Are there different levels of sin?

Questions & Answers February 24, 2017

Q: Are there different levels of sin? For example, is killing someone bigger than not honoring your father and mother? — Marlon, from the United States

A: Some suggest that the negative commandments (Nos. 6-10) are given in order of reversibility (murder being irreversible, adultery almost so, theft more reversible, bearing false witness easier still).

But according to the Bible, all sin is serious enough to warrant the death of the Son of God to redeem us. “Whoever offends in one point is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

In the Old Testament, there were civil penalties for some sins that exceeded others. For example, murder was to be punished by death, as was adultery (both parties were to be stoned) and idolatry. Theft was punishable by requiring the restoration of what was taken, plus payment of a penalty. These punishments are similar to the civil laws in many countries today, often even being based on biblical legal principles.

In thinking of “little” versus “big” sins, perhaps it would be helpful to ask ourselves, which sin was worse — Eve taking the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, or Cain killing Abel?

We need to be very careful in “ranking” sin — with some sins being worse than others. This can de-sensitize us to the horrific nature of sin, and deceive us into thinking that some sins aren’t so bad.

Let’s remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and that we all are in need of a Savior “who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).