What is a vice?
Question: "What is a vice?"
Answer: A vice is an immoral or wicked behavior. Some synonyms for vice are wrongdoing, wickedness, evil, iniquity, villainy, corruption, misconduct, misdeeds, and sin. Vice crime, as a legal term, is used to denote immoral activities involving prostitution, pornography, drugs, or gambling. Although vices, by definition, are quite bad, people often refer to their “vices” as lesser evils. Bad habits, such as drinking too much coffee or watching too much TV, are sometimes called “vices.” In common usage, a vice is often nothing more than a flaw or imperfection, something to be shrugged off as no big deal. In Roman Catholicism, a vice is regarded as a “habit inclining one to sin.“
The word vice appears once in the New King James Version of the Bible: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Peter 2:15–16). The New English Translation also has an occurrence of the word, contrasting “the yeast of vice and evil” with “the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Synonyms for vice are found frequently in Scripture, though. In fact, the vice of human beings, beginning in the Garden of Eden, made necessary a Savior who could save us from the curse we brought upon ourselves.
While a vice may be seen by some as less serious than outright sin (there is even a popular youth-oriented magazine and media conglomerate called Vice), the Bible makes no such distinction. God hates all sin equally, even those sins we refer to as vices. All sin is ultimately sin against God Himself and is an affront to His holy nature (Psalm 51:4). The Bible teaches that all of us sin (Romans 3:23) and that the wages we earn for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). The Bible makes no distinction between vices and other sins. All sin renders the sinner worthy of eternal separation from God.
The apostle James states that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). Even one small vice, even when unintentionally committed, makes us guilty of transgressing the entire Law of God. If we had committed only one vice in a lifetime (an impossibility), that one vice would make us guilty of the entire Law and merit eternal punishment. God does not distinguish between lesser and greater sins as regarding guilt. To break the Law in one point is to become a lawbreaker. All sins are equally offensive to Him, and all result in punishment.
The Bible also teaches that all sin must be punished. Either the sinner pays for his own sins in hell, or Jesus Christ pays for them by shedding His blood on the cross. When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30), He was saying that the sin debt was paid in full. He had fulfilled all that was necessary to grant forgiveness and eternal life to those who would believe in Him. This is why Jesus says in John 3:18 that “whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned.” When we trust Christ as our Savior and accept His sacrifice on our behalf, all our sins—all our vices—are wiped clean, and we never have to pay the penalty for transgressing God’s Law (Romans 8:1).
Recommended Resource: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
In regards to forgiveness, is there a difference between willful sin and ignorant sin?
What is mortification of sin / the flesh?
What is a sin of omission?
What does it mean to be a slave to sin?
How can I control sinful impulses?
Questions about Sin
What is a vice?