We often think that our lives can be simplified if we just have a checklist to follow. We have shopping lists, to-do lists, wish lists, and more. Surely, if God wants us to have success in living for Him, there must be a list in the Bible of sins to avoid. When we look to the Bible, we certainly do find lists of sins, but we also discover that the lists never seem to end.
From the very beginning, God told man what was right and wrong. To Adam in the Garden, God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God established His Law with them at Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) were not the whole law, but a summary of all that God had to tell them. The entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are devoted to revealing to the Israelites God’s laws. Jewish rabbis say that there are 613 laws in the Torah (Books of Moses). Of those, 365 are in the “thou shalt not...” category.
What are some examples of these sins? From the Ten Commandments we have false worship, idolatry, misusing God’s name, violating the Sabbath, dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying/libel, and coveting. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus took some of these same sins to a new level. Regarding murder, Jesus said, “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.... But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Regarding adultery, Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). In Galatians 5:19-21, we are told, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Just these brief lists will give most people plenty of things to work on for a lifetime. In addition to the various lists that can be found in Scripture, we are told in 1 John 5:17 that “all wrongdoing is sin.” Not only does the Bible tell us the things not to do, but in James 4:17, we are informed that anyone “who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
When we try to compile a list of sins, we find ourselves buried under the guilt of our own failures because we discover that we have sinned far more than we realized. The Scriptures inform us, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Galatians 3:10). While that statement might seem self-defeating, it is actually the best news possible. Since we can never fully keep God’s Law, there must be another answer, and it is found a few verses later: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:13-14). The Law of God, or the lists of sins that we find in the Bible, serve as a tutor to “lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).