We live in a “one-liner” world. Catchy, pithy statements go viral every day. With ever decreasing attention spans, many Westerners today do not have the capacity for extended, thoughtful reflection. As a result, the extent of our views on the issues are limited to 140 characters, or thereabouts. While there is a place for these short statements, sometimes it leads to sloppy sayings. So I thought I’d tackle a few of these in the coming weeks.
Leading off: "all sins are the same."
Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “A sin, is a sin, is a sin,” as if there is no differentiation. It might sound right initially, but upon further review, it’s not exactly that simple. As is the case with all of these “sloppy sayings,” we need to pay more careful attention to the details in Scripture.
Are all sins the same? Well, yes, and no. Consider these two verses:
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
"For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Gal. 3:10).
Taken together, these verses say just one sin, no matter how small, makes us guilty before God and deserving of His justice. So coveting your neighbor’s boat and killing your neighbor are the same: both sins make us guilty before God.
But that’s not all Scripture says about it. In the Old Testament Law, if someone was found guilty of pre-meditated murder, they were to be put to death (Exodus 21:12). If someone was found guilty of stealing, they were to pay back what they owed (Exodus 22:3). If all sins are the same, why is there a difference in the severity of the consequences? There’s a difference in the severity of the consequences because there is a sense in which all sins are NOT the same!
Jesus understood sins to have categories. Speaking to Pontius Pilate, He said, "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” (John 19:11). Jesus himself is saying Judas is guilty of a greater sin than Pontius Pilate. So there is a sense in which all sins are NOT the same.
So on one level coveting your neighbor’s boat and killing him are the same: they both make us guilty before God and deserving of His justice. But on another level, they aren’t the same because some sins, more than other sins, disrupt our relationship with other people and God to a greater degree.
I would argue that this is why there will be degrees of punishment in hell and reward in heaven. But that’s for another time.
This week I will be giving away FIVE copies of the book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, by Kevin DeYoung. To enter, simply sign in to the Rafflecopter giveaway below and enter either by following me on Twitter, on Instagram, or on both! Winners will be chosen and notified by email once the giveaway has ended. At this time, I do ask that only those living within the 48 contiguous United States enter the giveaway. Thank you for understanding.