Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (verses 9-11)
These verses speak right into our current world at a number of levels. It calls sin “sin.” In the western world, sexual sin has been minimized and debunked. Biblical standards of sexuality have been overturned. Paul doesn’t debate the issues, but simply assumes a biblical perspective, calling for sexual activity to be confined to a one man/ one woman marriage relationship. Anything otherwise is sin.
Interestingly, freedom of sexual expression would have been at least as open in 1st century Corinth as it is now in the western world. Paul freely lists some representative examples of sexual sin and names them as such.
But he doesn’t stop there. Without diminishing the intensity of his tone, Paul includes several other sins which are not nearly as high profile as those of the sexual variety. Thievery. Greed. Slander. Swindling. At least a couple of these are fairly common-place, garden-variety, found in good social circles, including those of the church. Are these really on par with the others?
“Greed is good,” Michael Douglas’ character opined in the movie Wallstreet. It fuels our current economy. It’s an intense, selfish-desire for more, certainly more than we’ve currently got. It leads quite naturally into covetousness, wanting others’ stuff for ourselves. It works against contentment, undermining trust in the Lord’s provision. It so easily infects those of us who live in the western world, even getting baptized with Christian theology into a “wealth gospel.”
Slander slips so easily and often from our lips when making comment about neighbours or co-workers or family members or fellow church-goers. It can be accomplished through stark, blatant statement or through subtle, eye-winking innuendo. It can be motivated by anger and hatred and bitterness, or simply by a desire to appear more “in the know” than someone else (“Did you hear about so-and-so?”).
Thievery happens when we take something that doesn’t belong to us. Like shoplifting, yes. But also fudging on income taxes, or claiming credit for something we didn’t do, or crossing the border without paying customs duty.
Swindling means to use deception and deceit to gain something that wouldn’t otherwise be ours. It applies to money gained by fraud. But what about social influence leveraged by name-dropping, or academic grades achieved through a ghost-writer, or control of a political process (in church or elsewhere) grasped by stoking fears and exaggerating potential problems?
The consequence for all these sins is exclusion from the Kingdom of God. Unless …
Unless there is repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name. This whole mix of offences are bundled up together, and the verdict declared: “Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Praise God. We can hear him declare that sin is “sin.” We can look in the mirror and spot the sin in us. And we can step forward and receive forgiveness for each and every wrong, through Jesus’ sacrificial death for us.
Thank you, Lord, that you see me and know me. You have searched my heart. You have seen my hidden faults. You have put your finger on sin in my life. You have washed me clean in Jesus’ name. Praise you.
Confess: Take time to confess any sin this passage brings to mind. Ask the Lord’s forgiveness. Receive his cleansing.