Does God judge all sins the same? That depends. To answer that let’s look at how God sees sin.
How God Sees Sin
First, I have some bad news. You’ve failed. Wait—we all have. As you read the following verses please consider how they apply to you.
- “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6 NIV).
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28 NIV).
- “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment… And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:22 NIV).
- “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19 NIV).
- “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48 NIV).
- “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10 NIV).
While muttering “idiot” under your breath to the cyclist that cut in front of your car is better than running over him in a fit of road rage, both reveal an imperfect heart. A nature that can be so easily irritated is capable of indescribable evil under the right provocation. We really don’t understand how deeply sin has impacted us.
Even if we were able to corral every sinful impulse, from birth to death—which we can’t—the presence of those desires shows our propensity to sin. We’ve all fallen short of God’s glory (see Rom. 3:23). No one can stand before a holy God on the basis of his or her righteousness. “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10 NIV). Sin is a capital offense that demands the death penalty because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
How God Views Righteousness
But there is hope—“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIV).
God judged our sins—past, present, and future—on the cross. Righteousness is ours for the taking. When we accept what Jesus did on our behalf God gives us His Son’s perfect score (Ephes. 2:8-9).
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV)
- “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV).
Hallelujah, what a Savior! Jesus exchanged my sin for His righteousness.
In this way, God judges our sins the same. What we might call the smallest sin was big enough to send Jesus to the cross. Every sin must be paid for by death—either our own eternal death or Jesus’ death on the cross. In other words, our every sin will be decided by whether we’ve trusted or rejected Jesus.
How God Judges Sin
While God evaluates all of our sins based on what we have done with His Son, not all who reject Christ receive the same level of punishment. God’s hierarchy of sins may surprise you. Instead of listing the 10 worst sins, God looks at motivations and knowledge.
Romans 1:18-20 says there is no excuse for rejecting God because nature itself proclaims His glory. But some people are guiltier than others. It will be worse for those who had ample revelation of Christ and rejected Him than for those who had little knowledge (see Luke 12:4-48; Luke 10:10-15; Rom. 2:12-16).
During His time on earth, Jesus hurled his most severe warnings not to prostitutes and robbers, but to religious leaders. These men taught the Scriptures, showing they knew what was right, and then oppressed the people. Those who lead people away from God with their duplicity and self-righteousness will be judged more strictly than people with little spiritual understanding (see Matt. 7:15-23; Mark 9:42; James 3:1).
So no, not all sins will be assessed the same. Those who accumulate spiritual knowledge and never come to walk with Jesus are more culpable than those who knew little about Him. “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 12:48 NIV).
How We Should Respond
Too often, when I’ve heard people say, “All sin is the same,” it sounded more like a pass for sin than appreciation for grace. The mercy of the cross should heighten our desire for holiness, not diminish it. A cavalier attitude toward sin may indicate a head-knowledge that has never grasped the true ramifications of sin or grace.
The better we understand God’s view of sin and what our forgiveness cost, the more we’ll be like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (see Luke 7:40-48). The one who is forgiven much, truly loves much.
Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. They, along with their two grown children and two standard poodles, enjoy calling North Carolina home. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.
Publication date: July 11, 2016