So, I’m having a bit of writer’s block on the novel, so I guess another day or two will pass before the next installment(s), though I think I’ll be picking up steam on that project again soon. In the meantime, I’ll go and get spiritual instead today, since Miz Pink seems to have dropped off the radar again temporarily (I blame the dang kid that insists on being changed and breastfed regularly…two activities that I’m sure make typing pretty near impossible).
So, what I want to talk about is the whole idea of sinful thoughts being as bad as sinful actions. A popular belief among many conservative, Bible-belting-you-over-the-head types.
A belief which, I have to say, is a total load of horsecrap.
Jesus talks about this notion a bit, supposedly, as chronicled in the Gospel of Matthew, and here’s one snippet:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew chapter 5, verses 27 & 28)
Now, by way of an aside, there’s an interesting discussion about what adultery really means, right here, but you can look at that later. It doesn’t have any bearing on my arguments here. Also, before I start making my arguments, I’ll remind those of you who are still confusing me with a theologian that I’m neither a linguist nor biblical scholar, so take my ravings here with an appropriate dosage of salt.
I don’t think that Jesus’ argument was really that thinking about sex outside of marriage, for example, or thinking about killing (which he mentions right before the adultery thing), for instance, are as sinful as actually doing the acts.
First, Jesus talks about the heart, not the mind. That is, we’re talking about true feelings. Intense motions. Intentions. Not mere passing thoughts. Fact is, as humans, it’s pretty much impossible to never look at someone with sexual desire. Flat out impossible. The issue is more this: Did you think about sinful activity with a real fervor and serious consideration about doing it?
If so, there is where your sin may lie.
But more to the point, perhaps, let’s look at the context in which Jesus is speaking. This was the ancient world. People didn’t typically live in cities, and cities of the time were still much smaller affairs than what we have today. Therefore, to look at, say, a woman with serious lust was a problem in part because this is a woman you have access to.
If I look lustfully upon a woman on the commuter train of a major city, chances are I won’t really have a chance to act on my desires. I don’t know where she works. I don’t know where she lives. The most pressing danger of “sinful” fantasies is that you might actually act out the sin. In the ancient world, looking at some dude’s wife with lust meant you might have a very real chance, regardless of which woman in town you chose, of knowing how to find her and giving yourself an opportunity.
So, the mere thinking of a thing isn’t sinful.
Because, let’s face it, if that were the case, good intentions would be enough to save us in the eyes of God. Because if thoughts are as good as actions, then wanting to do something good is just as powerful as actually taking action, right?
Of course not. We are supposed to take positive actions, not simply intend or wish them.
Finally, another nail in the coffin of the notion of sinful thoughts being as bad as sinful actions: Jesus thought sinful things.
Oh, don’t get ready to stone my ass, now. Satan tempted Jesus. Jesus led a sinless life, despite knowing the power and allure of sin. Jesus couldn’t possibly have gone his whole life without considering the possibility and implications and consequences of doing a sinful act. He had to be capable to considering the possibility of sin, or he couldn’t be tempted. He had to know what it felt like to desire things that were wrong, or he couldn’t have understood his human side. Plus, if he was incapable of even considering sin, then what was the big deal about his sinless life? If it was some cakewalk for him, then the whole exercise meant nothing.
Just because you think a thing doesn’t make it so.
Nor does it define your true intentions.