I received the following question:

Here is an important question which does affect theology, “Are all sins equal in the eyes of God?” It is understood that all have sinned and all are dependant on Grace for salvation, but should Christians go out of their way to actively protest one sin while merely saying another sin is wrong and paying little more attention to it?

I have heard many believers of today make this claim, that in God’s sight no sin is worse than any other sin. To justify this, they usually refer to a passage like Romans 3, where we read:

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:
      “There is none righteous, no, not one;
      11 There is none who understands;
      There is none who seeks after God.
      12 They have all turned aside;
      They have together become unprofitable;
      There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Or in verses 22b-23, where we read:

For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

These passages are made to mean that all sins are equal in God’s sight, and that no sin is worse than any other sin in His mind. Yet if we examine the Old Testament, we will discover that this idea begins to break down. For example, unintentional sins were given a different penalty from intentional ones (Leviticus 4-5.) When a man stole an animal, he was to restore double (Exodus 22:5.) If, on the other hand, he lies about something that he was given care over and seeks to extort or steal it from his neighbor, he has to return it along with one-fifth more the value of it (Leviticus 6:5.) A man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, however, was to be put to death (Numbers 15:35.) These penalties do not appear to be “equal,” nor does it look from examining them as if these sins were equal in God’s sight.

The Lord did not seem to view all sins as equal, either. In Luke 12:47-48, He declares:

47. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

This indicates a difference in the level of sin between these two servants.

What Romans 3 declares, then, is not the equality of sins, but the equality of sinners. For example, if I shoplifted from a store, I am just as likely to be arrested by a passing police officer as I am if I killed someone. Yet that does not mean that the law would treat me the same way afterwards. One of these crimes would have a stiffer penalty than the other. Yet I would be a lawbreaker and liable to arrest either way.

In the same way, while one sinner might commit what would be considered a much more gross violation of God’s law than another, still each of the two is a sinner, and both fall short of the glory of God. Thus, they are both in the same position before God, and both need a Savior, or they will never be able to experience eonian life. Yet though the sinners might be equal, the sins are not. The difference in punishment between one sin and another makes this clear. If lying is just as bad as murder in God’s sight, then both should receive the same penalty. The very fact that they do not shows that they are not equal in God’s sight. He is a better Judge than that.

It is interesting when one sin is singled out by believers to harp on when others are ignored. Yet that is not to say that the sins they single out are not bad. Past generations would have been shocked and horrified by many of the sins we take for granted all around us. My basic conclusion by the standards of the past would be that I’m living around a lot of scum…which may not be too far from the truth. Yet the fact is that I too am just a sinner, yet one with a Savior, and saved by grace, not because I was so righteous. We should not forget this, whatever behavior we might be condemning.