Are there degrees of sin?

Some sinners seek to minimize their sin by comparing their sins to others’ so that theirs appear minor and therefore somehow less sinful. Regarding degrees of sin, on one hand, God sees people in the categories of perfection and imperfection1 and considers any sin a violation of the entirety of his law.2 Therefore, all sin is grievous. One example is Jesus’ teaching that people cannot excuse lust because it is not as bad as adultery.3 Practically, this means that sinners must not compare themselves or their sin to others but rather to Jesus, and see all of their sin without diminishing any of it.

On the other hand, sins have degrees of severity. Jesus told Pilate the high priest, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”4

Some sins have greater consequences than others. This is why the Bible speaks of the sin that leads to death,5 more severe judgment,6 stricter judgment for teachers,7 greater punishment,8  greater  consequences for intentional sin than unintentional sin,9 greater punishment for child abusers,10 greater punishment for a man who does not feed his family than for an infidel,11 and twice the judgment for self-righteous religious people than for “sinners.”12 This principle makes practical sense, seeing that, for example, it would be a sin for one man to lust after another man’s wife but the damage would be far greater if he actually seduced her and committed adultery with her. All parents would prefer that their neighbor simply covet their child rather than actually kidnap her.

Which sin have you committed in your life that has caused more harm than any other?

1Matt. 5:48.
2James 2:10.
3Matt. 5:27–28. Jesus doesn’t say they are equal but that both are sin even though the Law of Moses only forbids adultery. Legalists always look for such things to excuse their sin.
4John 19:11.
51 John 5:16–18.
6Luke 12:47–48.
7James 3:1.
8Matt. 11:20–24.
9Lev. 4:1–35; 5:15–19; Num. 15:22–30; Ezek. 45:20; Luke 12:48.
10Matt. 18:6.
111 Tim. 5:8.
12Matt. 10:15; 23:15.

Leave a Comment