Is sin one of life’s motivating powers?

This might sound like a strange question, but I have been doing some reading on Judaism from the perspective of modern-day Jewish scholars covering the 2nd temple period to modern day Rabbinic Judaism. I am currently reading about sin in Judaism and to my surprise some Rabbinic authorities did not view all sin in an entirely negative light. This might be a good place to define sin as I understand it from what I have read thus far for context. I would not want anyone to think that sin was ok with the Rabbis and that is was ok to continue in sin because it was good for the economy. One more point to keep in mind from a Jewish POV people are not born sinners i.e. inherited from Adam but are inclined to sin by nature.

The rabbis describe sinfulness as a condition that people who begin to disregard the law increasingly accept for themselves. One consequence of sin thus is its growing power over the sinner, leading one who at first commits a minor infraction to greater and greater offenses, culminating with idolatry.

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1325). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

So now to the statement that would suggest that sin is one of life motivators.

In their view (some Rabbis), the inclination to sin stands behind people’s desire to improve their own circumstance, to fulfill sexual needs and so to raise families, and to acquire in appropriate ways that which is currently beyond their means. Were it not for such desires, these authorities argued, most productive human activity would cease. The rabbis accordingly saw the inclination to sin—however dangerous and evil—as an important component of the human psyche.

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1326). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

Along this same line of thought Hugh Ross in his book Improbable Planet makes the point that the law of decay (2nd law of thermodynamics) is a constant reminder that this world needs rescue.

And yet the awareness of decay, not just of our own life but also of all life and even of the physical universe as a whole, confronts us daily… The quest for a means of rescue from decay and dissolution pervades every culture and every generation, as seen in literature, music, arts, architecture, and more.

For those of you that have taken the Science Module from RZIM you might remember Hugh explaining this about the law of decay:

It is not so high that it discourages us from work (example: yard work, writing a book)>
It is not so low as to let sin go unrestrained
Adam and Eve: more pain, more work, more wasted time because of sin

So, I find it interesting that decay reminds us of a need to do something, about our plight as humans ‘work’, but the work that we do can lead us to idolatry which is as far from God as we can get in this life.

Thinking on this brought these verses to my mind.

And to Adam he said, “Because you listened to the voice of your wife and you ate from the tree from which I forbade you to eat, the ground shall be cursed on your account. In pain you shall eat from it all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles shall sprout for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until your return to the ground. For from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Gen 3:17-19

Or this verse from Paul:

Now the law came in as a side issue, in order that the trespass could increase, but where sin increased, grace was present in greater abundance, Romans 5:20

I am not suggesting that decay is a sin I am suggesting that sin caused decay and decay can lead us to deeper sin or to the only rescue available, Jesus.

Would be interested in comments.


Wow Thank You for this! This brought life to some decaying parts of my gray matter. :exploding_head::raised_hands:

Out of decay spring forth life. Even the seed must die to be made new. God is so cool and His ways are so high. What wonders…

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Interesting thoughts and perspectives Jimmy…

Here’s my thoughts :paperclip:
From what I’m seeing, It seems the statement would only suggests that sin is a life motivating force relative to those who are conditioned as such after increasing acceptance of disregard for the law. So, in the absolute sense sin would not be a life motivator. In a relative sense (relative to a person’s willful involvement in it) it would because it would be triggered by the person’s perpetual disregard for the law: The increased propensity to sin would be self-generated by the person sinning rather than sin being a God given, life motivator put forth to be a necessary evil as the post seems to propose.

I’m not saying I totally agree with that view. Correct me if I missed something, but I think I’ve just followed the rabbis statements to a different logical conclusion than you have.

It’s interesting when we add, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, it puts everyone into the “relative” category of sin being a motivator in their life so although the propensity to sin may not have been a God given life motivator it’s none the less, common to all.
If we’re to consider that Adam’s sin brought about a death sentence of mortality upon all his descendants rather than a spiritual death sentence of guilt which is in question with several red flags notwithstanding Ezekiel 18, considering that Adams descendants might not be morally liable for Adam’s sin (but physically liable for its consequences) we’d potentially be opening up a can of worms into other questions. So I’m tempted not to go there.

But it’s an interesting consideration. And I would add the following thoughts to put a bead on what’s really being understood in the discussion of inclinations and motivators of sin… the sinful nature or what some bible versions call “the flesh”.

The flesh itself (without the governing of a person’s mind will and emotions) is like an animal with no moral compass. It’s inclined to eat, to perpetuate its survival, to feel good, etc… which, for a human, depending on circumstance, may or may not be sin. (eating breakfast this morning was not a sin) Without the soul being on duty as its governor however, the flesh is automatically ungoverned and will gravitate off track 100% of the time. As such it is “sinful flesh” So if we, who inhabit our mortal bodies, have the job to steer according to conscience. then how can we use the fact that we have a sinful “nature” as an explanation that it’s only natural for a person to sin?
It kind of isn’t… even though it kind of is… :sweat_smile: