JUNE 4, 2007

€œDumb Sin Anyone?
By Pastor George Van Alstine

We have a friend who likes to get a group of us together once in a while to go to his favorite Chinatown restaurant. He sent an e-mail a few weeks ago suggesting we all join him for dim sum.*

Now, everyone probably has a word or phrase they have trouble saying or writing. “Dim sumâ€? is one of mine. I get the “iâ€? and the “uâ€? mixed up, and can’t get it through my head that both syllables end with an “m,â€? so the words usually come out wrong when I say them.

I began to answer the e-mail, “We’d be glad to get together for dum sin.â€? I realized my mistake and quickly corrected it. But then the idea I had accidently discovered intrigued me enough so that I returned to my original version, even adding a “bâ€? to the first syllable—“dumb sin.â€?

Yes, there’d been a lot of dumb sin in my life, and it wasn’t very appetizing. Some people think they know how to sin cleverly, but my sin has always tended to be on the dumb side, not very well-executed and without much of a pleasure payoff.

Over the past few weeks, every time I thought about our coming meal in Chinatown, the idea of dumb sin would re-enter my mind. Gradually, I saw in the phrase another meaning. Sometimes we hear a distinction made between “sins of maliceâ€? and “sins of ignorance.â€? Sins of ignorance are somehow seen as more innocent and excusable than those that are premeditated, planned and calculated.

But my understanding of what the Bible teaches is that all sin is equally out-of-harmony with God’s will. Whether we consciously intend it or not, sin is morally corrupting and separates us from God. Knowing the price we will inevitably pay in guilt, shame and suffering, we must honestly conclude that all sin is truly dumb.

So dumb sin is the only kind there is. It is both morally wrong and ignorant at the same time. We are not sheep who have innocently wandered from the Shepherd’s care; we are goats who run the other way when we hear his loving call. And that’s dumb!

Today we finally had our dim sum get together in Chinatown. It was great. I’m glad I got all the theological questions settled before we headed to LA—otherwise, I couldn’t have enjoyed the dim sum. I might have had dumb-sindigestion.

*“Dim sumâ€? is a popular way of eating small, tasty Chinese treats, ranging from pastries with meats or seafood to sweet desserts, in a leisurely brunch or lunch.