To be careless in any area of life is to gamble with disaster. But in order to not be careless someone has to be cautious. Being cautious is not exactly the most celebrated trait in our culture today. However, not being cautious is driving down the road of carelessness to disaster. If cautiousness does not characterize our culture in general, it certainly does not characterize our culture’s approach to sin. In fact, our culture has a hard time identifying what exactly that word means: Sin? The closest that our culture comes to defining something as sin is when it condemns those who attempt to identify what God has said is sin in His Word.
The Bible does not leave us guessing as to what sin is:
1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
Of course this verse assumes many things. If sin is lawlessness then there must be a law and there must be a lawgiver. Both of those assumptions are explicitly taught throughout Scripture. But the key to understanding sin is that the law and the Lawgiver are both One. God is the lawgiver but you cannot separate His law from who He is. Sin is evil because it is against God, the God who made us for Himself and is sustaining us for Himself. We owe to Him our existence and every good thing we have ever received from Him. Therefore to violate the will of God is to sin in a way that is worse than any sin you or I have ever committed against anyone else in this world. In fact, whenever you sin against anyone else in this world, that is ultimately a sin against God. The heinousness of sin is not ultimately what it does to others (though those results certainly are heinous), the heinousness of sin is that any wrong doing that we are guilty of is an assault against God Himself-it is cosmic treason. God’s Word is clear that we were born with a nature that was treasonous against God and we have lived lives that are full of treason against Him who loves us and made us for Himself. But God who is the Lawgiver is also the judge. Because He Himself is the Lawgiver-Judge and that law is inseparable from Himself then He can provide a way for His justice to be righteously satisfied. In fact, He has provided a way that we might be pardoned of this treason and granted a permanent standing of innocence before Him. All of this comes through what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross:
2 Corinthians 5:21 He [God] made Him [Jesus the Son of God] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Back to the whole idea of being careless vs. cautious. If sin is cosmic treason against God then of all people, those who have been pardoned from their high treason and given a standing of innocence before God through faith in Jesus ought to be very concerned to not continue in sin-cosmic treason against God.
So what do you think? Should Christians live carelessly or cautiously when it comes to sinning? The answer is plain. But in our remaining sinfulness we tend to gravitate toward living carelessly and must be reminded that there is nothing inconsequential about sinning against God. And if we are followers of Jesus we must recognize that our fleshly lusts wage war against us (1 Peter 2:11) and we live in a world that is dominated by godless philosophy which is headed up by Satan Himself. Therefore, to live carelessly in this world is to certainly be on the road to spiritual disaster.
That is why this simple proverb is so important:
Proverbs 14:16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.
The implication is that a wise man is aware enough to know that something is evil and is aware enough to know it before he starts taking part in it. He is living not carelessly but cautiously. He lives with a realistic understanding of his own heart and the world around him. He really does believe that Satan is a roaring lion seeking to devour people (1 Peter 5:8).
Paul puts it this way in Romans:
Romans 13:11-14 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
We are to be realistic that we live in a dark world and that we are no longer of the darkness but of the light. Therefore we must not live carelessly. But actually this passage takes it a step further. Proverbs 14:16 emphasized making provision to avoid evil. Here we are told that we must not make provision for evil. Unfortunately, it is not just that we tend to live carelessly when it comes to sin and the realities of our sinful flesh, but we actually find ourselves making provisions for the wrong desires of our heart. Careless living puts us on the road to disaster and careless living very soon morphs into making provision or planning ahead for sin. Cautious living is very different. It makes provision not for evil, but for avoiding evil.
There is an important phrase in Romans 13:14 that will keep us on the right track when we think of living cautiously rather than carelessly. The exhortation is not “stop being careless and start being cautious!” The exhortation is put on Christ (i.e. apply by faith who you are in Christ and so live) and do not make provision for your evil desires. If we do not get that important connection our “cautious living” will turn into “caustic living” in the name of Jesus where we expect everyone to do everything our way or its the high way even if our way is extended application beyond specific teaching in Scripture. But a life of cautious living that is centered upon Christ will apply God’s Word in every area of life in specific ways. It will be a cautious living that is by nature conservative in this world but gracious to others who are also following Christ and navigating how to apply His Word to the constantly changing situations in each of our lives. So do not be careless, but if you are in Christ put on Christ and be cautious knowing the hope is in Christ not your cautiousness.