Have you heard of that childhood mantra? I hear it quite often from my 3rd graders, and I try to explain to them its inherent fallibility. I had a student a while back find a dollar that another child had accidentally dropped. I was watching him out of the corner of my eye and saw him pick it up and discreetly slip it into his pocket. Little did he know, I already knew who the dollar belonged to, and this was an opportunity for a lesson too good to pass up, so I quickly made my way across the room to confront him.
“Hey, where’d you get that dollar?,” I asked. He was pretty excited to come into a little extra spending money, so he replied, “I found it on the floor!” After I told him the dollar didn’t belong to him, his immediate response was, “Finders-keepers!” Now, I’ve used that excuse myself when I was younger, but added years of maturity have taught me that finders-keepers is just another way of saying “stealing.”
I asked the young man, “How come finders-keepers only works when it’s someone else’s stuff? If it was your dollar, you would want it returned!” Surprisingly, he immediately got my point and gave the dollar back to its rightful owner.
All of this got me thinking of how good we are at glossing over our sins and indiscretions. The truth is, sin by any other name is still sin. You can call taking someone else’s dollar “finders-keepers” all you want, but it’s still stealing what doesn’t belong to you.
The world today is definitely trying to rename sin, to make it palatable and acceptable. The world may call it “happiness” or “love” or “acceptance,” but these are just examples of man trying to redefine what God said is wrong. Even people in the church are beginning to argue over what constitutes sin, although the Bible makes it pretty clear what displeases God (1 John 3:15, Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:9-10, 1 John 2:9-11)!
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[b] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
It’s obvious from this text that sin is evident to a rational thinking person, a person led by the Spirit of God. This text, among many others, warns us that you will not inherit the kingdom of God if you blatantly have these sins in your life. That also includes masking our sin under a different name in order to reduce its impact. God is no fool. He will rightly judge our actions, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14), and justly hand down the judgment we deserve.
This means we are to be torn over our sin (Psalm 38:4), not be ambivalent about it. It means we must confess our sins and our attempts to cover them up (1 John 1:9), and ask for forgiveness from our Father who shows mercy to the penitent. It means we must commit ourselves to being led by the Holy Spirit and listen when he convicts us of our wrongs, because sin by any other name is still sin.