I've often heard it said that all sins are equal before God. But this just doesn't seem right. What would you say?
I have heard that too. And the reason people have said that is because of James 2:10 where it says, "If you have committed one sin you are guilty of all." Which seems to mean that, whether small sin or big sin, I'm totally guilty of all the commandments. Therefore every sin is equally damning to me.
That's not the whole story, is it?
First, not everybody is hurt in the same way by every sin. In other words, if I shoot Michael dead right now, or if I just spit on him, both are very ugly sins and Jesus calls hatred murder. But he's not dead if I only spit on him!
So worse sin—meaning worse in its effect—would be killing over spitting. And I think we should say that. It is! Because consequences matter—at least for you!—and for me, I think, because here is another text we have to bring in.
Jesus taught that there would be degrees of punishment. If you know the right and don't do it, you'll be beaten with more stripes than if you don't know the right and do wrong.
So there's degrees of punishment, which must mean degrees of guiltiness, which must mean that some sins are more blameworthy than others.
Let me go back to James and just say what I think is meant there. The argument is, The reason why you are guilty of all if you do one sin is because one God said all.
Therefore, what he is drawing attention to is, if I say to God, "I'm going to do this against you"—this small sin, say, spitting on somebody—"and I'm going to do this big sin against you," in both cases you've defied God. In both cases you've said no to God. That's what he's saying. He wants us to feel that every sin, from the smallest to the greatest, is against God and not just against people and their consequences.
And in that sense every sin is infinitely heinous.
So you just have to carve this up and say that when it comes to God being defamed in my heart, I am committing an infinite evil against him if I do a small sin or a big sin. But there are other factors that have to be brought in.