Are all sins truly “equal” in God’s eyes?
Heart issues (inward sins) lead to outward sins (wrongful acts, hurtful crimes, etc). The Bible shows that both inward and outward sins are wrong, but it does not anywhere teach they are equal in God’s eyes. Thinking they are equal is like saying, “I already hate him, so I might as well murder him. Same thing, right?” or “I already lust after her/him, so I might as well have sex with her/him. Same thing, right?” These are not the same! One is cause, the other is result; but dealing with the cause before committing the result is clearly much different than “going ahead and doing it!”
Many people think that all sins are equal in the eyes of God, yet that firmly-held notion does hold up well under biblical scrutiny. If you are like me—one of many that has thought that way—read the following with an open mind.
Yes, the Bible does teach that it only takes one transgression against the law to make someone guilty of all the law. But don’t read so much into it that you go into false doctrine. Look at the Bible’s teachings “on the whole” to see the bigger picture.
The easiest way to prove that not all sins are equal is to read the New Testament, in John’s first epistle, where he writes of “sin not unto death” and of “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16-17). So, at the very least, we can prove that not all sins are equal in God’s eyes because some warrant harsher judgment or penalty.
This concept is clearly seen when studying the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, in which some sins were minor and carried very light consequences, such as waiting a certain number of days before being able to do some aspect of worship, while other sins required a repentance that involved the sacrifice of an animal (and for some it was a small, inexpensive animal, while for others it was a larger, more expensive animal), and ranged all the way up to (in some cases), death (no repentance was adequate and there was only a death sentence)!
Consider, also, an Old Testament legal restriction, said as “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This doctrine is called the Law of Retaliation (lex talionis, in Latin). The Believers Study Bible commentary says this about the Lord Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38,39:
(vv. 38,39) Jesus does not deny the law of retaliation (lex talionis, Lat.) as a valid principle of legal justice. While insisting upon adequate punishment, this law safeguarded justice by not permitting excessive punishment. Jesus advocates a desired response more characteristic of a regenerate citizen of the kingdom.
Lex Talionis shows clearly that in God’s eyes, in a just legal system, the punishment must fit the crime—with our point being that not all crimes are equal.
In a future installment we will address the common misunderstanding about what adultery is (in the biblical sense) and why inward adultery (lust of the heart) is not equal (in God’s eyes) to outward adultery by fornication (sexual infidelity by a married person), even though both are wrong. Again, one is cause, the other is result, and if the cause is not dealt with, the result that happens is much worse than dealing with the cause before the result occurs.