Are all sins equal? No. The biblical word sin, literally means “to fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In this sense all sin is sin, but when sins are carried out they are not equal in their degrees of severity. This is evident in the fact that the consequences of different sins differ quite greatly. If all sins were “equal” then the consequences for all sin would be the same, would they not?
I always find it intriguing that Jesus reveals there will be greater punishment for Chorzin and Bethsaida than for Sodom and Gomorrah (see Matthew 10:15). Jesus spoke of different levels of punishment for those cities that saw His miracles yet still did not repent.
“Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.’” – Matthew 11:20-24 ESV
It is one thing to hate a person, but it is far worse to hate a person and then murder that individual.
It is one thing to lust after a man or women, but it is far more serious to actually carry out the immoral act with that person.
The internal motive might be the same as Jesus indicated (Matthew 5:22, 28), but by acting on it there are horrible consequences which can prove to be far more destructive. These consequences, which always affect our relationships with others and with the Lord, vary in degree depending on what sin is committed.
I can covet something and not steal it. However, when I covet and follow through and steal something it is significantly worse than the internal sin of coveting. At a very minimum if I steal, I must pay back what I stole plus a fifth more (Exodus 22:1). If I covet something and do not steal I still need to confess my sin of covetousness to the Lord, but I don’t have to give anything back to that person.
The severity of some sins is clearly different than others. For example the sin of theft is far less of a sin than murder.
So to say that “sin is sin” and that all sins are equal is an incomplete evaluation of sin. In the book of Leviticus we see certain sins carry the punishment of death while others are judged far less severely.
Have you, like me, wondered why some deserve death by the Mosaic Judicial Law and others are less punitive? The simple answer is: According to Yahweh God greater sins deserve greater punishment and lesser sins receive lesser punishment.
Don’t we often hear, “Look, I know I sin and I’m not perfect so I’m not going to judge anyone else.” This is an understandable statement but we do not have to be without sin to make an honest evaluation of sin. If we are waiting to be perfect we will never judge anything or discern according to righteousness. If I am honest about my own sin, confess it and am repentant with sincere surrender, I can render a righteous judgment. I think the Apostle Paul gives us some clarity about this in Galatians.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1 NIV
The next time you hear someone say: “All sins are the same”, try to enter into the dialogue with some instructive biblical clarity. I know you’ll find the experience rewarding!