Sin: Do you have a thick or thin view?

Do you have a thick or thin view of sin? Your answer will decide how you work to root sin out of your life.

Thin View of Sin

Those who have a thin view of sin see “sin as a series of discrete acts of non-compliance to God’s regulations” (12). In other words, those who have a thin view of sin believe sin to be nothing more than breaking God’s rules.

Thick View of Sin

In contrast, those who have a thick view of sin see all sin “as idolatry that pervades all we do” (12). External actions represent internal idolatries. Here the desires of our heart becomes important, not just our external actions.

The Differences in Dealing With Sin

The difference becomes even clearer when we look at how sin is dealt with in each person’s life.

Those with a thin view of sin believe they sin when they break God’s rules. As a result, they seek to place external restraints, or change their environment, to rid sin from their lives. They believe they are successful when they have removed all environmental temptations.

For instance, if someone is struggling with profanity, someone with a thin view of sin would counsel them to place some sort of external restraint on themselves, such as putting a dollar in a container every time they curse.  Or if someone were struggling with an addiction, such as drug abuse, they would be told to stay away from people or places that would tempt them to use.

However, those with a thick view of sin deal with sin much differently. They seek to drill down into the heart to discover the root cause of their sin. They will focus on the desires of their heart, not just their external actions. This is because they view their external actions as the fruit, which is the result of a much deeper heart condition.

So, instead of counseling someone addicted to drugs to stay away from places or people who will tempt them to use, even though that may be helpful, they are going to attempt to expose the idols of that person’s heart, in order to deal with their desires and remove that idol from their life.


It is true, withdrawal from certain environments will make you feel less sinful, but you have not eliminated the sin from your heart. Tim Keller says, “The complex organic nature of sin will still be at work making idols out of things that are not overt forms of law-breaking,” such as moral goodness, financial security, family, and doctrinal purity (12).

As you can see, changing your external environment does not really deal with, or eliminate, the sin in your life. All you have done is trade apparent sins for respectable sins. In order to truly root sin out of your heart, you must have a thick view of sin because it truly deals with the idols of the heart.

The goal is not to produce moralists, or people who look good on the outside, which is what happens when you have a thin view of sin. Our true goal should be to produce real heart change through the power of the Gospel, which will only happen if we have a thick view of sin.


In an effort to help my readers use the Gospel to root the idols out of their heart, I have started a series entitled X-Ray Questions. You can view my introductory post here and my latest post here.

Also, you can check out the following resources:

Contextual and Missional by Tim Keller (all quotes are taken from this article)

How People Change by Timothy S. Lane

Seeing With New Eyes by David Powlison

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

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