Are All Sins Equal?
There are a few phrases I’ve heard pastors say that just rub me the wrong way. I’ve heard pastors say that “Jesus talks about money more than anything else.” That’s absolutely false. He only mentions money a few times. He actually talks about the Kingdom of God more than anything else (by far!). I’ve also heard pastors say that God loves you more than anything else. That’s not true. God loves God more than anything else.
Another common one is this: “all sins are equal.”
But is that right? Are all sins equal? Or is that just one of those weird things we hear preachers say but never stop to look up the answer for ourselves?
Is looking at pornography really as bad as having a mistress?
Is being angry really as bad as literally murdering someone?
Is greed really as bad as abortion?
Is saying a curse-word really as bad as sexually assaulting someone?
All sins are equal
First, all sins are equal in the sense that all sins are offensive to God. God demands perfection and any sin, no matter the type or egregiousness, makes you imperfect; all sins put you in the “sinner” category. Gossiping means you have rebelled against God. Committing murder means you have rebelled against God. So, yes, in that sense, all sins are equal.
Second, and more importantly, all sins are equal in that they are all equally forgivable in Christ. Jesus’s blood is enough to cover all of them. Whether it’s murder, lying, stealing, cursing, adultery, pride, pornography, or gluttony, Christ’s blood is stronger than both the least and the worst of sins.
That’s great news. We often feel like some of our sins are harder for Christ to forgive than others. But all of them, no matter how dark, are no match for the cross.
However, all sins are not equal
Let’s look at a few passages.
In John 19:11, Jesus says to Pilate, “…he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Jesus is saying that, at the very least, there is such a thing as a sin that’s greater (or worse) than another sin.
In Ezekiel 8:6, Ezekiel is told “…But you will see still greater abominations.” So, there were some abominations that Ezekiel had seen, and yet there were even greater abominations or sinful actions on the horizon.
In Numbers 15, the Bible contrasts sins done unintentionally with sins done “with a high hand.”; high-handed sin is sin done willingly or intentionally while shaking your fist at God (either literally or figuratively). In context, intentional sin is treated as far more offensive than unintentional sin.
1 John 1:8-10 shows us that unrepentant sins are worse than repentant sins. For example, the sin of someone who struggles with same-sex attraction but fights it because they love Christ is treated very differently than the sin of someone who gives themselves over to their lust (demonstrating that they love their sin more than they love Christ).
So, we need to recognize that all sins are not equal. Some sins are more offensive to God than others. Some sins are more high-handed. Some sins come from a much darker heart than others. Some sins will carry heavier consequences in this life. Some sins will hinder your relationship with God more than others. So to say it another way:
Physical adultery is worse that pornography (though God hates both)
Physically murdering someone is worse than bitterness (though God hates both)
Abortion is worse than greed (though God hates both)
Sexually assaulting someone is worse than saying a bad word (though God hates both)
Basically, it all depends on what you mean by “all sins are equal.”
No sins are OK. All sins are deadly. It’s sinful to lust in your thoughts and it’s sinful to lust physically. Both are super evil. But some sins are more grievous than others.
Words and phrases change their meaning depending upon their context. And this is true in regards to the phrase, “all sins are equal.”
Here’s why it’s so important to understand both that all sins are equal, and that they most certainly are not:
If you are already in some sin, you should not think, “well, all sins are equal and I’ve already come this far so I’ll just keep doing it.” That’s not true! Turn back! Pornography doesn’t have to lead to more pornography, promiscuity, or adultery. Walk in the light. Don’t go further into the darkness just because you are in some darkness.
You’ve never committed a sin so bad that you can’t be forgiven. All sins are equally forgiven by Christ.
You always need grace. We are born broken, and our actions are sinful and broken, and it is only by resting in the mercy of Christ that we have any hope.
There are several people who have tried to create a list of which sins are worse than others. Whether it is the Catholic notion of venial vs. mortal sins or Dante’s list of the “seven deadly sins” - creating a “hierarchy” of sin misses the point. You will find that you will grow in holiness, not by focusing on your sin, but by focusing on Christ. We don’t heal from some disease by focusing on the disease but by focusing on the cure.