Are All Sins the Same?

If you’ve been in the church for very long you’ve probably heard, “All sins are the same!” Yes, there are some ways all sins are the same:

  • The Greek word for sin is hamartanō,  which is an archery term meaning “to miss the mark.” All sins are the same in that they’re examples of “missing the mark,” or missing the standard set by God’s holy, perfect law. That’s why 1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”
  • All sins are the same in terms of being destructive, an offense to God, and demanding death as a punishment. Romans 6:23a says, “The wages of sin is death.”
  • Most importantly: all sins are the same in that they condemn us to hell and can only be forgiven through repentance and faith in Christ.

Aside from these ways all sins are the same, there are problems associated with making this well-known statement.

There Are Practical Consequences to Saying All Sins Are the Same

Soon after I became a Christian I committed a sin that had previously characterized my life for years. Although the sin didn’t bother me earlier, now that I was a believer, I was greatly convicted. I went to an older Christian friend for counsel. He could’ve said something along the lines of:

“Yes, this is sin and it’s wonderful that you’re broken up over it. God’s desire is for us to have victory over unbroken patterns of sin. You need to repent and cry out to God for His grace to help you overcome this life-dominating struggle.”

Instead, he “encouraged” me by saying:

“You need to keep in mind that all sins are the same. What you did was only as bad as worrying or lying.”

Although the man meant well, as soon as he said this, I immediately minimized my sin. My brokenness was gone. I thought, “Everyone sins, and this is the sin I commit. It’s no worse than the sins others commit.” Not long after this conversation I committed the same sin again…and again.

Doesn’t common sense tell us all sins are not the same?

Every time we hear, “All sins are the same” isn’t there a nagging thought that it’s not true? Jesus said not to worry and Paul said not to be anxious. Do we really think worry and anxiousness are the same as adultery and murder?

We know the consequences for:

  • Adultery are going to be different than the consequences for gossiping
  • Stealing are going to be different than the consequences for gluttony
  • Idolatry are going to be different than the consequences for being unforgiving

The Bible Teaches that All Sins Are not the Same

Even if there are practical consequences, and even if common sense tells us, the real question is, “Does the Bible teach all sins are the same?” No it doesn’t. While sins are the same in a few ways, they’re radically different in other ways.

1. There are three different kinds of sin.

  1. Inherited sin—We received a passed-on depravity from Adam, which we commonly call our “sin nature.”
  2. Imputed sin—Even though men were sinners because of their sin natures before the Mosaic Law was given, sin wasn’t imputed. Romans 5:13 says, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” After the Law was given, sins committed in violation of the Law are accounted (imputed).
  3. Personal sin—This is the most common type of sin. We commit this type of sin every day.

2. There are differences between sins.

  • Some sins merit worse punishments than others:
    • Matthew 11:22-24—But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
    • Luke 10:12-14—But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.
  • Sexual sin is a sin against our bodies. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
  • Homosexuality is perverse (unnatural). Romans 1:26-27 says, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
  • Bitterness has “a root” and can negatively affect many others. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Look carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
  • Murder is described as a sin that pollutes the land, and the blood of the victim calls out for vengeance:
    • Genesis 4:10—And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”
    • Numbers 35:33—So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.
    • Psalm 106:38—And shed innocent blood,
      The blood of their sons and daughters,
      Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
      And the land was polluted with blood.
  • While all sin is offensive to God, there are seven sins He says He hates. Proverbs 6:16-19 says “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to HimA proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
  • A number of sins in the Old Testament called abominations. Since all sins are not identified as abominations, some sins are clearly more abominable to God than others.

Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section

  1. Do you agree or disagree with this post?
  2. Did you previously think all sins are the same? What do you think now?
  3. Can you think of any other ways sins are the same? Different?

12 thoughts on “Are All Sins the Same?

  1. I like what you say here – all sins miss the mark, but not all sins are the same. I’m picturing a dart board – everything that doesn’t hit the center of the dart board, misses the mark, but some are different and further from the mark so to say (have bigger consequences).

    I think you answer this here for the most part, but I would be interested in hearing more about how you answer the idea that, “TO GOD all sins are the same.” Often, I’ve heard this used in a similar context of 1) someone ending a marriage, versus 2) someone telling a lie.

    I think homosexuality is such a big deal, and a ‘hot topic’ because in this day, we are being bombarded by the idea, even within the church to a degree, that there is nothing wrong with it. Similarly, it is becoming more common place that there is nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage, within the church. One young person I know asked a youth leader about someone who stated they were a Christian, but was also an openly gay person, and the youth leader stated to the young person, “I don’t know, but I know we’re supposed to love.” I can’t put my finger on why that bothers me so much, but at the very least it causes a lot of confusion among young Christians in this day.

    1. Yes, we’d definitely say there’s a difference between a dart that’s toward the middle of the dart board versus one that’s a few feet from the board completely :). Sort of like a missed shot in basketball versus an airball.

      I don’t think we have to wonder if all sins are the same to God. We get to know what God thinks of sin in the Word, and I think (as I said in the article) that sins are presented/described differently from each other in Scripture.

      That’s tragic and very self-deceived if someone wanted to contrast divorce with telling a lie.

      That story bothers me too. Perhaps what’s most bothersome is that the statement was made by a youth pastor; someone who’s supposed to be a servant of the Lord and preacher of truth.

    2. I believe the person was a leader and not the youth pastor, but still confusing for the young person and typical, I believe, of what is happening in a majority of churches today.

    3. It is very sad.

      A mother wanted me to marry her son and his girlfriend. They were living together and since they called themselves Christians, I asked the mother why they were living together. The mother became upset and told me her and her husband lived together before they were married. She also said, “Our pastor never judged us like you’re doing.”

  2. Very good! I used to believe all sins were the same. It made me feel better about my own sin. But acknowledging these differences is important and helped me see how merciful my God is that he He still forgives even the worst sins with a repentance and change.

    1. Karla,
      It’s interesting that you said it made you feel better about your own sin. I remember a time I was very grieved – in a good way – about a sin I had committed. Someone trying to be helpful said, “Keep in mind all sins are the same. What you did is just like worrying.” As a result I didn’t feel as bad about my sin, and even engaged in it further in the future. Then someone else pointed me to a passage in Scripture that showed me the severity of my sin, and I could immediately tell it differed greatly from worrying.

  3. This was an excellent post. Very insightful. I have felt this way for quite some time but you don’t hear it preached very often. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Really glad you wrote on this! When I taught junior high and high school (at a Christian school) it seemed occasionally that the students misunderstood God’s mercy because they pretty much thought He couldn’t tell the difference between someone cheating on a test and someone getting an abortion. Almost as if God “had to” forgive because “all sins were the same to Him anyway”. Its a strange misconception, maybe derived from the idea that when you witness to someone, you may point out that even if they think they are “good” their sin will lead to death?

    1. Hi Becca,
      Thanks for checking out my blog…and commenting.

      In answer to your question, my best guess is because basically the Bible talks pretty simply about sin in a number of places without differentiating. Like for example when it says the wages of sin is death. It doesn’t say one sin brings death faster than another.

      And you’re definitely right (and I considered mentioning it in my post) that because of this “all sins are the same” mentality, people are led to feel comfortable engaging in certain sins they wouldn’t otherwise because they think it’s the same as some other sin they don’t view as seriously.

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!