Summary: Many of us have heard (and accepted) that all sins are equal. But is that statement Biblically correct?
For centuries theologians have sought to quantify the gravity of sin. While most promote 'unbelief' as the most egregious sin, some say the most dangerous is human lust and others share various differing opinions. From the Old Testament, we learn that God applied different penalties to various sins, suggesting differing severeness of the sins.
Yes, sin and thoughts on the repercussions of sin can be confusing. Even without delving into the comparison of 'sins of omission' versus to 'sins of commission', every major religion seems to agree that breaking any of God's Commandment is a sin. Jewish beliefs hold that there are 613 Commandments with the first ten being similar to both the Catholic and Protestant 10 Commandments. Yet, even between the Catholic and (most) Protestant faiths, the 10 Commandments vary slightly in ideological meaning and numbering. Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 are referenced for these differences. Note that in each referenced example, the 10 Commandments entail more than ten distinct verses. Here are the Ten Commandments most Protestants recognize.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall make no idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
So, breaking any one of the above is a sin but are they and other named sins coequal? How do they compare to, “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head”? What is the purported penalty if you stay at a party where people begin drinking too much and gorging themselves on too much meat? You know Proverbs 23:20 warns us against this. Some things could be considered a suggestion, as opposed to an outright rule, such as Romans 14:21, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.”
Or, is it worse if a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace? They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible. Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible. If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother, and they will be childless. Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. (Leviticus, chapter 20)
We see in those examples, penalties for different sins require varying redress or indemnification. Here are a few more divergences. A person that starts a destructive fire must pay restitution. If anyone steals from a neighbor’s house, the thief, when caught, must pay back double. A sorceress must not be allowed to live. Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death. “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed as are those who committed adultery or a homosexual act or cursed his parents. (Exodus, chapter 22).
The sins of Sodom were identified in Ezekiel 16:1-59 as prostitution, promiscuity, slaughtering children, bribery, illicit favors, arrogance, gluttony, indifference to the poor and needy, haughtiness, and “detestable idols.” Yet, in verses 60-63, God said he would make atonement for all they have done and they would remember and be ashamed and never again open their mouths because of their humiliation.
Jesus said it would be more bearable on the day of judgment for Sodom than for Capernaum because of Capernaum’s unbelief and refusal to repent after witnessing His miracles (Matthew 11:23-24).
So, let's use the Bible to research the topics addressing additional sins. First, let's identify sin, as named or implied. Matthew 22:32-40 says: Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Since there is a “first” and “second” commandment, doesn't that by their very nature indicate breaking the first commandment is more grievous than the lessor?