We are too slow in recognising our own sin

We are too slow in recognising our own sin

We always tend to see the sins and shortcomings of other people more clearly than we see our own sin. As Jesus said, we are the kind of people who notice the speck in the eyes of others rather than the plank in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). It is hard to honestly assess our own spiritual condition.

This is nothing new but is inherent in what it means to be human. An unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 20 confronted King Ahab after he had disobeyed God. Ahab was expected to devote the defeated Syrian king, Ben-hadad, to destruction, but instead made a treaty with him. The prophet arranged to look injured and then cried out to the king with a story:

39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ 40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” (1 Ki. 20:39-40 ESV)

King Ahab thought he had made a great decision. The prophet didn’t accuse him directly, but told a story to trap the king. In the story, a soldier who was tasked to guard a man didn’t do his job. He had no good excuse for not doing it; “as your servant was busy here and there” is possibly the vaguest excuse you can think of! It is clear that the soldier was guilty. There are not even any good excuses for his behaviour. Ahab sees the obvious guilt of the soldier, but only later does he realise that the story is describing what he just did.

When Ahab does realise his guilt before God, he still doesn’t repent. He goes away vexed and sullen (v42). He is probably grumbling because, as the king, he should be able to do whatever he wants to do. Yet God keeps telling him what to do!

This ruse by the prophet is similar to what Nathan did for King David many years earlier after his sin with Bathsheba. It seems that approaching kings with their sin directly is very likely to get you killed! In this roundabout way, the kings end up condemning themselves.

All of us are slow to see our own sin as well. We explain it away; maybe there seems to be a good reason for it. Perhaps other people do the same thing we just did. Maybe we find God’s rules oppressive and we’d rather do something else. Yet we need to know how bad our sin is, and where we have made mistakes, if we are to work on our godliness.

So what can we do to make sure we are being honest about our sin? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. We don’t have prophets, but we do have the word of God. Make sure you read the Bible deeply and often and sit under good teaching from the Bible. Over time, the Spirit will convict you of your sin through these means. I know I have often read a passage from the Bible or heard a sermon and thought, “that is about me!”
  2. If you are married, ask your spouse what you need to work on. If you’re not married, ask a close Christian friend or a Christian parent. Others see what we do not see. This might lead to a difficult conversation, assuming our close friend is honest with us! But we need that kind of conversation if we are to grow more like Jesus.
  3. Include confession in your regular prayers. If you are looking for what to confess, be honest. Only God is listening. Don’t sugar-coat it or make excuses. Be plain. Tell God you struggle with pornography, which makes you guilty of adultery. Tell God you struggle with wanting what others have, which is greed and coveting. Assess your life and know God loves to help you towards godliness. Confess often, and work on what you confess.

Denying yourself and resisting temptation are hard work! Yet remember that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13). And know, above all, that God knows you are not perfect. Jesus died for sinners. He knew we needed our sin paid for. So let’s live for Jesus, putting sin to death, and seeking his glory.