Making Sin a Trivial Thing

Ahab

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.

It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:29-33).

Ahab was one of the more infamous kings in the Bible. In the passage above, he is said to have done “more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). When studying the history of Israel, then this becomes even more remarkable. While there were some good kings of Judah, all of the kings of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord” as Ahab did; but Ahab was worse than the rest of them.

One of the points made in the text above is that Ahab had departed so far from God’s will that it became “a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:31). Sin was seen as “trivial” because it was viewed as unimportant or unconcerning.

Sin is always a problem, but it is particularly dangerous when sin becomes trivial. We need to understand why this is. By looking at the example of Ahab, we can also see what factors in his life led him to view sin in this way so that we can guard against this as much as possible.

Why It Is Dangerous When Sin Becomes Trivial

Many are like Ahab and view sin as “a trivial thing.” We cannot follow the thinking of the world on this matter. There are several reasons why this perspective will ultimately lead to trouble.

  • First, we will ignore the fact that sin is a transgression of God’s law – God has given us a law that we are capable of observing. John noted that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). When we fail to keep God’s law, thus engaging in lawlessness, we sin. John made this clear: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
  • Second, we will forget that sin separates us from God – Isaiah told the people, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The reason why sin causes a separation between man and God is because God cannot fellowship sin. John wrote, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). In the next verses, the apostle explained that we must walk in the light, not in darkness, if we want to enjoy fellowship with God (1 John 1:6-7).
  • Third, we will become enslaved to sin – Jesus explained, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). The Hebrew writer described sin as something that “so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). When sin is seen as inconsequential, there is a danger that we will give our lives over to sin and become slaves of it.
  • Fourth, sin will ultimately leads to death – After warning about being slaves of sin (Romans 6:6, 12-14, 16), Paul concluded his thought by describing what one earns for his sin: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In that statement he was describing the punishment of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. We know this because he contrasted it with the “free gift of God [which] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

If sin is trivial, we will see no reason to avoid it or overcome it. At that point, we will have become “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). We want to avoid this, but to do so we need to understand how sin comes to be seen as trivial.

How Sin Becomes Trivial

As we consider the life of Ahab, there were several factors that played a role in sin being viewed as a matter of no consequence.

  • Culture – Ahab grew up seeing sin as the norm. Again, the history of the kings of Israel shows a pattern of wickedness. Even closer to Ahab, his father Omri was said to have “acted more wickedly than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25); yet Ahab surpassed him. James admonished us to “keep [ourselves] unstained by the world” (James 1:27). We are to live by a higher standard, following the perfect example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-22). Though we live in the world, we are not to behave like the world. As Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Yet if we adopt the lifestyle and mindset of the wicked culture around us, sin will seem trivial.
  • Influence – Ahab married Jezebel who became his closest companion, constantly encouraging him to do evil. She came from an idolatrous culture. It is recorded later that four hundred prophets of the Asherah ate bread at her table (1 Kings 18:19), implying her agreement with, fellowship with, and support of them. The New Testament warns us to guard against evil influences. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). There can be no fellowship between “light” and “darkness”; therefore, we are to “come out of their midst and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). If we allow sinful influences in our lives, we may eventually start to view sin as normal and acceptable.
  • Conscience – When someone sees sin as a trivial matter, it is because his conscience is seared and he no longer feels guilty for his sin. This is clearly what happened with Ahab – he did what was wrong without feeling remorse for it. Paul warned Timothy that a seared conscience results in apostasy: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith…seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). We need to have a conscience that allows us to feel guilt for sin because this “godly sorrow” leads us to “repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). Without feeling this guilt, repentance will be impossible. Therefore, we must train our conscience by the word of God (Hebrews 5:14) so that we understand the terribleness of sin and avoid it.
  • Openness – Ahab traveled to worship Baal and served Baal at home in the house he built for this false god (1 Kings 16:31-32). He also “made the Asherah” (1 Kings 16:33) to continue in his idolatrous practices. All of this was out in the open; it was not done privately. Sins are often kept private because there is a sense of shame associated with them. This was what Jesus referred to when He said, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20). Yet when sins are committed publicly without shame, it is especially dangerous because then the ones engaged in the sinful practices have reached the point in which they no longer “know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). This lack of shame indicates two things: (1) they do not care what God thinks about their sin and (2) they do not care what man thinks about it. When one reaches this point in which they willfully sin and “put [the Lord] to open shame,” the Hebrew writer explained that “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:6).

Conclusion

Sin is a violation of God’s law, makes fellowship with God impossible, causes us to become enslaved to it, and ultimately leads to eternal destruction. We must never view sin as something that is inconsequential and of no concern. Yet we can get to that point if we follow the example of Ahab and act as though sin was a trivial thing.

Let us work to avoid sin and do the will of God so that we can be pleasing to Him and enjoy the fellowship, freedom, and eternal life that He offers to us.


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on the Gospel, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Road Trip.