In Moliere’s play, Tartuffe, he describes a man named Tartuffe who appears religious and godly. However, Tartuffe is an imposter and makes a grand act of his religiosity to enter Orgon’s home to throw giant feasts, gain control of Orgon’s money, his household, and his wife.
When Tartuffe does gain control of the family’s inheritance, he rationalizes his sinful act of stealing by claiming that it would be wrong as a Christian to not have the inheritance, as it would be squandered by others. Although Tartuffe is eventually discovered as an imposter, he is a perfect example of someone who uses religion to validate their sin.
People often use religion to justify sin for many different reasons. A person may try to pass the blame by using religion, attempt to fool God through “religious” acts, or use religious teachings and practices to divert attention away from their acts and to justify their wrongdoing.
While the issue may be complex, the Bible clearly and repeatedly condemns sin and never commands evil. Instead, God will justly deal with those who use religion, especially Christianity, as a cover-up for their unrighteous acts.
Why Justify Sin?
From the earliest time, humans have made excuses for their sins. At the temptation in the Garden of Eden, Eve reasoned away the act of disobedience, noting that “the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6, NIV).
However, when God demanded an account from Adam and Eve, each of them passed the blame to others. Adam made an excuse about Eve giving him the fruit (Genesis 3:12). Likewise, Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:13). Adam and Eve did not take responsibility for their actions but attempted to justify their sin to God.
Humans today continue to try to explain or rationalize away their sins. Instead of recognizing the evil inside of them (Romans 3:10-18), people attempt to justify wrongdoing through philosophy, environmental factors, or poor upbringing.
Mankind regularly uses religion to justify their sin as well. It is easier to blame someone else or use religion as an excuse for an unrighteous act than to take responsibility and repent.
Using Religion as a Cover-Up for Evil
In addition to using religion as an excuse for sin, people also use religion to justify sin because they think they can trick God. One of the greatest examples of people doing this was the Pharisees. They used religion to cover up their evil actions and tried to appear pious and reverent.
Many people were probably fooled by the Pharisees, but Jesus was not. Instead of caring for their parents as God wanted, the Pharisees taught that a person could devote their money and resources to the Lord as “corban,” thus nullifying any use of the money or any other resources for their parents (Mark 7:11-12).
Pronouncing money and goods as “corban” was a way to avoid the commandment to honor their father and mother (Mark 7:10). As Jesus told the Pharisees, “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:13, NIV).
The Pharisees also sought to cover up their greed and pride under the veneer of religiosity. Wearing long flowing robes, they sought to bring attention to themselves and made great shows of their religious acts (Luke 20:46-47).
Instead of properly worshiping God, they merely used religion to justify their sin of loving money and praise from men (Luke 16:14; John 12:43). Although the Pharisees thought they could fool God, it is obvious they did not accomplish this goal.
Jesus saw right through their religious act. As Proverbs 21:2 states, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart” (NIV). People will try to validate their evil actions, but no one can fool the Lord.
Twisting Religious Teachings and Practices
Individuals may also use religion to excuse their sin because spirituality and religion can be used to deflect criticism. Appealing to religion, specifically Christianity, people will often try to distract people from their apparent sin and appeal to other teachings of Christianity that seem to encourage non-judgmental attitudes.
Obviously, using Christianity in this way is merely to deflect the attention away from sin. The person, however, will conveniently ignore other important parts of the religious teachings.
For instance, many people twist the Bible to excuse their sinful behaviors. Numerous people who engage in or affirm homosexual behavior or any sexual desires outside of marriage will commonly quote Scripture to deflect criticism. Such people may wholeheartedly state Jesus’ words, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37, NIV).
Or they may claim that God is love and therefore all forms of “love” must be divine (1 John 4:8). Using the same verse in 1 John 4:8, they may also charge the person pointing out the sin of homosexuality as being unloving and therefore not a Christian.
While Christians should speak the truth in love, this does not mean they cannot or should not declare an action to be sinful (Ephesians 4:15).
The Bible passages used by those who try to deflect criticism from their wrong behavior are ignoring the context and true meaning of the verses. Furthermore, they are also ignoring other verses, which are in direct opposition to what they are defending.
For instance, the same person who quotes Jesus’ words about not judging homosexual behavior ignores His teaching about proper marriage being between one man and one woman in the context of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). They are also ignoring the Bible’s teaching against homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9).
Manipulating Scripture to condone sin or to deflect criticism from others is not a proper way to handle God’s Word. This act of twisting Scripture to fit one’s own agenda, however, is not new.
Peter spoke about those who wrongly used Paul’s letters: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16, NIV). Those who use the Bible to justify sin will find this method harmful as they ignore the brevity of their sin.
God Will Punish Justly
The desire and temptation to use religion to justify sin is a result of man’s fallen nature and need to rationalize sin to avoid accountability before God. Oftentimes, humans want to pass the blame, cover up their wrongdoing in an attempt to fool God, or deflect criticism about their behavior.
Although people may be deceived or used by such rationalization efforts, God will deal justly with those who excuse their sin on the basis of religion. The Lord hates sin regardless of how people try to represent their wrongdoing (Proverbs 6:16-19).
Christians especially need to recognize this and avoid using their freedom in Christ to cover up sin. In Peter’s first epistle, he warns Christians, “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil” (1 Peter 2:16, NLT).
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.