Are All Sins the Same?
Are all the sins the same? Well, yes and no. What seems like a wishy washy answer is in fact true. The yes answer stems from James 2:10-11, which says “And the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder.’ So if you murder someone, you have broken the entire laws, even if you do not commit adultery.”
The idea here and elsewhere in Scripture is to simply teach us that if our desire is to be obedient to God, then any sinful decision has the same common denominator: disobedience! So then all sin, any sin carries with it the distinction of breaking our relationship with God. So in this sense, every sin is the same.
Ah yes, that may be true, but we all know that certain sins carry more consequences than others. If I steal a loaf of bread from a grocery store that is certainly not as heinous as killing a grocery store clerk! We understand that the murder alters forever the family and friends of the murdered victim. Stealing a loaf of bread may cause a minor headache for the store owner, but it certainly won’t change forever his or her life.
In the Old Testament Law, particularly in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, there are consequences from any “sinful” or law breaking activity. Those consequences range from repayment to capital punishment. So it is clear that all sins are not the same in terms of impact and consequence.
But interestingly in the Ten Commandments, the bedrock of the most important commandments to live by, you find such diversity as resting on the Sabbath right up there with not murdering. You have taking God’s name in vain with not committing adultery. So once again you have commandments not to sin seemingly on the same level no matter what the outcome. It appears that maybe we don’t really understand how sin in general and sins in specific do affect us.
Numerous examples do abound about the degree of which sin is worse than another. Jesus tells us in Matthew 23:23 that tithing is important, but more important matters consist of practicing justice, mercy, and faith.
In James 1:26, controlling your tongue is the mark of being religious. The next verse tells us that caring for orphans and widows and being unstained by the world are also a standard of true and lasting religion. So apparently in this context these four areas of not sinning have greater weight than others.
One of the most interesting warnings about a specific area of disobedience is sexual sin. Look at these words from 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” The teaching here is since we are joined with the Lord, sexual sin perverts that connection.
Of course maybe the most significant differentiation of sin is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Every sin or blasphemy can be forgiven – except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which can never be forgiven. Anyone who blasphemes against me, the Son of Man, can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32). So this sin is one that clearly has eternal ramifications, which no one could argue has to be avoided at all costs.
Scholars debate what this sin actually is. My best understanding is saying the things of God are actually the work of the Devil. But even this interpretation is open to much argument.
So back and forth we go. Are all sins the same? My conclusion is still yes and no. But maybe the most important understanding is sin should be avoided all the time. Whether all sins are the same is probably not the best question. The best question is how can I learn to sin less and be more like Jesus? Now that is the sameness we should all want to achieve.