Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me! (Psalms 19:13)
What did David mean by “presumptuous sins?” Consider:
- The core idea of a presumptuous sin is that the one who sins in this way is acting arrogantly and willfully. It is sinning with eyes wide open. Everywhere else that this Hebrew word is used it is as a noun—generally translated “the proud.” While it is used as an adjective only here, the meaning follows through unmistakably.
- Note the danger that David points to. Entering into a presumptuous sin opens one up to being dominated by it.
- The opposite of presumptuous sin is sin done in ignorance. Those who crucified Christ, the most monstrous sin of all time, sinned in ignorance not presumptuously. We know this from the mouth of Jesus when he prayed, “Lord forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Lust often displays itself as a presumptuous sin.
Promiscuity, illicit affairs and pornography use are obviously wrong. Yet, this knowledge does not stop people from going down those paths. They push forward regardless. Lust causes them to behave in selfish, arrogant and harmful ways. Think of all the careers, reputations, families and organizations that have been brought down as a result of scandalous sexual behavior driven by lust.
The reason for such reckless behavior is that they have become dominated by sin. In fact, this is a popular explanation: “They have no choice—they are sex addicts.”
Hidden lust can also be presumptuous.
Do not be misled. Lust entered into discretely can also be presumptuous. We are without excuse when we understand lust properly—knowing that it is the willfully allowed pleasurable gratification of illicit sexual desire taking place deep inside.
Armed with this knowledge, our approach is to recoil from lust in our hearts at the very point where desires and thoughts first tempt us—long before visible behavior kicks in. If you as a believer know what you need to do to overcome lust but then do the opposite, you are acting in willful disobedience. This is presumptuous and arrogant sinning and it comes with a price.
As David understood fully, by arrogantly and selfishly entering into sin, you are allowing sin to gain dominion over you. You become an “addict” to a life-dominating sin—a slave with no way out. Jesus defined the problem clearly when he explained, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). His words apply not only to non-believers.
Christians who continue in sin without properly confessing and repenting open themselves to a life where they live enslaved to sin. Thankfully, we have a great promise we can turn to. Jesus came to set captives free from presumptuous, life-dominating sin. He forgives our sins, enables us to overcome lust and to live in a way that is pleasing to him.