To “enable” sin is to embolden someone to continue in sin, to empower his ability to sin, or to make it easier for him to sin. In our stand for righteousness, we want to avoid enabling the sins of others. Human relationships can be complex, and there are many situations that can lead to involuntary participation in the sin of another. In a marriage, one spouse can be drawn into sin in an effort to appease the other. Friends and family are the avenues that Satan often uses to entice us to participate in a sin we would otherwise avoid (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 22:24). However, no one has the power to make another person sin. Sin is a condition of the heart (Matthew 15:18–19). And we are each responsible for the choices we make and the condition of our own hearts (Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36).
Enabling someone’s sin is the same as indirectly taking part in that sin, and 1 Timothy 5:22 says, “Do not participate in the sins of others.” If the Bible has a command, we have the power to obey it. We often do not realize that we have the right and the responsibility to set personal boundaries that honor God. Learning to set healthy boundaries for ourselves is crucial to living the victorious life Jesus wants for us (John 10:10; Romans 8:37). Boundaries define where our responsibilities start and end. When we know the boundaries, we are responsible for enforcing them. For example, if a friend insists that you drive the getaway car in a robbery, you don’t have to decide. The decision was made when you first chose to follow Christ. Jesus says stealing is wrong, so you will not enable theft. Participation in sin is not an option for a Christian (Romans 6:1–2; 1 John 3:9).
Avoiding sin requires that we seek wisdom from God. Fortunately, we have the promise of James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” When we receive God’s wisdom about a situation, our responsibility is to move forward on the basis of that wisdom. One way to gain courage in making right decisions is to ask ourselves what we would do if Jesus were standing right beside us. If we would not move forward with Jesus, then it is not the right decision, regardless of who is urging us to participate.
One way we enable the sin of others is by rescuing them from their rightful consequences. God uses consequences to teach us lessons we would not otherwise learn. When a Christian allows his friends to talk him into going to a place he knows will lead to sinful behavior on their part, he is participating in the sin of others. We give others freedom to make their own choices, but we must also allow them to reap the consequences of those choices (Galatians 6:7). We often enable the sin of others because of a false sense of compassion or because we want to be needed. There is a place for grace, but in constantly shielding someone from the natural consequences of sin, we rob that person of the wisdom God wanted to impart to him or her. It’s never easy to see a loved one experience difficulty, but sometimes the difficulty is just what God wants to use to teach an important life lesson.
Sometimes enabling sin can happen in subtle ways. When we nod our heads when listening to gossip rather than calling it out, we enable sin. When we give money to a friend we suspect is using it for wrong things, we enable sin. Even when we’re helping out with necessary bills, we may still be enabling sin when we know our friend is only experiencing need because he’s squandered his own money on gambling/drugs/materialistic self-satisfaction/etc. Inviting friends to watch a movie with us knowing that it might trigger some of their sin issues also makes us an enabler of sin. We don't need to police the sins of others, but when we are aware of their struggles, we should certainly not invite them into tempting situations; rather, we should come alongside them to help.
Just as others have freedom to make their own choices, we also have freedom to choose, and we can choose to not participate in the sin of others. Many times we allow ourselves to be pulled into someone else’s sin because we fear losing a relationship. In doing so, we have allowed that person to take the place of God in our hearts. When the desire of someone else supersedes the desire of God, we have slipped into idolatry (Exodus 20:3; 34:14). We can avoid enabling someone else’s sin by making a final decision about who directs our lives. If we have given our lives to Christ, then He is the final authority on any decision (2 Corinthians 10:5; Acts 5:29). If Jesus would not make it easier for a person to sin, then we shouldn’t, either.