“They” Deserve It


Who are “they”? We often use impersonal words like “they” and “them” when talking about people we disagree with, disapprove of, or despise. Paul uses these kinds of words a lot in today’s passage, not with derision or hatred, but in an objective description of reality. “They” in the passage are those that have known God but rejected him, exchanged the worship of the creator for the worship of creation, and traded the truth of God for a lie. The idolatry of the Greek world had led to rampant immorality. “For this reason…”

  • Why do we use words like “they” when we are uncomfortable with or offended by others? What does that tell us about our view of ourselves?


26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Verses 26 and 28 both use the phrase, “God gave them up.” What does that mean? What is another way of putting it?
  2. Make a list of all the things in this passage that come from dishonorable passions and a debased (unfit) mind.
  3. What have you done, or continue to do, that “ought not to be done” (vs. 28)?
  4. Where do you see yourself in this passage? In what way do you see your need for God and his mercy, kindness, and grace?


Who are “they”—those people whose practices make them deserving of death? Is it not us? There is not one person reading this that has not been guilty of coveting, greed, pride, foolishness, strife, or gossip. Yet, many of us get stuck on the “big sins” of others: the sins of murderers, and those who are heartless and evil. “They” are not like us. But all of us have participated in the same exchange at some time—substituting creation for creator, self over God, the natural for the unnatural. The natural way—the way God created the world—is for you and me to honor and respond to the God who made us. When we don’t, our self-indulgence leads to all kinds of immorality. One sin is not worse than any other. It all leads to death, and death is what we deserve—it is what we have earned (Romans 6:23).

  • 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Spend some time confessing your sin, believing that God will forgive you and cleanse you.
  • Pray for people in your life who are doing what ought not be done. Pray that God would help them come to their senses and seek the forgiveness of God.