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Christian Counseling - Is the Sinful Thought as Bad as the Deed?

David and his 600 men briefly stopped running from King Saul to protect sheep shearers that worked for Nabal, a rich, harsh and worthless man. Afterward, David sent a few of his men to him to ask for food for their good work. Nabal responded by denying knowing David and then scorned them. He and 400 of his men sought to kill Nabal for the evil of giving an insult where a blessing was in order. Abigail, Nabal's wife, was told the story. In her wisdom she gathered food and drink and met David and his men on the way to commit violence. She convinced him not to take vengeance by his own hand. He praised her and God for stopping him. (1 Samuel 25:1-35)

David didn't act out his planned vengeance, but did he commit an evil of the heart? The Old Testament passage doesn't answer this question. Instead, we turn to the New Testament, which sheds more light on the issue.

Matthew 5:28 helps us ferret out if the thought and deed are the same on any level. The verse says, "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust (in the Greek, long for or covet) for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Clearly, what goes on in one's heart is God's basis for determining sin. Out of the heart come evil and good behaviors (Matthew 15:19). When people evaluate others they look to their actions, which can be seen and provide evidence of the heart's condition. God, on the other hand, doesn't need the evidence of behavior because He has the ability to search the heart (Romans 8:27). From this point of view David's thinking, planning and behaviorally moving toward vengeance was wrong because his heart already committed the act. Despite this, does God see a difference between thinking and doing something?

In defining sin, the answer is no. Wrong is wrong and there is no other way to perceive it, but there are levels of wrongdoing, which incur different consequences. In Luke 12:47, 48 we read that a person who knew the Lord's will and didn't do it will receive many blows, but one without that knowledge (ignorant) will receive a few blows. Matthew 5:21,22 tell us there is a progression in sinful communication:  being angry without cause results in being guilty before the court (in the Greek, accusation or judgment by a tribunal); calling another "good for nothing" (worthless) is guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jews); and calling another a "fool" (mentally dull or stupid) is in danger of hell. Finally, in Matthew 11:20-24 we find that the final judgment of some cities "will be more tolerable" for them than other more corrupted cities.

In the end, wisdom would seem to say that if one thinks and/or plots to do evil, but refrains at the last or resists the impulse of the heart, that it's, on one hand, not as serious a sin because action was not taken and the thought didn't wound another person, but only the thinker. Take the reverse position and ask, If a person thinks about serving God, but doesn't do it, would he or she deserve the rewards for thinking about good works? It appears that one who only thinks sinfully will be judged with a little more leniency. It would seem prudent, therefore, that we treat others in like manner.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Yui wrote:
Thank you for sarhing. I have been in this place for a while and feel I am beginning to come out of it. He is faithful and I have had to rely on what I know and not what I feel for a long time.

02/08/2012 @ 7:55 AM

2. inytpsvvphh wrote:
wV3c4K ltwkafjnyhaf

02/08/2012 @ 12:36 PM

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