“All sin is the same. I’m a sinner, so what right do I have to judge someone else?” This statement is commonly heard in our culture by Christians; it’s often in the context of overt sin that society or even a church has decided to ignore or embrace.
Under simple scrutiny, this statement falls flat. For example, if my husband comes home from work and I snap at him out of irritation, that is sin. But if my husband comes home from work and finds me with another man, that is also sin. These two sins couldn’t possibly be considered equal, because the results of the two sins would be wildly different in the amount of damage they caused our relationship.
“All sin is equal” is a common cliché that many people accept as truth. But what does the Bible say?
Sin and the Law of Moses
Under the Law of Moses, God distinguished between purposeful and unintentional sin. The people were commanded to offer up sin offerings or in other cases guilt offerings to make atonement (or right a wrong) for their culpability. Different sins also carried different penalties. In addition to the variety of animal sacrifices required per the offense, some sins meant that restitution was required (compensation for whatever was lost or damaged).
“If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the Lord’s holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the holy thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him” (Leviticus 5:15-16, NASB).
There were other sins that God told Moses carried the death penalty. Among them were infanticide/child sacrifice (abortion), incest, homosexuality and bestiality, as well as idolatry or involvement with the occult: “Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them’” (Lev. 20:27 – NASB). In these cases, no atonement could be given, indicating a more severe degree of offense to God’s holiness.
Likewise, when God chastises Jerusalem for its idolatry, He likens His people to a prostitute who is worse than any other kind. He says, “Men give gifts to all harlots (prostitutes), but you give your gifts to all your lovers to bribe them to come to you from every direction” (Ezekiel 16:33, NASB). In this passage He compares other wicked cities to Jerusalem, including Sodom, describing them as her sisters. God says this: “Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous” (Ezekiel 16:52, ESV). In other word, all the cities deserved judgment for their idolatry, but Jerusalem was so much worse in God’s eyes, that He refused to judge Sodom and Samaria as harshly.
There is also a level of wickedness that can invoke God’s irrevocable judgments on nations: “If a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 14:13-14, NASB). In other words, the most righteous, humble intercessors in history could not intervene on its behalf.
Finally, consider this passage: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 16-19, ESV). This is what is called a numerical proverb, common in the Middle East, and its use is to emphasize what is particularly abominable in the sight of Jehovah.
But didn’t all that change under Christ’s New Covenant?
In the next post, we will examine whether the statement “all sin is the same” or “all sin is equal” holds up under New Testament scrutiny.
What are your thoughts in light of re-examining some scriptures on sin?