Works of the Flesh

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”—Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV)

In this passage, Paul identifies “works of the flesh.” Perhaps you noticed that envy is on the same list as murder. Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that sins of the mind have the same capacity to destroy as sins of the flesh. 

Looking over this list might make one despair. Maybe you haven’t committed adultery, but can you say you have never been jealous? Or maybe you haven’t murdered someone, but have you ever acted out of selfish ambitions? None of us is without sin. But before you give up, there is a crucial word that we cannot ignore in this verse: practice. Committing a sin does not exclude you from the kingdom of God. However, practicing sin—or continuing to indulge in sin—does. 

It is common these days for people to defend their sin of choice by saying, “Sin is sin. No one is perfect. We all have sin in our lives.” And while it’s true any sin can separate us from God, all sins, in general, are not the same. They have different consequences both physically and spiritually. When someone chooses to live in sin, and even goes so far as to celebrate that sin, they are not part of the kingdom of God. 

If your life is marked by envy, and you continually practice the sin of envy, you are not in the kingdom of God. If your life is marked by drunkenness, and you continually practice it, you are not in the kingdom of God. If your life is marked by fornication—the sin of having sex with someone you are not married to—and you continually practice that sin, you will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We can’t know the intentions of someone’s heart, but we are told in Matthew 7 that Christians are identified by their fruit. We are living in a day when sin is not only practiced openly, it is celebrated. And some of those who are celebrating these sins claim to be Christians. Scripture does not agree. Whether it is drunkenness, envy, adultery, or another sin, it is never something to celebrate.

DIG: According to Matthew 18, what should we do if a Christian is walking in sin? 

DISCOVER: Reflect on Paul’s “works of the flesh” list and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart of any unrighteousness.

DISPLAY: Share Galatians 5:22-23 with a friend and together meditate on the fruit of the Spirit.

About the Author

Lauren Chastain