Besetting Sins

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” Mark 9:43

Have you ever heard the expression “besetting sin”? It’s an old fashioned phrase used to describe a sinful trait or tendency that you just don’t seem to be able to find a way to get victory over. Most commonly these sins fall into the category of sins of appetite. You know things like: tobacco, alcohol, or substance addictions. Perhaps it could even include inappropriate forms of amusement or entertainment whose lure seems to be a siren call too seductive to withstand. Still others find that this kind of sin falls more in the inability to moderate their choices than in the appropriateness of the choice as a whole. Over eating is an example of this type of besetting sin.

Many times when we read the passages where Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off,” we’re addressing this type of sinful action and while it’s certainly important for us to be vigilant in choosing to behave righteously, this isn’t the specific type of besetting sin Jesus is addressing.

The verse immediately preceding the passage instructing us to remove from our lives anything that would cause us to sin addresses the necessity of being vigilant to ensure that we don’t cause God’s little children to stumble. Jesus is trying to impress upon his disciples the importance of living lives that are sensitive to the needs of others. So important is this that he says it would be better to be crippled than it would be to be a person that would cause others to stumble in their walk with God.

It’s tragically funny how we tend to make everything all about us. Maybe that’s why we struggle so much to live Christlike lives. Perhaps if we’d followed Jesus’ lead and live our lives wholly to be a blessing to others we’d fill our lives so full of goodness that we wouldn’t have so much trouble with the other kinds of besetting sins.

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