Question:

Based on Matthew 15:19 and James 1:13-15, does all sin begin in the hearts and minds of people? When thinking about a possible transgression, should we put our desires and motives under consideration? Should we blame any outside influence or are our sinful hearts the greater concern when it comes to sin?


Answer:

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man" (Matthew 15:19-20).

"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren" (James 1:13-16).

It is difficult to sin without first thinking about what you plan to do. It is possible do something wrong and not realize it was sinful because of poor teaching, but even generally isn't without thought. "Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression" (Psalms 19:13). Presumption is when you assume something is right without checking. In truth, it is a form of arrogance because you conclude that whatever you think must be right.

We should act with proper motives, but at the same time, good intentions does not make a sin righteous. Uzzah's death makes a good illustration of this concept (II Samuel 6:1-7). Uzzah was driving the Ark of the Covenant on a cart. The Ark started to topple and Uzzah reached out to steady it. Touching the ark was forbidden (Numbers 4:15). While his intentions were good, his actions remained wrong. For that matter, he was already sinning by moving the ark with a cart. David "said to them, "You are the heads of the fathers' households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance"" (II Chronicles 15:12-13).

There are influences throughout the world that encourages people to sin, but the choice still remains the individual's choice. "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). The person who encourages sin bears responsibility for his part, but that doesn't excuse the person who chose to sin. Both face the judgment of God. Thus, though Satan influenced Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve suffered for her choice to listen to Satan and Adam suffered for his choice to listen to his wife.