Why Do We Sin?

By Harry R. Osborne

A few months ago, my youngest son Ryan did something he knew he should not have done. He then turned around to find me looking right at him. After a sudden look of sheer panic, he broke down crying and said, “Dad, I don’t know why I did it – I guess I just lost my mind!” I thought that was probably the best explanation he had ever given me for doing wrong.

Everyone seeks to find an explanation for wrong actions. Some shift the blame to someone else. Some say it was because they were not feeling well. Others claim it really was not wrong, but just another way of doing things. Calvinists contend that one cannot keep from sinning, hence, they believe we of necessity must sin so that God’s grace may abound. Yet another idea of why we do wrong came from the comedian Flip Wilson who used to be famous for the explanation, “The devil made me do it!”

God Not The Cause of Sin

When it comes to our guilt of wrong-doing before God (sin), how can we explain our action? Why do we sin? James discusses that question. He begins at the start of the problem with regard to our sin the temptation. Notice what he says:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (Jas. 1:13).

God is not responsible for our temptation. He is not enticed by the allurement of sin and, thus, cannot possibly tempt anyone else to sin. Sin is disgusting to God, not desirable. Throughout the Bible, God is seen as absolute in holiness. He is praised in the heavenly realms as “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8; see also Isa. 6:2). John clearly states the absolute nature of God’s holiness in these words:

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5).

Paul spoke of the same thing when he wrote of God as “dwelling in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). Knowing the character of God, the prophet Habakkuk prayed unto Him saying, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Hab. 1:13). Thus, we cannot explain our sin by blaming it on God.

Satan and Man Involved

What is the origin of temptation? In the garden of Eden, it was the devil who tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3). In Matthew 4:3, he is called “the tempter.” Throughout the Bible, Satan is seen as the ultimate origin of evil thoughts, desires and actions, While the devil does not make us sin, he certainly is involved in the temptation to sin.

However, Satan is not the only one who is involved in the temptation to sin. We have to desire the things of the devil before he can successfully tempt us to sin. Notice what James goes on to say regarding this subject:

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (Jas. 1:14).

If we would work at purging out the desires for the sinful things of Satan, we would be more successful in battling sin. We cannot possibly win our battle with sin as long as we let our minds go on desiring the ways of evil. We need to adopt the thoughts and values of our Lord. Peter put it this way:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:13-16).

Paul expressed the same points to the brethren at Colosse when he gave the following admonition:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth… Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Col. 3:1-5, 12-13).

The battle against sin is won or lost at the point of our minds. If we will be subject to God, we can resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). We do this by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly, looking to it for guidance (Col. 3:16-17). When we do, we will think upon those things which will produce peace rather than sin in our life (Phil. 4:8-9).

Consequence of Sin

But what if we lose that battle by “losing our mind”? What if we continue to desire the evil things of Satan? James answers that point when he goes on to add:

Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren (Jas. 1:15-16).

Sooner or later the desires of the mind come out into action. When those desires are for the evil things of Satan, the resulting action is sin. God’s word pictures our condition as those in our former -evil ways with the world “among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:3). The context goes on to show that in such a condition, we were spiritually dead and subject to the wrath of God.

Even from the beginning in the garden of Eden, God warned Adam and Eve that if they sinned, they would surely die. It has always been true and always will be true that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). In the present world, the sinner is spiritually dead being alienated from God, the source of spiritual life, because of his sins (Isa. 59:1-2). In the world to come, the sinner will suffer the eternal punishment of hell which is called “the second death” in Scripture:

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).


Let us resist the devil by making a fundamental change in our mind. If we lose our mind, we will not be able to resist the devil. Therefore, we must win the battle of the mind by restructuring our values, hopes and desires to conform to that which is stated within God’s word. This can be accomplished only as we diligently give ourselves to the study and meditation of our Bibles. After all, the Bible is the only medium through which God has revealed himself and his will for us.

As we seek to understand and apply that message of God to us, we will become more and more like him. The values, hopes and desires of the world will be replaced by those urged in God’s word. Each day will find us having less and less in common with the world and its sinful ways while we draw nearer and nearer to our Lord.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 14, pp. 419-420
July 16, 1992