“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We’ve all sinned. We’ve said or done something we shouldn’t have done. We’ve failed to do things we should’ve done. The question is, how do we respond? We often become embarrassed and want to sweep any evidence of our wrongdoing under the rug.
One of the primary ways we try to avoid owning up to our sin is by blaming other people. If I can convince others that the blame for my sin should be shifted to others, then I can continue to enjoy life without having to consider the possible consequences of my actions.
The thing is, that never really works. As God through Moses put it, “your sin will catch up to you” (Num. 32:23 CSB). Either the lie we’ve orchestrated to shift the blame falls apart, people see through our guise, or the consequences cathc up to us in other ways. Even if we get away with convincing everyone (including ourselves) that our bad deeds are someone else’s fault, we still have to give an account (2 Cor. 5:10). Sweeping our sin under the rug is never really worth it and it never really works.
There are several folks in Scripture who learn this lesson the hard way. The first and most notable examples are Adam and Eve. After they ate from the forbidden tree, God straight up asked Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree…?” (Gen. 3:11). Instead of owning up to it, Adam blamed it on “the woman whom you gave to be with me” (Gen. 3:12 ESV). Eve blamed it on the serpent (Gen. 3:13). Adam and Eve both unsuccessfully shifted the blame. They were still held accountable for their actions (Gen. 3:16-19).
Another example of this is found in Exodus 32. God was with Moses and Joshua on Mt. Sinai delivering the law to them. The people were growing restless and impatient. So, they ask Aaron (who had just been declared the high priest of God’s people) to make them “gods who shall go before us” (Ex. 32:1). The people are fresh out of Egypt and already begin violating the most foundational aspects of their covenant with the Lord (Ex. 20:2-6).
Aaron has the opportunity to refuse the people their request and obey God but instead tells the people to give them all their earings so that he can melt the gold down and make a golden calf (Ex. 32:2-4). The result was a celebration that involved lewd pagan sexual misconduct, idol worship, etc. Of course, God knows this, tells Moses, Moses descends the mountain, breaks the tablets of the coveneant in anger, and begs his brother to tell him what in the world is going on.
Here’s Aaron’s chance to confess and own up to his abysmal lapse in judgment. Instead, Aaron passes the blame:
“You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Exodus 32:22b-24
Notice how Aaron blames the people and tries to make it seem like he didn’t have anything to do with constructing the idol. As if he just through the gold in the fire and it modeled itself into a calf by chance. (There’s a lot of cultural and theological background here having to do with why idolatry is a big deal in the first place and how Israel was imitating what they saw all those years in Egypt.) Aaron fails to admit to his wrongdoing in the matter.
Another great example is King Saul who impatiently offered an unlawful sacrifice to the Lord. When Samuel asked him what he had done, Saul blames Samuel and the people instead of admitting the mistake (1 Sam. 13:8-14). This sin caused Saul and lack of repentance/confession eventually led to Saul being removed as king over Israel.
Time and time again, throughout the Bible and life and we see that covering sin just makes things worse. There’s no opportunity for healing recovery, and forgiveness when personal sin goes unrecognized and the blame for it is shifted.
On the other side of the coin, mercy and pardon come from confessing and forsaking sinful ways. As the proverb states, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy” (Prov. 28:13 CSB). We have everything to gain by being open and transparent with our shortcomings and everything to lose by concealing and shifting the blame for our own choice to sin.
As David put it, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).
That’s one of the many amazing things about God. He waits with open arms for those to turn to Him and admit blame so that He can take it away. Though people are very often unlike God, transparency likewise goes a long way with our close personal relationships. Confession is often the route to forgiveness from others. Confession is healthy emotionally, phsyically, and spiritually.
The old adage is true, confession is good for the soul.