One of the prayers in The Book of Common Prayer expresses confession like this: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” Today’s reading emphasizes Sodom’s sins of omission—but surprisingly, the point here is not to condemn Sodom but rather convict the people of God.
We first learn about the reputation of Sodom in Genesis 13:13: “The men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.” Genesis 19 records the infamous account of the men of Sodom seeking to attack God’s messengers who were staying with Lot and the subsequent destruction of the city. Sodom is mentioned almost 50 times in the Bible, predominantly as a negative example of complete punishment for flamboyant sin without contrition. Like Jude, we often identify Sodom’s sin primarily as impurity and lust: “Sodom . . . gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (v. 7).
Rather unexpectedly, the LORD speaks through the prophet Ezekiel about the sins of Sodom in our passage today. The emphasis here is not on their sexual perversion; instead, Sodom is condemned for her injustice. The people were arrogant and overfed while others were hungry and impoverished.
Ezekiel brings up Sodom to shame God’s people: Sodom was never as wicked as you are; you have surpassed them in sinfulness (vv. 47–48). Sodom, that city condemned and destroyed for its depravity, ends up as an indictment of Judah. They love other gods; they worship idols; they involve their children in betraying God their Savior (v. 36). Their hearts are turned away from God and neighbor. They serve only themselves.
Injustice is widespread. Ezekiel 16:49 succinctly reminds us that it is sinful to provide abundantly for yourselves while ignoring the needy in your community. God clearly rebukes His people for self–love that has replaced love of neighbor.