Q&A – Is being tempted a sin?

Q:        I have a question. In one part of a sermon it was said that thinking evil thoughts is not a sin but what you do with them and whether or not you act on them. I’m confused by this. Were you talking about ANY thoughts? Like feeling jealous of your neighbor or fantasizing about your neighbor? Please help me understand this.

I came across this in Matthew 5;28 “But here is what I tell you. Do not even look at a woman in the wrong way. Anyone who does has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Do I sin if I have an evil thought, or only if I act on it?

p.s and for the record, I’m not fantasizing about my neighbor…..:)

A:        Thanks for your email. I believe that we receive thoughts from 3 places…Ourselves, God, and the enemy. Thoughts from God are what we need to listen to and act on. We can receive thoughts/temptations from the enemy that we must recognize, avoid, and fight against. Finally, we have our own thoughts that we must also control and deal with based on the truth of scripture.

When we are tempted to do something wrong that in and of itself is not sin. If we dwell and fantasize on that thought and choose to desire that thing that we are tempted with it will become sin. In other words, if I have a thought about my neighbor, that one thought is not sin. If I choose to embrace that thought and let it consume my mind, that thought will turn to lust and that is sin. The book of James says “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

James says that it is giving into that sinful desire and allowing the desire to be birthed in us that is sin. There are going to be times where we are tempted with thoughts. But being tempted by something is not a sin. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are and yet was without sin. That means that Jesus was tempted by certain thoughts, but instead of fantasizing and being controlled by those thoughts and temptations, He controlled those thoughts and kept His mind pure and free from sin.

I think the most important part in understanding this issue is that We are told in scripture to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Taking our thoughts captive, comparing them to scripture is the best way to handle thoughts no matter where they come from. I hope I have answered your questions. Let me know if I can help you with anything else.

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