I’ve noticed that there are two “cardinal sins” that are objected to in our day: Sex and Greed. Few people are vocal about both sins. Rather, special interest groups, (political, religious, social, ethnic) shout about one while neglecting the other.
One side screams about the sexual sins we’ve systematically permitted and supported in our country (pornography, entertainment, family values, gay marriage, trafficking) that have been or will be our “downfall.”
One side screams about the financial sins we’ve systematically permitted and supported in our country (embezzlement, injustice, economic disparity, greed, heath care) that have been or will be our “downfall.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the validity of both sides and it led me to consider the following scriptures. I won’t write much. I’ll let the scriptures speak for themselves.
Separate But Equal Sins
First, I find it interesting that Paul would often list sexual sin and financial sin together. Theses sins are separate but equal in God’s eyes. Both condemn us to hell. “Such were some of us,” as Paul says. Such is some of our country.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:9-11
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:3-5
Secondly, both sins disqualify someone from being an elder (or leader) in the church. Paul tells Timothy and Titus to to examine potential leaders’ lives before appointing them as elders. They must be beyond reproach sexually and financially in order to be an elder.
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. I Timothy 3:2-4
An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus 1:6-8
Prostitutes and Tax Collectors
Finally, I love that Jesus spent time with both types of people: the sexually immoral and the financially immoral. Some of the most dramatic stories of life-change that we see in the gospels is Jesus renewing the lives of prostitutes and tax collectors. Both were hated by various groups of people, just as they are in our day, but welcomed by Jesus.
Can we, like Jesus, see both sins as devastatingly harmful for individuals and culture? Can we, like Jesus, call individuals and our culture to repentance while at the same time loving them? This is a task I am eager to embrace.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.