What are the wages of sin? If we understood what happens when we sin, we would be more careful. The apostle Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Paul was contrasting actions that lend to eternal life with actions that bring spiritual and sometimes physical death. His phrase, the wages of sin, speaks to the idea of receiving a justified payment for being in another person’s employ—compensation equal to the task performed. Frighteningly, as we shall learn, the wages of sin is truly death.
Satan pays the Wages of Sin
Why does Satan tempt us to commit sin? To make us miserable is the quick answer. But if we dig deeper and gain understanding of how misery is produced, we will unearth Satan’s sinister strategy and form a definition for the wages of sin.
A mother from Arizona (name withheld) spoke of the wages of sin as “disempowering spiritual hemorrhaging that renders a person ignorant of God and of the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Here is her story:
Two of my children abandoned my husband’s and my beliefs, leaving us hurt and confused. For a while, I beat myself up over my apparent failure as a mother, but that did little good. Despite all my suffering and soul-searching, I could not discover where my husband and I had gone wrong. Not that we are perfect parents—we are not—but why had we lost these two children? They were brought up alongside our other children who had remained true.
When I decided to give myself a break and look for another reason, I took my question to the Lord. My conversation went something like this: “These children have not only cast aside our Christian values, they have become enemies and critical of them. Worse, seem absolutely ignorant of the most basic gospel principles! That is the most confusing part to me. It is as though they had never heard of gospel concepts before—like everything is foreign to them.
How could this be? They grew up in our home where we had family prayers, family scripture study, and occasional gospel discussions. Weren’t they listening? They went to church with us and had equal opportunities in the gospel with our other children, and yet now they seem to be absolutely clueless. They seem to have forgotten everything that we taught them. How did this happen?”
As I poured out my heart to God, a scripture came into my mind: “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience.” These are the wages of sin! The adjoining verse reads, “Light and truth forsake that evil one.”
Suddenly, I realized what had happened. My husband and I had tried to bring up our children in light and truth, but these two children had chosen to commit sin in their youth. They continued in their sins and failed to repent. Consequently, their disobedience and disregard for repentance had opened the door for Satan to come and steal away their light and truth. Now they are rendered ignorant, as though they had no gospel literacy at all.
When they lost their light and truth, they filled the void by adopting bizarre philosophies to explain life and spiritual things. Now I knew why their rebellion had escalated. I gained a greater appreciation for the scriptural counsel to repent quickly and sincerely. Procrastination, I learned, causes gospel stagnation at best and gospel illiteracy and captivity by the devil at worst.
Now armed with this understanding, I center my prayers on asking for opportunities to reintroduce basic gospel concepts to these children with the hope that they will one day remember and respond.
Understanding Gospel Terms
This mother used the words “light” and “truth” as though they were a substance. In fact, they are. A survey of the scriptures reveals that the word light (D&C 88:7-13) is synonymous with
- truth (1 John 5:6; D&C 84:45; 88:66),
- spirit (D&C 84:45),
- intelligence (D&C 93:29),
- power (D&C 88:7-10),
- law (D&C 88:13),
- life (John 1:4),
- agency (D&C 93:30-31),
- glory (D&C 93:36),
- …to name a few.
The Prophet Joseph Smith revealed: “All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter” (D&C 131:8). Clearly, spirit or light is a substance, and Satan tries to steal it. The absence of light causes misery, and thus we suffer the wages of sin.
2. Natural man
There are a variety of definitions about the Natural Man, but one characteristic is important to understand: the body of the natural man (or woman) is made up of telestial material or in other words, materials of this earth. Why does this have to do with the wages of sin? Just this – The natural man has a difficult time understanding and assimilating ideas from the celestial world where God resides.
Such celestial ideas and laws are wholly foreign to him. The nature of the natural man is to follow the instincts of his telestial body and partake of that which naturally resides in a telestial environment. Consequently, by nature the natural man is “carnal, sensual and devilish” (Mosiah 16:3), and it takes a great deal of effort and discipline to overcome these tendencies.
3. Carnal, sensual and devilish
Beyond being a list of loathsome characteristics, carnal, sensual and devilish seems to form a downward, spiraling cycle. To be carnal is to be of the flesh; that is, we naturally pamper the physical body and are inclined to succumb to its passions and appetites. Both the apostle Paul and Nephi’s brother, Jacob, state that “to be carnally-minded is death” (Romans 8:6; 2 Nephi 9:39).
That is, if we give in to carnality, we will eventually give in to sensuality by seeking more and more physical and sexual pleasures. At least two things are automatic with sensuality: lying and a damaged testimony. The carnally minded who become sensual will stop believing and begin seeking physical evidence as signs to confirm the truth (Matthew 12:39; 16:4).
This condition is spiritual death. Such behavior weakens us to the point that Satan can take control of our bodies and then we become devilish. Now our behavior begins to mirror that of Satan; we become sexually perverted, sinister, cruel, scheming, deceitful, and mischievous. We begin to act like the demons who prod us to become like them. The carnal, sensual and devilish cycle inevitably leads to apostasy. Breaking covenants is inevitable (D&C 1:15; Isaiah 24:5), and that tragedy summons the judgment of God and damnation of the soul (D&C 76:101; 132:5 15-27, also D&C 41:1; 82:2).
One of the Wages of Sin: Stealing Light
Because Satan knows that the body is highly susceptible to suggestion and can be acted upon by outside influences, he knows that he can tempt us to sin. If we cave in, something terrible happens: “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth.” This is one manifestation of the wages of sin. How does Satan steal light and truth? “Through disobedience” (D&C 93:39).
Literally, sin creates a gash in our souls, allowing Satan to gain entrance. When that happens, light hemorrhages from us. Once inside, Satan can drain us of truth, spiritual light, intelligence, power, spiritual life, and even an ability to choose. We are left greatly disempowered and highly vulnerable.
Are we listening to the scriptures concerning the wages of sin? The strategy of Satan is to tempt us to sin so that he can gain entrance and drain us of light! How does he accomplish this feat? Through direct temptation, deception, flattery, and sometimes abuse. Here is another scripture concerning Satan and the wages of sin:
[Satan] stirreth up their hearts to anger….Yea, he saith unto them: Deceive and lie in wait to catch, that ye may destroy; behold, this is no harm. And thus he flattereth them, and telleth them that it is no sin to lie that they may catch a man in a lie, that they may destroy him. And thus he flattereth them, and leadeth them along until he draggeth their souls down to hell; and thus he causeth them to catch themselves in their own snare. And thus he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men (D&C 10:24-27).
Satan can empty us of light, we will be left in darkness, and then the wages of sin begin to become pronounced. Without light, we are without truth, intelligence, power, and the capacity to choose. Do we grasp the gravity of sinning? When Satan convinces us to sin, he gains entrance to our souls, he steals the spiritual light within us, and then our ability to act and choose is greatly diminished. Satan has won, and we hardly put up a fight.
Gaining Entrance to Our Souls—Another of the Wages of Sin
Does it terrify us to think that Satan can actually take up residence in our souls by convincing us to sin? He might tell us otherwise, but it is true. Once inside, Satan can fill our thoughts with myriad evils and convince us to experiment with all sorts of wickedness. We must remember that the body has no inherent capacity to act on its own; the body is an instrument of our spirit—a perfect instrument for the spirit to “act upon” (2 Nephi 2:13-14).
If Satan subtlety gains entrance by convincing us to sin, he also gains the ability to “act upon” our bodies and lead us into all sorts of mischief. Carnality (gratifying the flesh) will soon give way to sensuality (gratifying sensual pleasures) and eventually devolve to devilishness (assuming the characteristics of the devil).
Now Satan can explain away former spiritual events, teachings and feelings.
- He can change our opinion of people whom we love so that we see them through the filter of criticism.
- He can ruin our perception of ourselves, and plant the idea in our minds that we are beyond forgiveness and beneath God’s consideration.
- He can parade our sins and the sins of others before our eyes and torture us with ugly memories.
- He can replay sinful events in our minds, as if we were watching a movie.
- He can invade our sleep with horrifying dreams.
- He can render us powerless to resist further temptations.
- He can tell us what to think and what to do…and we will do it!
- He will tell us that we are good people even if we are sinning, and he will tell us that what we are doing does not qualify as sin. He will tell us that we should go easy on ourselves and other people, and we ought to adopt the attitude of tolerance—a prevalent deception for remaining in sin.
Clearly, with a ruptured soul that is bleeding light, we are as impotent as a victim of a stabbing.
With legions of evil and unclean spirits at his command, Satan enjoys almost unlimited access to malevolent talents and abilities beyond our imagination. Within his demonic realm are skilled artists and musicians, medical personnel, mechanics, people who understand the workings of the mind, others who peddle sex, businessmen, philosophers, scientists, and geniuses of war.
He can sabotage the arts, cause illnesses, aggravate us with mechanical break downs, torment our minds, lure us with sexual perversions, attack our livelihoods, advance seemingly reasonable philosophies and theories, and turn us against each other. Moreover, he can enlist weak-minded and wicked individuals on the earth to do his bidding.
Whereas the Holy Ghost imparts spiritual gifts to righteous individuals, Satan imparts counter-spiritual gifts to his followers. Then he uses those wicked people as instruments to cause us misery. Unfortunately, the weak-minded, spiritually immature, and sinful people cannot readily discern his tactics.
Satan (or one of his powerful followers) is the devourer (Malachi 3:11).
He can devour our property and finances until they are rendered useless and our sense of security is blasted. Therefore, as the apostle Peter warned, we must “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
With little imagination, we might expect that Satan would assign evil spirits to carefully observe us with the purpose of identifying and exploiting our weaknesses. We might imagine them reporting back to Satan for the purpose of devising a strategy to destroy us. We expose ourselves to Satan’s arsenal and suffer the wages of sin, when we yield to Satan’s temptations and commit sin.
Sin Becomes a Cancer
Once Satan has succeeded in causing us to act on his temptation, he attempts to hold the sin in place by persuading us to wink at the transgression, disregard it, or experience so much guilt that we are paralyzed to seek wellness through repentance. The problem with unrepentant sin is that it is the seed of a spiritual tumor, which grows inside the soul until it has consumed it. This is a manifestation of spiritual death or the wages of sin.
The seed of unrepentant sin is never dormant; unrepentant sin is like cancerous cells dividing and multiplying until the system is overwhelmed. When Satan convinces us to sin and persuades us to procrastinate repentance, he enjoys free reign to dull our conscience, steal away our light and truth, and render our soul spiritually illiterate. The cumulative effect of sin weakens the soul so that Satan can shackle it and lead it carefully down to hell (2 Nephi 2:29).
The Atonement—The Only Source of Healing
Only repentance made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ can once again infuse light and truth into the soul and free it from Satan’s grasp. We must examine ourselves for unrepentant sin and get ourselves to the Healer, whose servants are bishops.
A bishop is a righteous man who has been called of God and given the authority to judge and bless the members in his jurisdiction, called a ward. Anciently, a bishop was called a pastor, or in other words a shepherd, reminiscent of the Good Shepherd, who judges and cares for his sheep.
A bishop is specially ordained and given the authority of God to direct the healing process caused by sin. As one who has been ordained to the high priesthood, meaning the Melchizedek Priesthood, the bishop (or another righteous man who also has been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood) has the power to eject an uninvited evil influence from afflicting our souls.
We can no more heal ourselves of a serious spiritual disease than we can heal ourselves of a serious physical disease. We need to draw upon the skills of higher powers, which is the authority and power of a bishop. A modern-day apostle, Elder Boyd K. Packer said,
In the battle of life, the adversary takes enormous numbers of prisoners, and many know of no way to escape and are pressed into his service. Every soul confined to a concentration camp of sin and guilt has a key to the gate. The adversary cannot hold them if they know how to use it. The key is labeled Repentance. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the adversary (“Our Moral Environment,” Ensign, My 1992).
The Body’s Difficulty with Retaining Light
Finally, we must wage our defense against the forces of darkness from a point of view of knowledge. We must know our enemy and we must understand his strategy. Clearly, the adversary’s attack is aimed at our most vulnerable area: the mortal physical body. The body of the natural man seems incapable of maintaining the substance of light (D&C 93:29), which is essential to spiritual life. That is our primary weakness, as the Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni, pointed out (Ether 12:27).
Whereas a resurrected celestial body “shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in [it]” (D&C 88:67), a mortal body must receive ongoing transfusions of light in order to exist spiritually. Therein lies our answer.
Armed with this knowledge, we know how to defend ourselves and to heal from sin. The Lord has told us how we can infuse light into our systems and thus protect ourselves. A few transfusion methods are scripture study, giving charitable service, and, of course, prayer and fasting. The more our bodies are filled with light, the more we can comprehend all things (D&C 88:67), and the more we can detect and resist the onslaught of Satan’s temptations.
With light and truth re-entering our souls, something marvelous begins to happen: “Light and truth forsake that evil one” (D&C 93:37). The combination of confession to and counseling with our bishop, sincere repentance, and infusing light and truth into our souls through scripture study, service, and fasting and prayer carries the power to protect us from Satan, obtain the Lord’s forgiveness, and achieve total spiritual health.
Whereas sin breaks and divides, the Atonement mends and draws broken things back into a state of oneness. The Atonement of Jesus Christ provides a constant pull to bring together fractured parts into their perfect form. Thus, the frightening realities of sin can be overcome and eradicated by the merciful Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement allows us to experience life and learn from our mistakes without being destroyed by our choices.
Once we are delivered from the wages of sin and re-lighted by Jesus Christ, we are commanded to light other people whom Satan has wounded and entered. The singular commission to the repentant and the forgiven is to reach out to those who are spiritually dying and to bring them to the Light, even Jesus Christ. Then, according to the apostle Paul, our prospects shift from the wages of sin to eternal life (Romans 6:23).
More about “Wages of Sin”
“Wages of Sin” was written by Larry Barkdull. The subject, “Wages of Sin,” is of vital importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:
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