A reader of this site recently asked me this question: Is all sin equal in God’s eyes? It is a common question and the answer is of the variety that is always a little bit unsatisfying: It is one of those “yes and no” answers.
There is a sense in which all sin is the same. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God. Any sin, no matter whether it is an angry thought or outright murder, is a declaration of independence from God, a means of saying, “I am going to do this my way instead of your way. I choose my will rather than your will.” In that sense every sin is sufficient to justify an eternity of separation from God. Every sin grieves God and arouses his just wrath. God hates sin because his very nature is contrary to sin. This is not God being mean or arbitrary, but God simply giving us the wages due to our rebellion.
However, it is equally correct to express that some sins are more serious than others. Certain sins are more significant than others because the consequences are more significant. We observe this in the New Testament, in Paul’s description of sin in Romans 1. Here we see the progression of sin so that as people are given over to their sin and rebellion, they progress into sin that is more and more serious. We also see this displayed in the laws of the Old Testament where, for example, the consequence for theft is not as grave as the consequence for murder. There are degrees of punishment for various sexual sins so that some are punished with a fine, some are punished by banishment and some are punished by death. Each is sin, but each is judged to be more or less serious; the punishment accords with the crime. Of course we see it today as well, reflected in our civil laws and reflected in our parenting and church discipline and every other area where laws exist.
Is all sin equal in God’s eyes? Yes and no. All sin is equal in causing us to be separated from God, but some sins are more significant because they bring about more serious consequences.
Allow me one word of caution. The fact that some sins are judged to be more serious than others must not give us license to evaluate our actions on the basis of whether a certain act is a little sin or a big sin. We are commanded to be perfect in the face of all sin and with the Holy Spirit living within us, we never have to sin. And, as Spurgeon warns, the big sins begin with the little sins: “Oh! take heed of those small beginnings of sin. Beginnings of sin are like the letting out of water: first, there is an ooze; then a drip; then a slender stream; then a vein of water; and then, at last, a flood: and a rampart is swept before it, a continent is drowned. Take heed of small beginnings, for they lead to worse.”