Christianity and The Broken Window Theory

In 1982, Stanford university psychologist Philip Zimbardo argued the apparent wealth of a neighborhood was irrelevant with regard to its social control. One broken window, in any neighborhood, leads to more broken windows.

Zimbardo said, “One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.” At the same time, disorder increases fear, which leads residents to withdraw from the community and decrease social control which increases fear and withdrawal in a continuing cycle.

Why do Christians break their own windows?

Let’s say you buy a brand-new house. Brand. Spanking. New.

You get the key and move in and start making plans for each and every room. Except that scary corner in the basement. Obviously.

Your first day in the house you take a hammer and chuck it through a window. You tell yourself you’re checking the strength of the windows. Maybe it wasn’t the best way to check and when others ask you why you had to check you have a simple, but straightforward answer.

“It’s my house. I can do what I want. I’ll fix it later.”

No one gets mad at you. The bank doesn’t raise your mortgage. The police don’t arrest you. In fact, now you think about it, throwing a hammer through a brand-new window felt pretty good. People have made careers out of destroying things, even before streaming video sites, because destroying things in new and clever ways is fun!

You’ll need to cover the hole, so the elements and critters don’t get in the house, but that’s easily accomplished. You could even replace the window at a reasonable cost. Honestly, when all is said and done, what’s the harm?

It only makes sense, knowing all of the above, to put it down in your calendar for the first of every month to throw a hammer through another window.


Is there an alternative to breaking your own windows?

Imagine if you will a new Christian; redeemed by the blood of Christ, sins forgiven, new heart, new outlook on life, saved from sin, death, and hell. Imagine a Christian saying, “It’s my life. I can do what I want. I’ll pray for forgiveness later.”

It’s not a far-fetched notion. It happens all the time. If not blatantly, subtlety. There are those who keep on sinning because they’ve decided grace allows for the behavior. There are also those who have knowingly, or unknowingly, tucked a sin aside for once-in-a-while use. It’s really no different than the Christian Broken Window theory.

Christ has made us new by His death and resurrection.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Christ makes a new covenant so that we are no longer under the law, but under grace.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:14 ESV

Furthermore, Christ has fulfilled the law and forgiving our sins once for all time so we no longer face the punishment for sin.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14 ESV

The conclusion then for some is to go on sinning because Christ will always forgive you. Others feel they can have a guilty pleasure because Christ will always forgive them. But this makes as much sense as breaking a new window in your new house just so you can replace it with another new window.

The solution is obvious. Go and sin no more.

How do we create new rules to keep the old rules?

We don’t.

I’m serious.

We don’t need any more rules.

A typical response to this sinful life is to go full on the other way and create a new legalism. The new legalism creates the same old problem. We can’t keep the law. People have given up on the faith over this, or become depressed Christians, or pushed their legalism on others.

This happens often. Every time a Christian book is released and gets popular. The next thing you know Christians are “applying the principals from the book” but in reality, they are supplanting God’s grace for a whole new legalism. The principals of the book are easier to identify and implement then the Bible and therefore end up taking precedence.

Do not put together a new list of rules to keep for yourself or others. Guidelines could help for a while to get you on track, but they should not become burdensome laws.

Are there no rules? Are there no guidelines?

Of course, there are rules and guidelines. Jesus didn’t abolish the law, He fulfilled it. With His fulfillment of the Law, we are no longer bound to it, or condemned by it if we are in Christ.

But this doesn’t mean we can go on willfully sinning.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:1-3 ESV

It also doesn’t mean we can return to a new legalism.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Galatians 3:2-4

We have to be wary of anyone who brings us a different Gospel and we also have to be wary of anyone who brings us a new law.

The law acts as a curb, mirror and guide (thank you confirmation classes), but the Gospel reminds us to show grace and mercy to ourselves and others. The law condemns, but the Gospel shows compassion.






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