Is all sin the same? Are all sins equal before God?


(SeanO) #1

Sometimes at Church we hear someone say ‘All sins are equal in God’s eyes - I am just as guilty as someone on death row’. This statement is supposed to be a sign of humility and recognition of unworthiness before God. But is it actually a true statement? And are there any negative consequences to taking this view?

One negative consequences that I can think of is that we fail to take serious sins serious enough. If we’re all sinners, then it’s easy not to recognize the dangers that some habitual sins present to the vulnerable members of a community. Naturally we do not want to minimize the seriousness of all sin - even the smallest hint of pride or envy. But some sins - such as abuse - require us as a community to protect our vulnerable members and at times taking this view that all sins are the same can prevent us from protecting the vulnerable. Some sins have a consequence that a person will have to live with for years or perhaps their entire life - reaping and sowing - that is part of life.

Even Billy Graham (see article below) says that while all sin causes us to fall short of God and leads to destruction, all sin is not equal in the eyes of God. Some sin is worse than others. I think we could summarize the Biblical perspective by saying:

  • all sin separates us from God
  • there are various degrees of sin, which is evidence by varying degrees of both reward and punishment in the afterlife

What are your thoughts? Do you agree / disagree? What Biblical evidence would you offer in support of your view? May Christ guide our discussion.

This sentiment is popular with many Christians. For some it’s a sign of genuine humility–“I deserve God’s wrath too. So how can I judge someone else?” For others this is a way to dodge the hits that come when you dare to criticize trendy sins–“Yes, I do think mating with bovines is wrong, but it’s not worse than any other sin.” And for still others, it’s simply a soft form of relativism–“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, you know.”

Like many popular adages, this one about all sins being equal before God is not entirely wrong. Every sin is a breach of God’s holy law. And whoever fails to keep the law in one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). So any sin committed against an infinite God deserves punishment. We’re all born sinners. We all sin. Every sin deserves death. That’s why the truism is half-true.

But it’s also a lot not true. Over and over the Bible teaches, either explicitly or implicitly, that some sins are worse than others.

It is always difficult and dangerous to attempt to list sins according to their degree of seriousness. In one sense, all sins are equal in that they all separate us from God. The Bible’s statement, “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23), applies to all sin, whether in thought, word, or deed.

At the same time, it seems obvious that some sins are worse than others in both motivation and effects, and should be judged accordingly. Stealing a loaf of bread is vastly different than exterminating a million people. Sins may also differ at their root.


(Cameron Kufner) #2

I have always had the view that all sins are equal in the eyes of God. There are obviously sins that are more detrimental to us, such as sexual sin, because we are sinning against our own body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. We have been bought with a price and we should present ourselves, our lives, our bodies, etc. As a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. (Romans 12:1) believe my sins are no different from anothers sin. Lets say I struggle with anger, that sin is no worse than the person who struggles with lust or greed. It is all equal in the sight of God. Sin is sin. If I sin, lets says I say a cuss word, I’m guilty of breaking the entire law. (James 2:10) So, in my view, if we say that another person’s sin is worse than mine, we are only deceiving ourselves. I do agree though that we must help those who have been absused and others who may be in need do to the sins of others, I don’t however think that because I have to look out for someone who is abused, that my sin is not worse than the one who is the abuser. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is outside of God’s grace and redemption. All sin can be forgiven, except the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So, I do believe that all sin is equally as bad. Sin can still be all equally bad, but certain ones can be more detrimental. I believe the literal definition of sin is “To miss the mark.” We have all missed the mark. Sin is sin. Thankfully, we have Jesus who took care of our sin problem/punishment of spiritual death, as well as our physical death by rising from the dead and we can all look forward to being raised on the last day.


(SeanO) #3

@CamKufner I think that was a helpful distinction you made between the:

  1. seriousness of sin in God’s eyes
  2. how detrimental that sin is to others and to ourselves

I think at a minimum that is the distinction we must make. I think Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount goes to great lengths to help us see that sin begins in the heart and that we must examine our heart and not simply our actions:

Matthew 5:21-22 - “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

And yet, as the Billy Graham article pointed out, it does appear that there are varying degrees of judgment and reward, which insinuates that all sin is not the same in the eyes of God regarding how serious it is… The classic argument that all sin is equal is that because God is infinitely holy and we have sinned against Him any distinction between sins vanishes because of that infinitude. I’m not sure that we necessarily see that in Scripture though.

When Jesus spoke of his second coming and judgment, he warned that among those deserving punishment some would “be beaten with many blows” and others “with few blows” (Luke 12:47-48). He also reserved His most fierce denunciations for the pride and unbelief of the religious leaders, not the sexually immoral (Matthew 23:13-36). However, remember that whether our sins are relatively small or great, they will place us in hell apart from God’s grace. Billy Graham article


(Joshua Spare) #4

Great question, @SeanO! On the one hand, it does seem like a helpful thought, to think that all sin is the same, for, as @CamKufner pointed out, it points to the fact that sin categorically separates us from God. On a personal growth and individual discipleship level, I find it to be a very helpful thought as it points to the severity of sin across the board. If there is too much focus on the stratification of sin, I think that we can begin to think of some sins as “not too bad.” I’m reminded of the book by the late Jerry Bridges Respectable Sins where he takes some of the sins that we seem to ignore or sweep under the rug and shows them for what they are - horrible and despicable sins! Reading through the table of contents is a great primer for conviction!

However, as both of you guys have pointed out, there is also the vital necessity to have a view toward how sin affects others, and what the appropriate response ought to be. And in that case, I think it is necessary to have an idea toward the relative severity of sin. I think it quite clear that there are levels of severity of sin in the biblical texts, and the Kevin DeYoung article does a great job of drawing them out.

So to sum up, I think there are two ways to think through it, each with a different context that is most applicable

  1. Sin as all the same, in as much as it categorically separates us from the holy God.

    • This is most helpful in the context of personal reflection and repentance on the severity of my own sin.
    • This is also helpful in the context of evangelism when presented with the objection, “but I’ve done too many bad things for God to forgive me!”
  2. There is a difference in the severity of sin, and therefore there ought to be a difference in the response to sin

    • I see this as most helpful in context of the community or church setting, when considering how sin affects others around us. There must be a differing response for a person who is gossiping about others and a person who is abusing others, as one example.

Does that seem to get at your question, Sean? Do you think these categories/contexts are accurate? Or do you think they need to be fleshed out further?


(SeanO) #5

@jspare Great thoughts! I think the distinction between how we view sin’s seriousness in our own lives and how we view it in a community context is a very helpful one. We must always strive to be holy as He is holy and rest in His grace which makes us white as snow. Yet we must deal with sin in a community context in the way that both acknowledges the grace of God and protects the victims of any wrongdoing.


(Jimmy Sellers) #6

@seano I call this type of discussion Sunday school sin. It is not uncommon to hear this discussion. It is usually around the sin of lying, cheating, stealing, drinking, smoking, cussing and fornication and what is the worst of these sins.
In a sperate category are crimes of passion or premeditation which most folks agree are go to hell issue unless you are protecting your family.
When I consider all the above (and others that could be added) I am hard pressed to think of anyone in the Bible that wasn’t guilty in at least one and in the case of many of the patriarch and apostles many if not all the Sins. This has caused me to seriously question these sins, not that they are some how ok with God but is this what God is ulimately going to judge us by? How many plus snd minuses are on our ledger? This sounds very works base in a lot of way very Islamic. Is it possible that above all that we do God will judge us on our loyalty to him even in the midst of our frailties? In David’s day a loyalty to the one true God, today a loyalty to the one true God as expressed by our receiving the one true savoir Jesus Messiah, amen.


(SeanO) #7

@Jimmy_Sellers I really think the distinctions @jspare made are very helpful because it is true that we are all broken - we all have lived a lie before being called out of darkness and into light. And yet sin is not all the same. And I think David’s life is a perfect example of both of these facts if we break it down:

  • David suffered serious consequences for murdering Uriah and committing adultery - his family was shattered and his legacy tainted
  • David received God’s mercy - Psalms 51

We cannot doubt that David’s life would have been much more whole if he had not committed such a serious sin. He surely committed other smaller sins - no doubt. But this sin broke him in a major way because of its seriousness.

In contrast, Daniel, who no doubt sinned, did avoid committing a sin of this nature and so his life did not have that same kind of brokenness and sorrow.

Sin has consequences and the consequences are different for different sins, but there is forgiveness for all sin in Jesus and a chance at a new life.

I think this is where @jspare’s advice comes in. We too often do not take our own sin seriously enough while we judge others’ sins very harshly. That is hypocrisy. Yes, different sin has different consequences, but at a heart level we have all sinned and how can we judge another when God has forgiven us our debts? We must recognize the magnitude of God’s mercy in our own lives and then we will have mercy on others.

We see a very serious warning regarding hypocrisy of this nature in the parable of the unforgiving servant:

Matthew 18:32-25 - Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”


(Lindsay Brandt) #8

I’ve been following this discussion today, and I think this is definitely a double-edged sword. If we see some sins as worse than others, we might be tempted to think we are better than others, not realizing that all sin puts us in the same position in regard to our relationship with God. This causes pride and attitudes of condemnation which hurt our witness to others as well as our relationships. On the other hand, if we neglect the view that some sin is more serious than others in regard to the damage it does, we end up hurting our witness and relationships as well. I have been on the receiving end of that side of things. To sharpen the perspective on this a little, I went into my pastor to talk about some grotesque things my dad had said to me recently (not to mention some of the things that have gone on in the past) and also some things an uncle said. I had suffered much abuse growing up, and the abuse was continuing, though no longer physical. I have a hard time letting relationships go. When I spoke to my pastor about this, he told me that it wasn’t okay to just walk away, because they are family and that his grandfather would go out and get drunk and come back home and pass out. He said all family has sin. I sat there beside myself that he would actually minimize the abuse I had gone through and suffered by essentially saying that all sin is the same. Had I not gone to school for human services and had a strong relationship with the Lord, that could have done a great deal of harm. My pastor was not the representative of Jesus he should have been to me that day. I think everything Sean has said on the subject is right on.


(SeanO) #9

@psalm151ls Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us and providing some practical insight into the importance recognizing both the seriousness of sin and the humility that experiencing God’s grace introduces into our hearts. I think you hit the nail on the head that the truth of the Gospel cuts through two misconceptions - spiritual pride and a complacent attitude towards sin. It saddens my heart to hear about how the pastor mishandled your situation and yet I am so thankful that the Lord Jesus has given you the skills / wisdom to strengthen and guide you along the journey with Him. Thanks again for sharing and may Jesus use you to share that same strength and wisdom with others who are walking the same path. The peace of Christ be with you.


(Lisa Fries) #10

Thank you Sean for bringing this up. Great question.

It is very difficult for us in our humanity not to see some sins as worse than other sins. We don’t have God’s perspective towards sin. Jesus knew that and made it clear that even if you violate someone only in the privacy of your own mind, it is the equivalent of physically doing so.

Mt 5:28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Now we may well get that if someone is going to violate us, rather it be in the privacy of their own mind than physically. This is us in our humanity again and not God’s take on this sin.

Love that James 2:10 was brought up.

Jas 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole [fn]law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

This tells us that no matter what, we are all law breakers.

Jesus shows us the severity of even calling another person a fool.

Mt 5:22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be [fn]guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘[fn]You good-for-nothing,’ shall be [fn]guilty before [fn]the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be [fn]guilty enough to go into the [fn]fiery hell.

In our humanity once again, to us it would be better if someone called us a fool rather than say murder us.

To a holy God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways, I can well believe would view all sin differently than we ourselves do.

Thank you so much Sean, for making me think about this. God bless you and take care.


(SeanO) #11

@elffries Thank you for those thoughts! I think @jspare did a great job of pointing out the difference between the severity of sin and the reality that all sin separates us from God. I think it is a mistake to say that because all sin separates us from God it is therefore equally severe. Rather, I believe that while all sin does separate us from God, it may differ in its level of severity.


(Lisa Fries) #12

Very good.


(Kenny) #13

Wow wow!

I was excited reading all of what was shared above. I really agree with what was shared, and was so edified by the input.

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Like what @Camkufner shared, sin is basically missing the mark (or falling short of God’s standard):

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (Luke 2:10)

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
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Adding all these 3 together, it basically quite damning to anyone, because the mere thought equates to action, and breaking 1 of the 10 commandments equates to breaking all 10. It also means that the thought of lying (without action) is as good as murder + adultery + etc. I think it is quite clear cut to God that sin is sin, and it is intentional that the bar of Christian living be set this high to the extent of impossibility. That was because it was given so that we will know that we are imperfect in nature.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20)

Speeding at 180km/hr is only illegal when there is a law specifies that the speed limit on that road is 120km/hr. It is still speeding nonetheless, but we would not have know if it was not stated. The law was intended to reveal the sinful nature of Man, so that we will know that there is a need of a Saviour to help address all our flaws. It was never meant to be kept, because it was impossible to do so from the start.

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I loved how @SeanO and @jspare described it, and I view it that there is a difference between sin itself vs worldly consequences of sin.

Sin in it’s actual definition and biblical supports, clearly states that it is the same.

However, there are differences to the worldly consequences of sin (e.g. if you were to kill someone vs if you were to lie). Society will handle both matters very differently.

And to follow up on @psalm151ls 's input, which I totally agree, that to understand why there is this differentiation, we need to look to the root - which is very likely the attempt of someone to try to see if they are able to keep some of the laws to certain degrees.

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Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (Matthew 23:13)
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The people who taught the law and the bible knew them very well, and despite that, try to keep it, and create this divide of “we can keep the law better than you” kind of attitude towards the masses, and it was something that Christ despised a lot. Pride has unfortunately stepped in. The law was intended to show that Man is sick and needs a doctor.

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On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
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To address @Jimmy_Sellers question on how will God judge us. It is an interesting one, because it is shown in the bible regarding the high priest during the time of the Israelites.

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Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)

Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord. (Exodus 30:10)
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The significance is that the high priest is the representation of the people to God, and they will be the one who offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on behalf of the people. It gets more interesting when you find out about the priestly garments.

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And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Exodus 39:25-26)

According to the account of our rabbis preserved in the Talmud, the High Priest wore a rope around his waist as he made his way – absolutely alone – into the holy of holies. The rope he wore served a very practical purpose. Because, in the event that the High Priest said or did something wrong, it was generally believed that he would be struck dead for his offense. Yes, right then and there. As only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, the rope enabled his assistants to safely pull the corpse of the High priest out of the inner-sanctum in the event of mishap. (shared by a Jewish Rabbi)

Source: https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/was-a-rope-tied-to-the-ankle-of-the-high-priest/
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Basically the bells are intended as a sign that the high priest is not dead, and the rope was used to pull him out if he was struck dead when he did something wrong (e.g. perform the sacrifice wrongly), since nobody but the high priest is able to access the Holy of Holies. God judged Israel at that day, based on how good their high priest was. This was also why their high priest could not have any form of blemish. If the high priest was good, they are blessed; and if the high priest was bad, they are cursed.

So what significance does this have with how God will judge us today? The key is in understanding who is our high priest right now.

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Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (1 Peter 2:22)

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, (Hebrews 10:12)
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We have a High Priest (Jesus Christ) who is without blemish (knew no sin, did no sin, in him is no sin) who is sitting at the Father’s right hand representing us to the Father. And when we have a perfect High Priest, we know that the harvest will definitely be good. God doesn’t see us based on our blemishes, God sees Christ because we are in Him. God doesn’t judge us based on how bad we are, but based on how good Jesus Christ is. :slight_smile:

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If you don’t mind, but I slightly disagree with @SeanO regarding David’s life being “more whole” because he sinned. Granted, it would’ve been “better” for him not to commit any sin at all, but God is so amazing when it comes to redemptive work in our lives.

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The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, (Romans 5:20)
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If not for the sin in David’s life, Bathsheba would not have given birth to the wisest and richest person in history - Solomon. Grace could only come in because sin was there, and this is what makes the redemptive work of God so exciting. If you look back in the bible, many of the heroes experienced breakthroughs in spirt of their sins. Out of Rehab (a prostitute who helped the spies during their investigation of Jericho), came Boaz a wealthy landowner. Out of Saul came Mordecai who was there are the right place and right time to warn Esther about Haman’s plot. And despite Jacob cheating his father of the first born blessings, the nature of Israel came from him.

Before the fall at Eden, we were in this order:

1) God
2) Angels
3) Man

Angels were more of a superior class than Man. However, after the redemption through Jesus Christ, the order has changed to:

1) God
2) Man (children of God)
3) Angels

That is how awesome our God is, and how much He loves us, that he made up this master plan (despite Adam’s sin), so that what comes out of our failures is even more amazing and wonderful. If we were to fix a broken chair, it will never be as good as it originally is. However, if God were to fix it, it will be of better quality than ever before!

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This is just my personal input that I gleaned from what was shared, and is based on my personal walk. Please feel free to disagree or critic as well, no offence will be taken. :slight_smile: Cheers and God bless!


(Mark Gilliam) #14

There is a commonality of sin, but not an equality of sin. One commonality is that all sin deserves God’s wrath and punishment because he is holy and sin puts us in a place which is less than perfect before God. Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection is the Father’s standard. Another commonality is that all sin. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. And another commonality is found in 1 Corinthians 15:22 “for as in Adam all die”. We all sin because we all have Adam’s nature.

All sin is not equal. Even the reprobates know that. Look at the laws we have in the US that punish crimes. There are different punishments for each crime. In the Old Testament there are numerous laws with different punishments proscribed. If you still don’t believe that all sin is not equal then believe our Lord. In John 19:11 'Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Finally God is infinite and can save us whatever our sin. Romans 5:20 “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,”


(SeanO) #15

@mgilliam Good thoughts - the ideas of ‘commonality’ and ‘equality’ are useful. There are certain consequences / attributes all sin has in common, but that does not mean all sin is equal.