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Not All Sins Are Created Equal
28 December 2013
One day during the earthly ministry of Yeshua (Jesus)...
... a certain ruler asked Him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Yeshua answered, "You know the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother."
"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he replied. (Luke 18:18,20,21)
The story goes on from there, but what I want to point out for today's article is the fact that some people believe that they have kept all of God's commands, and are therefore righteous in His sight. But Yeshua had set the record straight earlier in His ministry. In part of what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua taught that the hidden sins of the heart make us just as guilty before God as do the more obvious sins we commit outwardly:
"You have heard that our ancestors were told, 'You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.' But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! You have heard the commandment that says, 'You must not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:21,22a,27,28)On another occasion Yeshua reinforced this teaching:
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person." (Mark 7:20-23)The interpretation of this teaching which I have heard my whole Christian life is that all sins are equal from God's point of view. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you are an adolescent who merely glances at a pornographic photo, or if you have been a prostitute for decades — both are equally guilty before God. In the same way, it doesn't matter if you are merely irritated with your little brother, or if you are a mass murderer — both are equally guilty before God.
While this is true in a spiritual sense, in a physical sense it is NOT true! If in the spiritual realm there is no difference between "little" sins and "big" sins, in the physical realm there can be a huge difference between them.
If I lust after another woman in my heart, that is a sin between me and God, but my wife is not affected. However, if I actually go out and commit adultery with another woman, that reality will be MUCH more devastating to my wife than a mere lustful thought. She may even end up divorcing me, and then that would devastate our kids too. And my parents as well. And my wife's parents. And other members of both our families. And our friends.
The same fall-out would happen with the other woman's family and friends. In addition, I may end up contracting some sort of sexually-transmitted disease like AIDS and have what would be left of my life completely ruined. Or when her husband finds out, in his rage he may even murder me, which would cause many other tragic repercussions.
One single act could have far-reaching consequences, like a little rock starting a huge avalanche, because I chose to actually DO my sinful thought. But NONE of these consequences would happen if my sin merely stayed in my heart and I did NOT act it out. From this example, it is very easy to see that not all sins are created equal, even though Yeshua equated lust with adultery. Apparently He had something else in mind.
Let's consider the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks, 15 of whom were Saudi Arabian nationals. Imagine the change in world history if they had decided to keep their anger and hatred in their hearts rather than going through with the attacks. Ask the family and friends of any of the 2,977 victims if their lives would have been equally destroyed by just the evil thoughts of a group of Muslims. Imagine all of the long-term effects of the attacks which would not have occurred if these men had not acted out their anger. From this example, it is very easy to see that not all sins are created equal, even though Yeshua equated anger with murder. Obviously He had something else in mind.
Another problem with the common interpretation of Yeshua's teaching works like this: you have lust in your heart, but resist the temptation to look at pornography. But then a thought comes to your mind: "You already have lust in your heart, so you have already sinned. Lustful thoughts and viewing pornography are the same to God. So, since you have already indulged in lust, you might as well go ahead and indulge in the pornography too, since it is all the same to God."
Where do you think these thoughts and this line of reasoning comes from? From the very pit of hell, to be sure! Satan knows very well that not all sins are created equal, just as God knows that they aren't. Therefore, Satan twists the teaching of Yeshua, to make it mean something that Yeshua did not intend, for his own diabolical purposes. He will do anything to entice you into MORE sin and into WORSE sin!
In the Old Testament laws, God did not have a one-size-fits-all punishment for every type of sin. As you can read for yourself, minor sins resulted in only minor punishment, while major sins deserved major punishment. Distinction is even made between different types of sexual sin. In the case of a man committing adultery with another man's wife, both of them were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). But if a man had sex with a female slave who was betrothed to another man, the offender merely had to bring a ram to God's altar as a burnt offering and he would be forgiven! (Leviticus 19:20-22)
In every country of the world, no one is thrown into prison merely because he has anger in his heart or because he wishes he had his neighbor's iPad. It is logical and apparent that it's only when you ACT OUT your sinful thoughts and desires that you are deserving of legal punishment.
Our inborn human sense of justice makes it obvious that not all sins are created equal, even though every sin makes us equally guilty before a holy and righteous God. As the Apostle James wrote: Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
Nonetheless, the New Testament confirms what we see in the Old Testament and in human society that not all sins are created equal. Yeshua Himself declared:
"Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28-29)And the Apostle Paul wrote:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)As we can see, both Yeshua and Paul made a distinction between different types of sin, even though all types of sin make us guilty before God.
In conclusion, it is very clear that not all sins are created equal. Therefore, don't let a distortion of Yeshua's teaching cause you to add to your sin and amplify its effect on others. Even if you have sinful thoughts and desires in your heart, use self-control and restraint so that they don't go from your heart to your actions!
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