Sin is a very big idea in the Bible, and most people seem to misunderstand it, so it’s something we need to know about truthfully. Sin is defined in a few different ways, but you’ll catch a common theme quickly.
Deone Drake defines sin as thinking, doing, or being anything that demonstrates a dissatisfaction with God.
Gary Anderson says, “There are many metaphors in circulation about sin, but the one that gets 80-90% of the textual space [in the Bible] pictures sin as a weight or burden that has to be carried. And so, in many texts in the Old Testament, forgiveness is conceived of as taking away a burden.”
The word “sin” in the New Testament means “to miss the mark; err; swerve from truth and right; go wrong.”
I think you’re getting the idea. People seem to think it’s doing something bad (which isn’t too far off the mark), and they think if they’re generally good people, sin really doesn’t matter that much. After all, most of aren’t criminals, right? That’s where they’re missing the boat.
The Bible explains that sin is our nature as much as it is our behavior (Romans 7.25 and others). In other words, we don’t just do sin, we are sin, as much as a cat is a cat and a dog is a dog. A dog acts like a dog, but even he meows, he’s still a dog, y’know. We may learn to be good people, for our own sake, to please others, or for the good of society. Whatever. Sin is our nature—it’s what we are. So even though you may be a good person, you still have sin in you because if you’re human, you’re sin.
Now add to that that even if you’re not doing wrong, but you don’t do the good that you ought to do—that’s sin too (James 4.17). Remember the time when your brother was lying to your parents, and you knew he was lying, but you didn’t say anything? Yeah, maybe you thought you were helping your brother, but what you did was wrong. In a way, you were being an accomplice and were guilty of lying too, because you let the lie stand.
We also find out from the Bible that sin separates us from God. God is life and holiness. Sin is death and depravity. So God doesn’t have any sin in him; but since we do, it separates us from him, just as the same poles of two magnets can’t be put together.
Well, you still may think you’re a pretty good person, and maybe you are, but even the smallest amount of sin matters. Let me put it this way: if you have a glass of sewage (ew!), would you drink it? No. Yikes. It’s SEWAGE. OK, but what if have a glass of water, and only a quarter of it is sewage. Pretty good water, right? Would you drink it? Ew, no—it’s SEWAGE.
What are some sins? The biggest one in the Bible is pride. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. There’s also greed, anger, lying, cheating, stealing, envy, jealousy, disobedience to parents, and a long list of other things. Whatever is not like God. Unfaithfulness, disloyalty, dishonesty. That’s what sin is.