November 21, 2012

Are There Degrees of Sin?

 

I can’t count the number of times I have heard a Christian say something along the lines of, “Well, sin is sin. God sees all sin the same.”

Really? Does He, really? God sees all sin the same?

Do you believe that? Because, I, for one, have a hard time believing that someone stealing a candy bar is the equivalent of murdering an innocent person, in God’s eyes.

The arguement that the two are identical in their weight and nature, “sin is sin,” flies in the face of God’s character. Nowhere in scripture do we see God acting this out. If anything, we see the opposite.

Jesus actually gives us quite a few references to degrees of sin. The following two passages refer specifically to a greater degree of punishment:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation ... " (Matthew 23:13).

That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:47-48).

The Luke verse seems to say that the greater the knowledge we hold (of God’s will), the greater our responsibility. Likewise, this verse tells us that the greater our punishment will be for neglecting our responsibilities. Ouch and sheesh. Let that that one sink in for a minute.

The following verse from John 19:11 actually refers to a greater sin: " ... for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” Jesus clearly tells us that Judas’ betrayal was a greater sin than that of Pontus Pilate.

God is a Father

But, let’s set aside those verses for a moment and just consider the fact that God is a Father. Any parent knows that their children must receive consequences appropriate to their actions. I like to refer to them as “practical consequences.”

For instance, if my daughter complains or grumbles about the dinner I serve, she doesn’t get to eat it (does that sound harsh? Kinda sorta, I admit). She learned quickly, however, to say “Thank you” when that plate of duck confit meatloaf is placed in front of her.

Likewise, God deals with us similarly. He gives us practical consequences for our missteps. He doesn’t blindly dole out punishment or treat all of our sins as equal. More than that, He deals with us individually and personally. Again, any parent with two or more kids knows that their kids are very different from one another, and must be dealt with as such.

But, in all of this, I’m reminded that I have not received what I deserve. The grace of the Lord abounds ... and abounds. While I believe there are degrees of sin, I also know that, in my own life, I was once guilty of death. Yet, my Jesus has called me His — redeemed, restored, reconciled. Forgiven.

I need only ask for forgiveness when I stumble, turn, and run straight towards Him once again.

So, what do you think? Agree or disagree? Have you ever said or thought “all sin is the same,” or “sin is just sin”? Why do you think this mindset is so pervasive in the church?

CC Image • cassandrajowett on Flickr

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Danny Groves
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 1 John 5:16

Sure seems like it to me.
1 year10 months ago · ( 0 )
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Wayne Stiles
Perhaps the "all sin is the same" view is meant only to show that any amount of sin causes us to fall short of God's holiness. That relates to salvation/condemnation. But among the condemned, there are varying degrees of punishment for the sins worthy of such. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
1 year10 months ago · ( 0 )
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Justin Thompson
I'm with Wayne's comment. I've always liked the "sin is sin" argument in that it helps prevent us from splitting hairs so to speak. Many of us will often justify something like cussing occasionally as not that serious... "at least I'm not cheating on my wife." I hear things like this a lot. I typically think of
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"sin is sin" as, "it doesn't matter, you still sinned and still need the same attitude of repentance and God's grace as any other sin." I do agree that it can be twisted though and is often used to justify just the opposite. Seems to be like viewing the glass as half full or half empty perhaps.
1 year10 months ago · ( 0 )
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Steven Duvall
I too will have to agree with Wayne and Justin and that I still believe "Sin is Sin", but I do agree that there are different degree of punishement that goes with your sin. Even though God will forgive you of your sin, does not mean he will not punish you.
1 year10 months ago · ( 0 )

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