Some Sins Greater Than Others

~ from email ~

Every sin generates infinite guilt and subjects the offender to everlasting punishment, because every sin is a transgression against the infinite God. James says:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:10–11)

If you break even one law, then you are a sinner. Some people had insisted to me that they were not sinners, but when they were pressed about it, it becomes clear that they meant they had never committed what they regarded as gross transgressions such as rape and murder. Telling “white” lies, harboring ill will toward people, practicing divination, and hundreds of other things condemned by the Bible did not count as sins to them. For them “sin” designates a special category of actions that they assume they would never commit. If they have done it, then it must not be sin. They considered themselves sinless by definition.

James rejects this way of thinking, but he declares that any transgression of God’s law is sin. A person is deceived if he thinks that he has never sinned, and that God will welcome him into heaven for this reason.

However, within God’s system of moral commands, some sins are indeed more severe than others. As Matthew 23:23 says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

In addition, the amount of our knowledge also has something to do with how the sin is judged:

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47–48)

The amount of knowledge affects the level of responsibility. Nevertheless, even the one who “does not know” will be judged and punished, only that the punishment will be less severe. Therefore, there is never an excuse for disobedience.