Did Homosexuality Cause the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Since I will be preaching Genesis 19 this week, it seems like a great time to discuss the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Often, this chapter of the Bible is used as a warning text against the sinfulness of homosexuality as many view homosexuality as the primary cause for its desolation. But is that accurate? Was homosexuality really the foundation for Sodom’s annihilation?

Land of the Free, Home of Extremes

In discussing this topic, it is important to understand that there exist two equally common, erroneous, but also opposing answers to the proposed question.

First, let us view the negative answer to the question, which asserts that Sodom was not destroyed because of homosexuality. To support this claim, some will argue that the men of Sodom did not practice homosexuality at all; rather, God judged Sodom for being inhospitable to travelers. Such belief can only be supported via a grandiose reinterpreting of Genesis 19. It is clearly present in the text that the men of Sodom were intent on having sex with the two angels that were visiting Lot. Others, however, will admit that the Sodomites practiced homosexuality but claim that God did not judge such as sin. Instead, God judged Sodom for various other sins, like rape, pride, and gluttony. Because they refuse to hold homosexuality as a sin, they reinterpret the Bible to support their wants and desires.

On the other hand, some people will answer the question in the affirmative, claiming that God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their homosexual practices. To some degree, there really is not a problem with this answer until you begin to dig down into the subtext beneath it. Many people would answer the question in this manner, but the underlying presumption would be that Sodom was only, or primarily, destroyed because of homosexuality. This is where we must take care. Though the Bible clearly declares homosexuality to be sinful, it was not exclusively the sin for which Sodom was judged. We must be equally careful not to reinterpret Scripture into saying something that it never meant to say.

Though both of these answers are on the opposite end of the spectrum, they can be equally incorrect in how they interpret the Bible. For many, changing the meaning of something that is blatantly stated is clearly wrong, but few recognize the subtle danger of misplaced emphasis. Thus, in order to develop a proper answer to the question, we must consider what the Bible claims the sin of Sodom to be.

The Sins of Sodom

As we discuss what the Bible calls the sins of Sodom, I would turn your attention primarily to Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16:49-50. These texts most clearly show the transgressions of Sodom and Gomorrah.

1. Homosexuality & Sexual Immorality

Here is the most obvious and most discussed of Sodom’s sins. Despite what some may claim, the Bible definitively declares homosexuality to be a sin. By this point, the biblical arguments for why it is sin have already been done by people who are much more studied than I. Yet for the sake of covering bases, let me present the evidence with much brevity. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 both specifically state the sinfulness of homosexuality. As for the New Testament, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 all directly mention homosexuality as a sin. The greatest claim, of course, is that Jesus affirmed marriage to be between one man and one woman, citing Genesis 2 in His reasoning.[1]

Yet in the discussion of homosexuality, we often overlook another grievous sexual sin that Sodom was guilty of: rape and abuse. To be fair, we are never explicitly told that the men of Sodom ever raped anyone; however, because of their bloodthirsty desire for the two angels in Genesis 19, we can logically assume that such behavior was not abnormal for them. It perplexes me that the Sodomites were so clearly desiring to violate the angels, yet the topic of rape is rarely discussed from said text. Sodom was guilty of a plethora of sexual sin, including rape and homosexuality. It is wrong to think of Sodom as being a “free love” hippy-ish society where love abounded for anyone and anything… until God came along and ruined their fun. Instead, the Bible portrays Sodom as a city full of predators hungry for victims.

2. Lack of Hospitality

This one may sound strange to us, but hospitality is a biblical command. Leviticus 19:34 states, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” In the New Testament, Peter commands us to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”[2] Paul urges us to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”[3] Furthermore, elders and deacons are required to be hospitable in leading the church.[4] Because hospitality is a friendly and generous reception of visitors or strangers, who should be more inclined to hospitality than those to whom God has been exceedingly generous? God, therefore, expects hospitality to flow from His people since the lack of hospitality signifies a lack of love. Once again, the Bible does not explicitly state that Sodom lacked hospitality; however, it is evident by their treatment of the two angels in Genesis 19. Or to put it another way, attempted rape is certainly not a means of showing hospitality.

3. Pride

We now move into sins that are not seen in Genesis 19 but are explicitly stated in Ezekiel 16. The first is pride. Sinful pride occurs when we value ourselves too highly. The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns about the dangers of being prideful.[5] In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis even goes so far as to claim that pride is the great sin. But why is pride so bad? Ultimately, pride is sin because it is a form of idolatry. In being prideful, we essentially worship ourselves or give ourselves credit rather than God. Pride is about usurping the glory of God. We are often proud because we long for glory; specifically, we long for God’s glory. In fact, the first sin within the Bible was a sin of pride. The serpent deceived Eve into eating the fruit because he said that upon eating it she would be like God. Sodom apparently was no different.

4. Gluttony

The people of Sodom were guilty of being gluttons. In my opinion, this is likely the great sleeping sin of the United States. Throughout the Bible, gluttony is considered a serious transgression. Proverbs declares, “And put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite”[6] and “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”[7] We often have no problem with calling drunkenness or drug usage a sin; however, the Bible frequently mentions gluttons in the same category, and alongside, drunkards. Both gluttony and drunkenness are matters of self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit for Christians.[8] Though over-consumption of food is primarily of the body, it reveals the heart. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” Food itself is not a sin. After all, God created flavors and taste buds for enjoying food, yet being mastered by food or eating to excess certainly is sin.

5. Prosperous Ease, Without Aiding the Poor and Needy

Ezekiel’s final item in Sodom’s list of sins is quite interesting. He claims that the Sodomites had “prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Evidently, Sodom was a very wealthy city. The end of Genesis 14 gives us a hint of the city’s wealth when the king of Sodom offers the treasures of the city to Abraham. Of course, wealth, similar to food, is not innately sinful. Throughout the Bible, we find a wide range of people who were quite rich; however, we must notice carefully the qualifying statement: “but did not aid the poor and needy.” God was not angry at Sodom because they were rich but because they did nothing to help the poor and needy with their riches. The subject of aiding the poor is common to the Bible. Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses the poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” Jesus even claims that how we treat the least around us is how we treat Him.[9] Each person is made in the image of God and, therefore, valuable. Though prosperity is not a sin, failing to use our prosperity to aid the poor and needy certainly is.

The End of the Matter

So let’s revisit the original question in order to provide a definitive answer. Did homosexuality cause the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Yes, but it was far from being the only reason. They were rapists, gluttons, proud, inhospitable, and stingy as well. We would also do well to understand that God used Sodom as an example for the seriousness of sin.[10] They did not need to commit a multitude of sin to deserve God’s wrath. Gluttony, pride, homosexuality, or any other lone sin was enough to separate them from God, and the chances are that each of us has committed at least one of the sins listed above. We, therefore, have no moral high ground on Sodom. We only have Christ, the One who has taken the punishment for all of our sins. So when considering Sodom, let us be thankful for the mercy and grace of God in sparing us from Sodom’s fate.

[1] Mark 10:2-12

[2] 1 Peter 4:9

[3] Romans 12:13

[4] 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8

[5] Proverbs 16:5; 16:18; 29:23

[6] Proverbs 23:2

[7] Proverbs 23:20-21

[8] Galatians 5:23

[9] Matthew 25:40

[10] Jude 7

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