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Sins Hierarchy
Are Some Worse Than Others?   

Q. Do you think that some "Sins" are worse than others? Is there anything in the bible about it? Thanks! (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)


Thanks for asking this because I'll bet many share your question.

Sins against God - Sins against Us

I guess we could say there are two perspectives to sin. The first is how sin affects our relationship to God. The second is how sin affects us personally and our relationships with other people.

Against God

With respect to our relationship with God, all people sin, and all sin prevents us from being intimate with God. So with respect to God's desire to join with us, the idea of degrees of sin are irrelevant. All sin breaks fellowship with God no matter how big or small the sins are. We are all "dirty."

Against Others

But how sin affects us and others is another story. There is no question that murder and cheating on your math test are not the same degrees of sin. Some sins compromise our honor. Others devastate our lives physically and emotionally.

For example, sexual sins scar and will change us and others. That is why molestation of children is so horrid, because it changes both the molester and the child for a life time. Murder destroys lives that could have been. So sins against people are different in the degree to which they can hurt others and us.

Definition of Sin

The word sin and the Biblical concept of sin is simply defined as "missing the mark." Think of an archer shooting at a target and missing the bull's eye. So sin is anything that falls short of the goal or perfection. Who decides what perfection is? Why, God does.

God wants intimacy

God has made us in His image. This means we have some of His characteristics. God has emotions. He loves and can be hurt by those He loves. The Bible makes it clear that God wants an intimate relationship with each of us. And that relationship is designed to be so close that it far surpasses anything that a husband and wife could ever achieve.

"Intimate" means that He wants us to join with Him and fellowship with Him one-on-one. In awkward human terms that means He wants to share breath with us and eat the same food and embrace us and touch us so closely that we become as one with Him. But for a perfect and loving God to get that close He must first "clean us up!"

Sin and Intimacy

Consider this: There are few things as painful as infidelity between lovers. It separates us and leaves wounds that are never fully healed.

In order for God to have intimacy with us, He must take charge and do what needs to be done in order to get the intimacy He wants and we need. He must do this because we cannot of our own power stop being unfaithful - it is our nature.

So you see that all sin from God's perspective must be eliminated or washed off before He can do with us what He wants - both for His benefit and ours. He is perfect and we are not. Jesus said we must be perfect, but only God can help us do this. We, however, must be willing.

God does Reward us for Good Behavior

Once a person puts their trust in God and His provision for "cleaning us up" (i.e. Jesus' sacrifice), that person becomes responsible to God to live his or her life in a manner which is pleasing to God and which benefits others.

How to best live our lives is taught in-depth throughout the Bible. The Bible also makes it clear that God will reward and punish His people for things we have done on this earth - both good and bad.

So in this regard there are some sins that are worse than others. We will suffer greater or lesser rewards and loss when we stand before Christ at the Judgment Seat (2 Cor. 5:10). It may not matter to us now. But, it will then!

Jeffrey Mays, author of the question about a "sins hierarchy," passed away not long ago. He is Valorie's brother and we miss him terribly. Jeff posed at least forty great questions to Remnant Report and is the reason we founded our website. May his soul rest in peace.

Ken Emilio holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and is the Director of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, OR.

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