In the spirit of accuracy and truth I have an irresistible need to make sure everything aligns with the Bible. It's a deep conviction. I literally lie awake having internal debates where I weigh the sides of any given issue. I cannot suppress it. My hearts yearns for accuracy and precision. I do not expect everyone to understand it except to say you may have a similar predicament with something else. Perhaps you lose sleep over a friend who needs mercy and you do everything you can to help him or her. Maybe you have friends and family who aren't saved and you lie awake contemplating ways to work the Gospel message into them in every conceivable scenario. You might be someone who thinks for hours and hours or spends hours and hours preparing meals, opening your home or planning events for the body of believers. To some degree and in some way you can relate to having a burning passion for something that edifies the body and, on the flip side, you can also relate to not understanding how other people can't have the same passion.
That lengthy and Pauline paragraph brings us to today's topic:
Are all sins equal?
The short answer: no.
Now, the long answer:
Before the intricate dissection begins I must concede that when most people say this I think they often are saying, "just because you haven't murdered someone, doesn't mean you are sinless." I would heartily agree with that statement as it's taken directly from Scripture
Romans 3And then Psalm 53
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”There's that. That leaves us understanding that every single person on the planet is guilty of sin. I'm guilty. You're guilty. The best person you know is guilty. All guilty.
What those verses don't prove is that all sin is equally as heinous. What other verses can we look at?
James 2That's it, right? This proves it. All sins are equally as bad! Bada-bing! I can just end this post right now! Except this verse is in the same context as the other verses! You think your works are going to save you? It ain't gonna happen. To be saved by works you have to live a perfect life and no one has except for One. James is reminding his audience of the same things Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Which leads us to...
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
Matthew 5Uh oh. EVERY married man has done this. No exceptions. We've all lusted after a woman who wasn't our wife and that means we're all guilty of adultery. This proves it! This proves all sin is equal! Looking at a woman with lust for a moment is as bad as having sex with her!
But is that what Jesus was proving? He was getting to the....heart...of the matter. The root of all sin is the corruption of man's heart. No one commits adultery without first lusting after a woman. No one commits murder without first being angry with a person. Jesus clears up what was falsely being taught: namely, that keeping the Law externally was what one needed to do to be saved. Jesus comes along and rebukes their man-made laws and twisting of God's Law to tell them that "God looks at the heart." Just because you haven't killed someone doesn't mean you don't harbor the same root causes that lead someone to murder.
Let's step back and consider whether you even believe it or whether anyone even believes this for a second. Do you really think that losing your cool after being on hold with the cable company for an hour after dealing with a bratty kid, after getting home from work on 4 hours of sleep is as bad as murdering 100 people? Do you really think that? Honestly? If yes, keep reading. If no, you can stop here.
What verses can we look at? Maybe we should think about this from the positive side. Are there some good works we can do which are better than others?
We can definitively say "yes" to that. Is preaching the Gospel to someone better than holding the door for them? YES! Absolutely yes! Is actively praying and giving of your time and money to help a friend in need better than texting them "thinkin' of ya"? YES! Is obedience better than sacrifice? YES!
So if some things are better, then some things have to be worse, right?
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
James 3False teaching is for sure a worse sin than other sins. False teaching leads people from Christ and into hell. It makes sense that false teaching incurs a harsher penalty. It also makes sense that we'll be held accountable to the knowledge we have; the greater the knowledge, the greater the punishment.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
What about other specific sins? We'd all agree that any sin done in God's name (e.g. false teaching) makes the sin worse, right? If you have an affair and say it's what God wanted, you've made the thing worse because you've invoked the name of God (3rd commandment) to justify doing the work of Satan. You're blaming God for your wickedness. That's worse than just having an affair.
Are you still with me?
If we traverse all the way back to the Old Testament, do we see all laws punished equally? Does every violation get punished with death? Did the Law God ordained prescribe the same punishment for every crime? No. Not at all.
|Is trading Jesus for 30 pieces of silver as bad as oversleeping?|
Personally, I've been on both sides of this argument. Most everything I write about on this blog is something I've had to work through at some point. Here's what I realized after being on both sides: people on both sides are guilty of using their argument to feel better about their sins.
The person who says all sins are equal can often be saying that to feel better about all the awful things they've done. Perhaps they're guilty of adultery and so they really, really want to believe that a fleeting moment of lust is as bad as a planned out affair. Or the other person might think sins have degrees of heinousness so that they can feel better. "Ha! That guy is in prison for assaulting his wife's lover when he caught her with another man! I'm better than him! All I did was steal people's retirement and frame them for federal crimes over the course of a decade!"
Or maybe it's something a little tamer: "I heard him cuss the other day! That's awful! I also heard..."
Uh oh! Is gossiping less offensive than cussing? I have no idea! But apparently this person thinks so!
I don't think there's a clear cut ranking system for sin. You can look up the sins that were punishable by death for yourself. You can research the sins which we might call "lifestyle" sins that are listed throughout the New Testament but even those aren't categorized from best to worst. They're all bad. I think it might be best to look at each sin within its own drawer.
Are there degrees of anger? Yes.
Are there degrees of lust? Yes.
Are there degrees of lying? Yes.
Is all anger, lust and lying a sin? Yes. Do each have equal consequences? No.
We have to look at the attitude of the heart with any given sin. Do mature Christians get angry? Sure. Do mature Christians murder? No. Is there a difference in the heart of someone who carries out a premeditated murder than someone who loses their temper once a decade? Obviously.
The thing is that if it were not for the grace of God, then I do not know what kind of sinner I'd be. It is only by the grace of God that I am not as bad as I could be. It is only by the grace of God that I'm not in prison. It is only by the grace of God that I'm forgiven of all my sins - the big ones and the small ones. Christ HAD to die for all my sins so that I could be reconciled to God. I wrote all I just wrote to end with this:
The smallest offense to God was still enough to put Christ on the cross. Now let's see how lightly we take any sin.