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.”
Aside from these ways all sins are the same, there are problems associated with making this well-known statement.
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.”
When we’re suffering, we often wonder if we did something wrong. As a result, we end up confusing God’s discipline and trials. I saw a recent example of this when a woman wrote me about a miscarriage she experienced. She wondered if God was punishing her. It was heartbreaking. The miscarriage was painful enough without also having to wonder if it was her fault.
You Didn’t Do Something Wrong!
We should expect trials, but when they take place, we don’t have to wonder if we sinned! It’s tragic when people blame themselves for their trials. It’s also tragic when people experience trials and “friends” try to get them to blame themselves!
Job’s friends come to mind. They started off well “[sitting] down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). This demonstrates what to do when people are suffering. The “Ministry of Presence” requires being a good listener. I received a good piece of advice when I first became a pastor: “If you cannot improve on silence, do not.” Solomon said there is “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b), and “He who has knowledge spares his words” (Proverbs 17:27a).
Unfortunately, Job’s friends did not follow these verses, and things went downhill after they opened their mouths. Eliphaz was the first to speak, and he summarized their argument in Job 4:7 when he asked, “Who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” In other words, “When have bad things ever happened to good people?” Job’s friends wanted to convince him that since he suffered terribly, he must have sinned terribly. Continue reading “Don’t Confuse Discipline and Trials”→
If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard generational curses discussed. There are two conflicting opinions:
God punishes children for the sins of their parents.
God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents.
Why the confusion?
Verses seem to support and argue against generational curses…
Exodus 20:5, 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9 indicate God punishes children for the sins of their parents:
You shall not bow down to [idols] nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.
Other such as Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 indicate God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents:
Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 The LORD says, “What do you mean by this proverb, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? This proverb shall no more be used. Behold, the soul who sins shall die…The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father…the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
The people said they were punished (their teeth were bad: “set on edge”), because of their parents’ sins (the “sour grapes” they ate). God said, “Don’t say this anymore. You’ll be punished for your own sins!”