many within the Churches seem afflicted with this spiritual disability and no clear message is being proclaimed to show where the remedy for sin is to be found.
It is in the provision of that remedy that we see the greatest cost of sin. What price had to be paid for sinners to be right with a holy God? God Himself answers that question. The eternal Son of God became man to die for us, being made sin for us, shedding His blood to turn away the wrath of God from our sin. Despite the protestations of those who find such teaching unpalatable this is the glorious reality of what He came to do and of what He has accomplished. There is a remedy for sin to be found in Christ, and in Him alone.
Nothing less than the sacrifice made by our Lord Jesus Christ could remove the judgement we must otherwise bear ourselves. That should impress on us the tremendous power in that offering. It has dealt with sin once and for all for those who trust in the Lord Jesus alone as the Saviour of sinners. It removes the curse of death and opens the way to eternal life. It ensures that one day every believer will be like our Lord Himself. There is nothing more wonderful than His death and resurrection, good news for everyone made conscious of his or her sin.
The message of sin and salvation must be declared to the nation as a whole, and to those in positions of responsibility particularly. The apostles were not afraid in their preaching to make it plain in detail to those in high places. Nor were the reformers. Nor should we be. It may bring on us ridicule or , scorn. We may even be persecuted, but this should not deter us if we want to be loyal to our calling.
We may believe the task is hopeless. We may be held back by an awareness of our own sins and failings. Our divisions may contradict the truth we profess to uphold. We must face up to the reality of all this and do something about it. We have a solemn responsibility before the Lord when we ourselves have recognised the cost of sin and have benefited from God's amazing remedy.
We can only do this in the power of the Holy Spirit and we must pray for His aid. It is His work to convict of sin and to bear witness to the Saviour. He alone can remove the spiritual blindness that is so prevalent. It is through His work that men and women are born again. Yet He employs people like us, as He has done across the centuries. The Lord Jesus Christ has not died in vain. He is building His Church, and who can tell what blessing may yet lie ahead for this country when His people are really obedient to His commission?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon