This question came up recently so I did some digging on theology web sites to find what Bible verses applied to the question.
Here’s what Ligonier said:
It’s clear that we have different degrees of sin when we consider the warnings of Scripture. There are at least twenty-two references in the New Testament to degrees of rewards that are given to the saints in heaven. There are different levels, different rewards, and different roles in heaven. The Bible warns us against adding to the severity of our judgment. Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). Jesus measures and evaluates guilt, and with the greater guilt and greater responsibility comes the greater judgment. It’s a motif that permeates the New Testament.
The idea of gradation of sin and reward is based upon God’s justice. If I commit twice as many sins as another person, justice demands that the punishment fits the crime. If I’ve been twice as virtuous as another person, justice demands that I get more of a reward. God tells us that entrance into heaven will be only on the basis of the merit of Christ, but once we get to heaven, rewards will be dispensed according to works. Those who have been abundant in good works will receive an abundant reward. Those who have been derelict and negligent in good works will have a small reward in heaven. By the same token, those who have been grievous enemies of God will have severe torments in hell. Those who have been less hostile will have a lesser punishment at the hands of God. He is perfectly just, and when He judges, He will take into account all of the extenuating circumstances. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36).
A while back, my friend Dina sent me a sermon where that exact passage (John 19) was brought up by the pastor.
I think the correct position is that any sin is enough to separate you from God, but some sins are more severe than others in God’s objective standard of right and wrong.
OK, that was fine and good, but then I noticed a few days later that Michael Krueger had also blogged about this “all sin are equal” view, too.
Krueger says this:
First, to say all sins are the same is to confuse the effect of sin with the heinousness of sin. While all sins are equal in their effect (they separate us from God), they are not all equally heinous.
Second, the Bible differentiates between sins. Some sins are more severe in terms of impact (1 Cor 6:18), in terms of culpability (Rom 1:21-32), and in terms of the judgment warranted (2 Pet 2:17; Mark 9:42; James 3:1).
Even more Bible references, so we’re not on the wrong track.
So then why do some people insist that all sins are equal? It turns out that it is coming from the secular ideal of non-judgmentalism.
We should begin by observing that this phrase does not come from Scripture. People do not use it because it appears in the Bible. Why then do they use it?
One reason, as noted above, is that some Christians use this phrase to uphold the seriousness of sin. It is viewed as a way to remind people not to be dismissive about their sin or regard it is a triviality.
Others use this phrase as way to “flatten out” all sins so that they are not distinguishable from each other. Or, to put it another way, this phrase is used to portray all human beings as precisely the same. If all sins are equal, and all people sin, then no one is more holy than anyone else.
In a world fascinated with “equality,” this usage of the phrase is particularly attractive to folks. It allows everyone to be lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass.
Such a move is also useful as a way to prevent particular behaviors from being condemned. If all sins are equal, and everyone is a sinner, then you are not allowed to highlight any particular sin (or sinner).
Needless to say, this usage of the phrase has featured largely in the recent cultural debates over issues like homosexuality. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, some Christians reluctantly concede. But, they argue, all sins are equal in God’s sight and therefore it is no different than anything else. Therefore, Christians ought to stop talking about homosexuality unless they are also willing to talk about impatience, anger, gluttony, and so on.
Krueger also posted this fascinating follow up post, where he looks at how the phrase is being used by people on Twitter.
Look at these tweets:
All sins are equal. People tend to forget that. There is no bigger or smaller sin. Being gay and lying, very equal.
all sins are equal in God’s eyes. whatever you’re doing, is no better than what someone else is doing.
If you have sex before marriage please don’t come on social media preaching about the wrongs of homosexuality. All sins are equal
Need people to realize that all sins are equal… don’t try to look down on me or question my faith just cuz you sin differently than I do.
Don’t understand why you’re so quick to judge me, when all sins are equal. So much for family..
if you think being gay is a sin, let me ask you something, have you not done anything wrong in your life? all sins are equal. we’re sinners
Nope no difference at all. All sins are equal no matter what you’re running for. The bible says do not judge lest ye be judged
A huge problem I have with religion is the notion that all sins are equal. Like pre-martial sex and murder are the same amount t of bad.
people do bad things because they believe that all sins are equal and ~god~ loves y’all equally so he’s going to forgive you naman ha ha ha
It a sin to condemn another sinner and their actions. All sins are equal. So what makes you better than the person you’re condemning?
I think so b/c having sex before marriage doesn’t make you less of a women then if you waited until marriage.. all sins are equal soo
friendly reminder, all sins are equal in gods eyes so you’re not better than I am in any way. please worry about your own sins before mine.
People don’t like when I suggest abortion as an option. This is a free country and all sins are equal so mind your business!!!
What I do is no worse than wat you do… all sins are equal no matter what it is… a sin is a sin
to god all sins are equal so you have no right to compare your sins to someone else’s bc in the end it doesn’t matter
The first thing that I noticed is that premarital sex and homosexuality are the most popular sins. I would think that divorce and abortion would be up there in the rankings, as well.
Something strange has happened in our society such that more and more people want to be led by their feelings, rather than be bounded by rules or standards. When people get caught breaking moral rules, rather than be accountable, they attack the person judging them. They would rather escape the judgment of their peers than admit fault and try to fix the mistake, and do better next time.
It’s so bad now, that the people who have morals and who make moral judgments are seen as the real bad people. The immoral people are on the offense, and even trying to ban people from being able to disagree with them. We’re seeing that with people who are being attacked for defending natural marriage against divorce and redefinition of marriage. In France, they want to make speech critical of abortion a criminal offense. And in Canada, they’ve now made speech critical of the gay agenda a criminal offense. (It’s already a human rights tribunal offense)
What is even more interesting is when the people who push the “don’t judge me” line try to justify it from the Bible. Very strange, but we seem to have forgotten the value of setting moral boundaries. Now moral boundaries are “evil”. Instead, having compassion for people who break the moral boundaries and harm themselves and others is “good”.
7 thoughts on “Are all sins equally bad? Or are there degrees of severity for different sins?”
My fave NT verses on this subject:
“It would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” – Jesus (Luke 17:2)
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” – Galatians 6:7
“Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” – Jesus (Matthew 10:15)
It is also worth noting that Jesus declares some commandments to be greater or more important than others (e.g. in Matthew 5:17-19; Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 23:23; Mark 12:27-31), which, by implication, means that some sins are worse than others.
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Another example is how much God hates the shedding of innocent blood. Even though every human is a sinner, and even though many are separated from Him, He still calls them innocent and distinguishes them from the murderous wicked.
All sin separates us from God. All sin breaks relationship, with God and the person that we sinned again (even ourselves).
God’s rules are there to protect us and are not arbitrary.
The consequences of sin are what we live with, some more severe than others. If we sin, we break trust with others. Some sins have larger impact and are harder to forgive in the human realm.
No sin is “small”
Honestly…it’s getting to the point that I’m starting to hate the word “equal”. What does it mean? Is everyone using it the same way? This emphasis of “equal” and the push for us all to view things as “equal” i think is so silly. It’s all about feelings, and we know it.
All sins are sins, the same way all crime is crime. Stealing a pack of gum and stealing a car are both forms of theft, but one is clearly greater than the other, that’s why it warrants a more severe form of punishment.
It’s the same with sins. More and more, I’m starting to openly fight back and advocate why people should be judging. I think the Secular and half-hearted Christians who merely inherited their faith but don’t know what Jesus taught are using this shaming tactic of “don’t judge” to escape the shame, disappointment and disapproval that should come along with openly indulging in and embracing sinful behavior (like the hook-up culture).
And even with Christians who DO know the Bible…with them, it seems there’s so eager to please humans, so eager to be liked and seen in good standing in the eyes of other humans that they bend over backwards to declare “no judging” or “I won’t judge”…we all know there’s different forms of judgment. Nobody’s out here judging in the form of meting out punishment, but EVERYONE should judge what’s good or bad based on God’s word the Bible. If they’re wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures, talk it out. But to withhold what the Scriptures say in favor of keeping your shame and disappointment hidden, replaced by the head-nods and smiles which the other person will likely take as your approval and condoning of such behavior…I think we as Christians need to take a stand and put a stop to it.
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I think we need to explain how setting moral boundaries is necessary to restrain aselfish adults and protect the weak. The sobbing of selfish adults should not deter us from championing rules that protect the children. If they make us feel bad for setting boundaries, too bad.
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All mud is equally dirty. But I am going to do my best to avoid it and I won’t go near quick sand no matter how cool and hip they claim it is.
It is all a claim to say well sure the Bible may have meant occasional incidental sin is ok.
But now those who identify more strongly by a sinful lifestyle, even feeling outrage if their sin is not celebrated. Thrown those bad people in the firey furnace not liking my sin.
Anyone like that is not truly saved. Salvation cases a change in heart, a desire to become righteous and to know God.
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