When does a thought become a sin?


I am sorry to bother you again with another letter, but I have a lot on my mind. If you remember I had written you a few weeks ago about a bad thought I had in a moment of frustration about selling my soul. Again I know that the thought was wrong, but I had read in one of your other letters about bad thoughts. You had written because that person realized that the thought was wrong that is what was important.

The problem is that even though this happened over two months ago it is still ripping me to pieces. I have since confided in many people trying to find answers. One person said that a thought only becomes a sin when you viciously think about it and try to justify it. So does that mean that because I rejected the thought immediately mean that I didn't sell my soul?  A pastor told me that a person can only sell their soul by willfully rejecting Christ and living a life of unrepentant sin. What do you think?

I admit I am not perfect. I am indeed a sinner, but the idea that I would actually want to sell my soul is very hard for me to accept. I have been reading my Bible a lot more trying to find comfort and answers. One passage that stuck out was Mark 7:21-23. Would you mind elaborating on the passage?

After talking about this problem with a friend of mine she suggested Romans 8:26. Does this mean that the Spirit talks to the Father on our behalf on what's really going on in our hearts?

I may have already said this but when I pray to God I ask Him to forgive me for thinking that thought and to forgive me if any part of me (no matter how small) meant it. The one thing I am sure about is that I am sorry for thinking that thought. I guess what's bothering me if I need to ask forgiveness for more than that.

Again, I appreciate all of your help and I hope to hear from you soon.


You make no distinction between being tempted to sin and desiring to sin. "And He said, "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). Jesus points out that sins originate within people. A murderer doesn't commit murder without first thinking about his hatred for another person and perhaps even plotting ways to commit the murder and get away with it. If a person only battles with himself over not actually committing the act of murder, then he has lost because what is within him will eventually come to the surface. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:14-15).

But in order to get a person to sin, Satan has to get a person to think about the sin. Thinking about a sin is merely being tempted, and being tempted is not sinning. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). So you had a foolish thought about selling your soul, you realized that it was wrong and turned against it. That is what everyone is supposed to do.

However, in rejecting the foolish thought, you backed right into another trap. Satan has you convinced that just thinking about something sinful is in itself a sin. Since you can't stop yourself from thinking, you endlessly condemn yourself. Look at you. It has been two months since you had a foolish thought, and you are still beating yourself up over it. What happened to your faith? Do you not believe that God forgives? "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:8-9). You are telling yourself and everyone around you that God is unable to forgive you of one foolish thought that you had rejected anyway. I know that the Lord God Almighty is greater than one weak-willed young man and I know that He always keeps His promises. If you asked God for forgiveness of any sin, God is faithful to forgive that sin. But you are refusing to believe God. It is here that you are actually walking the path of sin.

"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27).

Paul is saying that even when we don't know how to properly express ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit aids us. God searches our hearts, "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:10). God doesn't just look at what a person does. He gives consideration why a person acts as he does. He looks at a person's thoughts and his motivations; thus, taking the full measure of each man.