ODJ: sin-eaters

July 24, 2014 

READ: James 5:16-20 

You can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (v.20).

Many years ago, sin-eating was practised in parts of the UK and America. A sin-eater was normally a poor, hungry person who was brought to the home of a dead person, where he was given some bread to eat and a drink to consume. After having his fill, he would then ritually pray over the deceased. This curious custom supposedly absolved the dead person—and sometimes a whole family—of sin. The sin-eater would then be shunned by the local community until he was needed again. Why was he shunned? He had “eaten” (taken on) the sins of the dead.
Obviously, the idea of sin-eating was a bizarre and unbiblical practice. While it’s true that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23), only Jesus, by His sacrificial death, could ever take care of our sin problem (1 Peter 3:18).

In striving to live for Christ, we remember the words of James who wrote that we should confess our sins to one another “so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16). This healing isn’t so much about physical ills, but so that we can be made spiritually well once again (v.15; 1 John 1:9).

The apostle then calls us to reach out to those who have professed belief in Jesus (some authentic believers, some not), but who are now “[wandering] away from the truth” (James 5:19). We can’t ‘eat’ their sin, but we can bring them back to the truths found in God’s Word. If they turn, they will experience the forgiveness of their sins and some will avoid the spiritual death of the unbeliever (v.20).

Jude wrote, “You must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement” (1:22-23).

Care enough to confront sin. No sin-eating required. —Tom Felten

365-day plan› Matthew 17:24-18:6

Read what Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1 and consider how you can put his instruction into practice. 
What are the dangers of helping people deal with their sins? Why does God call us to confess our sins to one another?