History records the first sin of Adam and Eve. That sin was pride and disobedience. By listening to satan and disobeying God, they hoped to become like God, knowing the difference between right and wrong. Their punishment for that sin was to be banished from the beautiful garden, and to endure suffering in their lives. We are all still living with the effects of that sin from our first parents. What the devil didn’t say was that if you sin enough, then you lose the ability to distinguish between good and evil. This effect of sin is so prevalent in our society today, where abortion, the killing off of our next generation, is now seen as a human right, and is called by the innocuous name of “choice”. The bible says that the punishment for our own sins today can be handed down to the fourth generation, to our great grandchildren. It is amazing to think that we today can be suffering for the sins of our great grandparents. The really good news is that the bible also says that God rewards down to the thousandth generation for those that truly love Him.
The next recorded sin in the Bible was the murder of Abel, by his own brother, Cain. Cain was jealous of Abel, because Abel’s offering to God was better than his. Rather than blaming himself for his inadequate offering, Cain took it out on his brother. How often today do we repeat this sin. Things that go wrong are never our fault for not doing enough. So we try to drag down others, either through word or deed. Cain’s punishment for spilling the blood of Abel on the ground was that the ground would no longer yield produce for him, and he would be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.
The Old Testament is full of stories of sin:
It’s good for us to take a look at these sins, and to see the punishment that God meted out in each case:
The lesson from all of this is that there is a payback for sin, (what goes around, comes around) and the payback is worse than the original sin itself. The problem is that we don’t see sin as something tangible, which has a debt attached to it. It’s like a credit card that runs up a balance; the balance has to be paid back, with a LOT of interest, at some point. We humans can’t see it, but it is still there nonetheless. Sin is also like a boomerang – You throw it, and it feels great. Then, when you least expect it, it comes back full circle and hits you in the back of the head, harder than when you threw it. And the deadlier the sin, the deadlier the payback.
There is a false teaching in some churches that there is no debt for sin, and that Jesus paid it all back on the cross. This is obviously not true because there is still suffering in the world, and that suffering is a direct result of our sins. Jesus did pay back the debt for sin, but that payment opened the gates of heaven so that we could enter. The Old Testament “saved” were still in prison at the time of the crucifixion, and Jesus went to preach the gospel to them in their spiritual prison after his death (1 Peter 3:19). The gates of heaven are still open for us now, but we each have to pick up our cross as individuals and follow Jesus in (Matthew 16:24).
How do we overcome sin, especially the sins of our ancestors which may still be afflicting us? Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are three great ways, along with the frequent reception of Holy Communion, where we become, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, living tabernacles of Jesus Christ. Eating the fruit of the cross, which is the body and blood of Jesus, therefore overcomes the sin of Adam and Eve, who ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Prayer immediately after Holy Communion is the most powerful prayer, because at that moment, Jesus abides in us, and we in him (John 6:56). And all of this needs to be done from the heart, rather than from the brain. Our prayer has to be as specific as possible. While we don’t know all of the sins of our ancestors, we need to ask forgiveness for their sins that we do know, and leave the rest to God, who knows all. Frequent confession and penance is also life-giving. While confession removes the sin, there is still the debt to be paid. It’s like removing a nail from wood. Confession removes the nail, but there is still a hole in the wood that has to be filled in. Penance and sacrifice fill in that hole.
Indulgences, or the remission of penalty due to sin, may be obtained from the Church if the penitent fulfills the obligations for the indulgence. A full indulgence, or plenary indulgence, may be obtained if the penitent goes to confession within 8 days of performing the indulgenced act, receives Holy Communion that day, prays for the intentions of the Pope, AND HAS NO ATTACHMENT TO SIN. The last condition is the hardest one to fulfill, but saying your rosary every day and asking for this grace every day will surely help you to achieve this goal. The indulgence has to be requested of God by the penitent, and it may be applied to you or to someone you love (by your request) in purgatory. If all of these conditions are not met, then a partial indulgence only is obtained. This is important to achieve in this life, because the pains of purgatory are a lot worse than any pain and suffering in this life. The church has the authority to grant indulgences under the binding and loosing power that Jesus gave it in Matthew 18:18. The most obvious biblical example of an indulgence is when Jesus told the good thief on the cross that he would be with him in Paradise that day, even though the thief had committed many sins. He was fully repentant for them, however, and he asked Jesus to remember him after death. So please think twice the next time you are tempted to sin. Not only will you be required to pay back the penalty for your sin, but your kids, your grandkids, and your great grandchildren may also suffer because of your lack of control.
It is important to remember that there are 2 ways to be sorry for sin. One way, the imperfect way, is to be sorry for committing a sin because we could go to hell. The best way, the perfect way, to be sorry for sin is to fear offending Almighty God. Perfect contrition of our sins leads to perfect forgiveness of them from God. And never forget that people who are baptized have all of their sins forgiven immediately, as well as the temporal punishment due them. And there are also 2 kinds of sin - The evil things we do (the sin of commission), and the good things that we fail to do (sin of omission).
Every sin we commit is like joining with the Roman soldiers in spitting on Jesus' face. Every sin we commit adds weight to Jesus' cross. Every sin we commit is another lash with the whip for Jesus. Every sin we commit is a nail in Jesus' body. Venial sins are like having our souls covered with manure. Mortal sins are like our souls committing suicide so that they can be tortured in hell forever.
Some great biblical references to the horror of committing sin are as follows:
Genesis 19:24-25: Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
1 Samuel 31:4: Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and make sport of me." But his armor-bearer would not; for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword, and fell upon it.
2 Samuel 12:7-14: Nathan said to David, "You are the man. Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the LORD, `Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.”
(**NOTE – David was forgiven for his sin, but STILL had to pay the penalty for that sin, the death of his son. He could have used a plenary indulgence here).
Genesis 29: 21-26: Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed." So Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have one to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?" Laban said, "It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born.
Exodus 1:8-14: Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ramses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigor.
Numbers 14:18: `The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.'
Deuteronomy 5:9: you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
Deuteronomy 7:9: Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.
1 Kings 11:11-12: Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.
2 Maccabees 6:12-16: Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately, is a sign of great kindness. For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Though he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people
(**NOTE - "Other nations" would include the USA and the rest of the nations in today's world.)
Luke 11:48-51: So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, `I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation
Matthew 23:30-36: saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
Matthew 5:25-26: Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
(**Note - Here is that prison again, only this time it's a New Testament prison, or purgatory. Not getting out until the last penny is paid is a useless phrase if it is referring to heaven (no one ever wants to get out of heaven) or to hell (no one can ever escape from hell). The only possible reference here is to the temporal punishment for our sins where we undergo the purification of purgatory)
1 Corinthians 6:18: Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body.
1 John 5:16: If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.
St. John Vianney's sermon on sin...
Sin is the executioner of the good God, and the assassin of the soul. It snatches us away from Heaven to precipitate us into Hell. And we love it! What folly! If we thought seriously about it, we should have such a lively horror of sin that we could not commit it. O my children, how ungrateful we are! The good God wishes to make us happy; that is very certain; He gave us His Law for no other end. The Law of God is great; it is broad. King David said that he found his delight in it, and that it was a treasure more precious to him than the greatest riches. He said also that he walked at large, because he had sought after the Commandments of the Lord. The good God wishes, then, to make us happy, and we do not wish to be so. We turn away from Him, and give ourselves to the devil! We fly from our Friend, and we seek after our murderer! We commit sin; we plunge ourselves into the mire. Once sunk in this mire, we know not how to get out. If our fortune were in the case, we should soon find out how to get out of the difficulty; but because it only concerns our soul, we stay where we are.
We come to confession quite preoccupied with the shame that we shall feel. We accuse ourselves by steam. It is said that many confess, and few are converted. I believe it is so, my children, because few confess with tears of repentance. See, the misfortune is, that people do not reflect. If one said to those who work on Sundays, to a young person who had been dancing for two or three hours, to a man coming out of an alehouse drunk, "What have you been doing? You have been crucifying Our Lord!" they would be quite astonished, because they do not think of it. My children, if we thought of it, we should be seized with horror; it would be impossible for us to do evil. For what has the good God done to us that we should grieve Him thus, and put Him to death afresh -- Him, who has redeemed us from Hell? It would be well if all sinners, when they are going to their guilty pleasures, could, like Saint Peter, meet Our Lord on the way, who would say to them, "I am going to that place where thou art going thyself, to be there crucified afresh. " Perhaps that might make them reflect.
The saints understood how great an outrage sin is against God. Some of them passed their lives in weeping for their sins. Saint Peter wept all his life; he was still weeping at his death. Saint Bernard used to say, "Lord! Lord! it is I who fastened Thee to the Cross!" By sin we despise the good God, we crucify the good God! What a pity it is to lose our souls, which have cost Our Lord so many sufferings! What harm has Our Lord done us, that we should treat Him so? If the poor lost souls could come back to the earth! if they were in our place! Oh, how senseless we are! the good God calls us to Him, and we fly from Him! He wishes to make us happy, and we will not have His happiness. He commands us to love Him, and we five our hearts to the devil. We employ in ruining ourselves the time He fives us to save our souls. We make war upon Him with the means He gave us to serve Him.
When we offend the good God, if we were to look at our crucifix, we should hear Our Lord saying to us in the depths of our soul, "Wilt thou too, then, take the side of My enemies? Wilt thou crucify Me afresh?" Cast your eyes on Our Lord fastened to the Cross, and say to yourself, "That is what it cost my Saviour to repair the injury my sins have done to God!" A God coming down to earth to be the victim of our sins, a God suffering, a God dying, a God enduring every torment, because He would bear the weight of our crimes! At the sight of the Cross, let us understand the malice of sin, and the hatred we ought to feel for it. Let us enter into ourselves; let us see what we can do to make amends for our poor life.
"What a pity it is!" the good God will say to us at our death; "why hast thou offended Me -Me, who loved thee so much?" To offend the good God, who has never done us anything but good; to please the devil, who can never do us anything but evil! What folly! Is it not real folly to choose to make ourselves worthy of Hell by attaching ourselves to the devil. when we might taste the joys of Heaven, even in this life, by uniting ourselves to God by love? One cannot understand this folly; it cannot be enough lamented. Poor sinners seem as if they could not wait for the sentence which will condemn them to the society of the devils; they condemn themselves to it. There is a sort of foretaste in this life of Paradise, of Hell, and of Purgatory. Purgatory is in those souls that are not dead to themselves; Hell is in the heart of the impious; Paradise in that of the perfect, who are closely united to Our Lord.
He who lives in sin takes up the habits and the appearance of the beasts. The beast, which has not reason, knows nothing but its appetites. So the man who makes himself like the beasts loses his reason, and lets himself be guided by the inclinations of his body. He takes his pleasure in good eating and drinking, and in enjoying the vanities of the world, which pass away like the wind. I pity the poor wretches who run after that wind; they gain very little, they live a great deal for very little profit -- they live their eternity for the miserable smoke of the world.
My children, how sad it is! when a soul is in a state of sin, it may die in that state; and even now, whatever it can do is without merit before God. That is the reason why the devil is so pleased when a soul is in sin, and perseveres in it, because he thinks that it is working for him, and if it were to die he would have possession of it. When we are in sin, our soul is all diseased, all rotten; it is pitiful. The thought that the good God sees it ought to make it enter into itself. And then, what pleasure is there in sin? None at all. We have frightful dreams that the devil is carrying us away, that we are falling over precipices. Put yourself on good terms with God; have recourse to the Sacrament of Penance; you will sleep as quietly as an angel. You will be glad to waken in the night, to pray to God; you will have nothing but thanksgivings on your lips; you will rise I towards Heaven with great facility, as an eagle soars through the air.
See, my children, how sin degrades man; of an angel created to love God, it makes a demon who will curse Him for eternity. Ah! if Adam, our first father, had not sinned, and if we did not sin every day, how happy we should be! we should be as happy as the saints in Heaven. There would be no more unhappy people on the earth. Oh, how beautiful it would be! In fact, my children, it is sin that brings upon us all calamities, all scourges, war, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, fires, frost, hail, storms -- all that afflicts us, all that makes us miserable. See, my children, a person who is in a state of sin is always sad. Whatever he does, he is weary and disgusted with everything; while he who is at peace with God is always happy, always joyous. . . . Oh, beautiful life! Oh, beautiful death!
My children, we are afraid of death; I can well believe it. It is sin that makes us afraid of death; it is sin that renders death frightful, formidable; it is sin that terrifies the wicked at the hour of the fearful passage. Alas! O God! there is reason enough to be terrified, to think that one is accursed -- accursed of God! It makes one tremble. Accursed of God! and why? for what do men expose themselves to be accursed of God? For a blasphemy, for a bad thought, for a bottle of wine, for two minutes of pleasure! For two minutes of pleasure to lose God, one's soul, Heaven forever! We shall see going up to Heaven, in body and soul, that father, that mother, that sister, that neighbour, who were here with us, with whom we have lived, but whom we have not imitated; while we shall go down body and soul to burn in Hell. The devils will rush to overwhelm us. All the devils whose advice we followed will come to torment us.
My children, if you saw a man prepare a great pile of wood, heaping up fagots one upon another, and when you asked him what he was doing, he were to answer you, "I am preparing the fire that is to burn me, " what would you think? And if you saw this same man set fire to the pile, and when it was lighted throw himself upon it, what would you say? This is what we do when we commit sin. It is not God who casts us into Hell; we cast ourselves into it by our sins. The lost souls will say, "I have lost God, my soul, and Heaven; it is through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault!" He will raise himself out of the fire only to fall back into it. He will always feel the desire of rising because he was created for God, the greatest, the highest of beings, the Most High . . . as a bird shut up in a room flies to the ceiling, and falls down again, the justice of God is the ceiling which keeps down the lost.
There is no need to prove the existence of Hell. Our Lord Himself speaks of it, when He relates the history of the wicked rich man who cried out, "Lazarus! Lazarus!" We know very well that there is a Hell, but we live as if there were not; we sell our souls for a few pieces of money. We put off our conversion till the hour of death; but who can assure us that we shall have time or strength at that formidable moment, which has been feared by all the saints -- when Hell will gather itself up for a last assault upon us, seeing that it is the decisive moment? There are many people who lose the faith, and never see Hell till they enter it. The Sacraments are administered to them; but ask them if they have committed such a sin, and they will answer you, "Oh! settle that as you please. "
Some people offend the good God every moment; their heart is an anthill of sins: it is like a spoilt piece of meat, half-eaten by worms. . . No, indeed; if sinners were to think of eternity -- of that terrible forever -- they would be converted instantly.