Pithy Preaching and Paying Sin

Driving home from a lovely picnic today, we passed one of those sign-boards in front of a little Christian church. You know, the ones with the movable type on which someone spells out some sort of brief, thought-provoking message that’s intended to pump up the church-going crowd? I think they’re the preaching equivalent of hearing that “Y’all ready for this?” song before a sporting event.

At any rate, this particular sign caught my eye because it boldly pronounced the following:

Sin has no mimimum wage

That sounds good and preachy, for sure, and it even has a sort of home-spun familiarity to it.  Yet, at the same time, it’s been several hours and I’m still uncertain what it actually means.

Does sin work for free, or is it on a tip system? If sin works for free, do you have to pay for virtue? And does any of this have anything to do with tithing at the church in question?

I’m hopelessly confused, and I’ve half a mind to go there this Sunday in the hope of getting some clarity on just what the heck the sign-maker was going for here.

On the plus side, as confusing as this is, it could have been worse.


  1. I suspect your country preacher was playing with this quote.

    From the Bible, Romans 6:23 (King James Version):

    “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    It still doesn’t really make sense, but I suspect that’s what he was working off of.

  2. No doubt you’re right about the base text, Cathy, since it’s a pretty commonly used one among Baptist traditions in particular. And, indeed, someone else reacted to this post by Christologically rhapsodizing on Facebook upon the matter, with the following conclusion: The sign is supposed to mean that any little sin means death, so, um, go Jesus!

    Again, that sounds sorta right from a sermonizing standpoint, but my problem is it still doesn’t really parse in logic. First off, Paul says the “payment” from sin is death. Okay. Doesn’t say anything about scales of sin. But, fair enough, let’s say we insert into the text (as most modern protestant traditions have, and as my Facebook responder does) that any little sin (one “sin unit”) is as bad as any big sin (many “sin units”). Alas, what we then have is, in fact, a minimum wage for sin: i.e., even one “sin unit” begets a minimum payment of death.

    Sadly, I fear I probably have thought about this more than 90% of that church’s congregants!

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