A Respectable Sin

In his book entitled “Respectable Sins”, Jerry Bridges talks about one of the most widespread and subtle sins among Christians: ungodliness. How is it possible that good Christian people can be called ungodly?

Ungodliness and unrighteousness are not the same thing. Unrighteousness is sinful action in thought, word or deed, whereas ungodliness is an attitude that we express towards God himself. As Bridges defines it, ungodliness is “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God.” We can be nice, helpful, church-going people and have no thought of God in our daily activity. As someone else has said, “Many Christians live as functional atheists.”

Two passages of scripture come to mind when I think about this sin. The first has to do with the farmer who was doing well but wanted even more. In Luke 12 Jesus tells the story of the man who wants to build even bigger barns for his surplus so that he can “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19) That night he died and Jesus said, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

James also cautions people about living without regard to God’s will or glory. “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15 NLT)

While planning for the future is not sinful – the Bible encourages thoughtful planning – both passages are condemning planning that doesn’t acknowledge dependence on God. We get so busy with our plans and daily activities that we go about all our duties without pausing to ask God what his desire is.

The Christian life isn’t about attending church on Sundays and saying a prayer when we need help. It’s about surrendering our lives, each and every day, to the King of heaven. It’s about living the life that he calls us to. We can only discover what his plans and purposes are for us when we stop and listen.

Pray that God will make us more conscious of the fact that every moment of every day is lived under his all-seeing eye.

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