Views from a Branch: Why is God so Hard on Sin?


Lord’s Library contributor Jared Helms offers views from a branch and answers the question: “Why is God so hard on sin” with commentary and key Bible verses. Check out Jared’s YouTube channel and two blogs: A Light in the Darkness and Blind Faith Examples. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeWhy is God so hard on sin? It is a theological question that arises more from our experiences than from our theological curiosity, I think. After all, in each day of our lives here on Earth we deal with the consequences of the curse laid against the original sin. All Eve and Adam did was eat some fruit, and now our work is difficult, childbearing is painful, our relationships are complicated, our bodies and minds are vulnerable and deteriorating, and we shall all surely die. There is more to the ravages of sin and the curse, effects that reach the very center of our beings. So of course, we are going to wonder why we have to contend with all of this.

There is a very famous clip where the late R.C. Sproul is faced with this question and responds with a question of his own, “What’s wrong with you people?!” You can find this clip here at about the 23:20 mark. He was serious, even though the moment is often held up as humor. It is not funny just as our plight under the curse is not funny. Sproul goes on to observe that what is wrong with us is that we have lost our perspective, and so to our grip on reality.

As a result, we have been locked into a cycle of self-pity and helplessness that leaves us immobilized as we ask the wrong question over and over again. We are like a man trapped in a cage who has failed to notice the key to the cage is lying at his feet.

Let me show you what I mean.

The Gospel

Why is God so Hard on Sin?

Upon eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve are immediately confronted with the realization that they are naked. They have come to understand what evil is and what it has done to them. They are painfully aware there is a problem. They are even aware that their fig leaf coverings are not good enough. They understand there is a problem that needs to be solved.

Might hard work deliver them? No, for work is cursed with toil and futility so that man will be ever-reminded he cannot work his own way out of the situation. Fulfillment and deliverance will never come out of work alone. Work will sustain life for a time, but all that time it will confront us with the same old problem.

Well, perhaps through our offspring we will be delivered? God does make a great promise through the Seed of the Woman. Alas though, childbearing is also cursed and the full meaning of the curse comes to light in the tragic story of Cain and Able. Just as the first parents failed, so also their children down to this current generation: save for One.

Well then, maybe through human love we can find relief. No, for the trust of marriage, the first and most foundational human relationship, was well and truly broken. Relationships, even the most loving are cursed with difficulties now so that they will never fully satisfy.

Do you see? We cannot turn to our own ability. We cannot turn to our future. We can not even turn to each other. Where have we left to turn? We must turn somewhere because we have only a limited time to find salvation via the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Death is coming, and injury, disease, and aging remind us of this. We cannot escape the issue. God alone is left to resolve it; He promises even here to do so through the persona and work of Jesus Christ. Every aspect of the curse draws our focus to Christ.

As Adam and Eve set forth from the garden, God himself clothes them, covering them and providing protection. It is a foretaste of what is coming, what in our time has come about. Is the curse harsh? It may feel so, but that feeling is meant to drive us to the grace of God which is on display in the aftermath of the first sin. Apart from sin, we would not know God’s grace, or His mercy, nor how truly awesome His love for us is. See Romans 5:8:

  • Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Sproul was right that we have forgotten who God is, and consequently who we are. We have no grounds to complain of the punishment given for no other reason than that the grace offered far exceeds it. God has not been overly harsh with us; His discipline exists to draw us back to Him. When we turn back to Him, we find Him joyous at our return, welcoming us in. See Luke 15:11-32:

  • Luke 15:11-32: “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

We are harsh on ourselves when we give ourselves to work, relationships, or vague and vain future hopes for salvation. We lock ourselves into the cage of wanton suffering to preserve our own pride. It is not God we should question, but ourselves. The real reason we so often feel that God has dealt unfairly with us is that we want it our way, and He has refused to let us have that. He has refused to let us go without consequences for the very simple reason that He would not see us go. See Ezekiel 18:32, 1 Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9:

  • Ezekiel 18:32: “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:4: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

God had every right to obliterate this creature of dirt at the very instance of his disobedience, but He did not. Adam lived another day after his fall: quite a few actually. We also deserve death, but we go on living. And if we see God for who He really is, and accept what He has truly done by sending the seed of the woman to be killed on a cross, taking the full wraith which we deserved, and satisfying God’s holy justice, then we can live forever in perfect harmony with God.

God’s wrath against sin is demanded by its direct assault on His divine majesty; but also, by its damaging effect on humanity. The punishment is unavoidable, but it is set in just such a way that we are led through it back to the God who alone could satisfy justice and offer us a pardon, restoration, and even adoption by grace through faith. It is the good news that comes immediately with the bad news.

See Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

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Jared Helms
Jared Helms

Jared Helms

Jared received his Bachelor of Arts from Bryan College in 2012, and his Masters of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Tennessee. Most importantly, Jared has walked with Christ most of his life. His interests extend from theology to church history, but he is particularly passionate about ecclesiology and homiletics.

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