Sin. It’s a small word, yet it carries so much weighty heaviness. It’s only a three-letter word, yet an immeasurable amount of studies, articles, and commentaries have been devoted to unlocking the power of this word.
We search for the answer because God’s good, perfect, sin-free image and glory have been imprinted in our souls. So, what does this word mean?
Sin is any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.
But the question remains, “Are all sins the same?”, which naturally, leads us to our next step of unpacking sin.
In 2019, financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. He had abused girls as young as 14 for sex and used them to recruit other girls between 2002 and 2005.
Several months later, his longtime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell was also arrested and faced the same charges. The impact of their sin is deeper and life-altering, creating a ripple effect in the lives of those harmed.
Throughout history, we can see the effects of other people’s sin, like the genocide of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler or the mass shooting at Columbine High School.
We know in our humanness that some crimes result in greater harm than others. We were never commanded, asked, or called to rank sin but, at the same time, we love lists.
We love to put people, places, and things in categories. It helps us make sense of the world. But ranking sin can lead us to believe we are not as bad as those around us.
Not All Sin Is Equal
We hear the phrase time and again, “There’s a special place in hell for that man,” when an unspeakable crime comes to light. For whatever reason, many Christians think that all sins are equal.
Perhaps, it’s because we’ve been immersed in the cultural waters that preach equality. That’s right, the current wisdom of our culture is that all sin is equal in the eyes of God.
I have some news for you, it’s not. That’s right, not all sin is equal.
In one sense, all sin is equal because all sin cuts us off from a relationship with God. James explains in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
What he means is that individual sins cannot be isolated. Jesus taught this in Matthew 5:21-28 when he equated committing adultery by simply looking at a woman with lust in one’s heart and committing murder with a hate-ridden heart.
Although he said that lust and adultery are sins, that doesn’t mean they are equal to committing murder or breaking the covenant of marriage. Regardless of our type of sin, the reality is this: It has disrupted God’s design for this world.
“Yes!” you say, “But don’t certain sins have greater punishments attached to them?” So, what makes some sins more serious? Here are four important factors amongst others.
1. The more we intend to sin, the more serious the offense. The Old Testament Law had lesser punishments for those who sinned unintentionally and greater sins for those who sinned “defiantly” (Numbers 15:27-31).
2. The more serious the sin is, the greater the ripple effect will be in our lives. Remember the Bible verse, you reap what you sow? For example, it is much worse to murder a person than to hate a person. It is much worse to commit adultery than it is to fantasize about it. It is much worse to act on your desires than it is to dwell on them.
James even said of preachers and teachers of the Word: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). This is because preachers and leaders have more power to lead astray those who have been entrusted into their community and care.
3. This leads us to our last point. Jesus did say, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” (Luke 12:47-48). The more we know about God the more we are responsible to God.
4. If all sins are equal, Jesus wouldn’t need to be our high priest who pleads for us on our behalf. Hebrews has several passages depicting Jesus as the High Priest (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-5:10; 6:20; 7:11-8:2; 10:12). We need him as our mediator, and because of what he has done for us, we can freely approach God.
Jesus is pleading on behalf of all those who have put their trust in him for their salvation. 1 John 2:1, adds that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.”
And, Romans 8:34: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Not all sins are equal, and we would do well to remember this. But we should not allow this to go to our heads and assume that our little white lies aren’t as bad as lust, cheating, or murder.
We need to remember that yes, it is still sin and each sin carries its weight in consequences because all sin invades, harms, destroys, and disrupts the good design that God so desperately wants for our world.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/gustavofrazao
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.