Question:

What are sins made by thinking? You know, mental sins. I know God can read all of our thoughts.

Answer:

The simplest definition of sin is that sin is breaking God's law. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Sins of the heart (an older way of talking about sinning in your thoughts) occur when you think about and desire to break a law of God but the lack of opportunity or the fear of getting caught is stopping you.

Jesus illustrated it with looking at a woman. It is one thing to look at a woman and think "she's pretty." It is another thing to look at a woman with a desire to have sex with her. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Jesus' point is that sin is not restricted to just the physical action of breaking God's law. When a person strongly wants to do something that breaks God's law, that is just as much a sin as actually doing it. To God there is no difference between wanting to break His law, but you are able to yet, and actually breaking His law. That is why we are warned that God judges us by what we do and what are the motives behind what we do and do not do. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (I Corinthians 4:5).

Sins in the heart are not limited to sexual sins. Any sin desired is wrong. "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:20-23).

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

What I meant is this: You see a guy wearing a shirt that you do not like, and in your mind you say "What an ugly shirt." Is this a sin? Or when someone gets you mad and you insult him in your head because you were mad, but later you realized that you did not mean it. Is it just a misunderstanding or simply your thoughts slipped in your head.

If you never had a wrong thought, Satan would find it impossible to tempt people to sin. A person has to think something first before they have a chance to follow that thought with a "No, that's wrong." Those thoughts are not lust or sinful because there is no strong desire to do it anyway even though it is a sin. It is when a person strongly wants to do what he should have rejected when the thought first came up is when sin is involved.

Now looking at a shirt and thinking it's ugly is not a sin. There is no law against having a preference for certain styles or colors. It can become sinful if we taunt someone for not have the same preferences as ourself. That is not treating another person with respect.

Insulting another person is usually wrong because it doesn't solve a problem. You don't fix a wrong with another wrong. As hard as it is, the solution to someone doing us evil is to do them good. "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

In both examples sin did not occur because in both cases the thoughts were rejected.

I am not referring to lust or temptations. I mean if you think bad about someone or you crack a joke about someone for fun, but not really meaning it. Or if you see a girl walking by and you think she is ugly or something.

I asking this because they say thatyou can sin by looking bad at someone.

Perhaps we should straighten out a few terms. Sin means one of God's laws have been broken. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). In fact, without a law to be broken there is no sin. "For the law works wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience" (Romans 4:15). In other words, God doesn't hold a person accountable for sinning if He never stated that something was wrong.

Therefore, if we are to say that thoughts of opinion, such as someone looks ugly to you or you don't hold a person in high regard, we must establish what law is being broken. Someone saying they believe it to be bad isn't enough evidence.

This is a guess on my part, but I suspect people are recalling the term "an evil eye" out of the list of sins in Mark 7:20-23. The term actually refers to someone who is envious of another. It is a person who looks at another person wanting what they have, thinking that it really ought to belong to them. Thus, "A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him" (Proverbs 28:22), is a reference to people we would say is trying to keep up with the Jones'. He gets things, not so much because he needs them as that if Jim down the street has one then he must have the same or better. The result is the person wastes his wealth. It even happens to countries. One of the contributing factors to the Soviet Union, according to historians, is that they bankrupted themselves in trying to keep up and past the United States in technology. When then President Reagan announced that the United States was going to speed up its defensive weapons development, it pushed the Soviet Union over the edge financially. But behind it all was envy of one group for what another group had.

Now the Bible does say we are not to hold ill-will toward another person. In the Old Law God said, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:18). In the New Law the same thought is expressed as, "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10).

This doesn't mean we can't hate the evil that another person does. For example David said concerning the wicked, "For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies" (Psalm 139:20-22). But when we have an opportunity deal with the wicked, we don't use evil against them, we slay them with kindness. "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

Cracking a joke is a bit different in that you've actually opened your mouth to do something. Jokes are fine when the other person appreciates the joke. However, too many people say things that are mean and insulting, but then excuse their bad behavior by saying "I was only joking." "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, "I was only joking!"" (Proverbs 26:18-19). Such "jokes" aren't funny to be person on the receiving end. They are hurt. Some cover up their hurt by laughing along with you, but it still remains that they were hurt. Hurting another person, even in jest, is not love for your neighbor. "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification" (Romans 5:2). "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).