How serious is sin?

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Romans 6:23
  • James 2:10-11
  • Proverbs 18:21
  • Matthew 12:36-37
  • Proverbs 15:1-2,14
  • Exodus 20:7, 2 Corinthians 5:20
  • 2 Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 20:11-21:1
  • Romans 5:6-8
  • Romans 8:31-39

Is all sin equal?

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 ESV

From here one starts asking the question, how serious is sin? Are you telling me if I tell a lie, that is punishable by death (or whatever this verse is talking about)? Some might justify that for the case of murder, but how is lying worthy of the same punishment? This gets even worse once you got to James:

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

James 2:10-11 ESV

He is talking about the ten commandments, but when you look at this, the law is not just murder and adultery. There are eight other commandments a well. Not to mention the law isn’t just the ten commandments. This includes all of the book of Leviticus and everything else Moses said. As Christians, it would be easy to dismiss this and say it is not really that big of a deal if you don’t follow Leviticus. Few Christians even know the actual laws and those who attempted often don’t understand how they apply. There is a reason why we don’t follow them (which is for another day). But there is an issue, Jesus followed them:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-20 ESV

According to Jesus, the basics of Moses is just the beginning of righteousness, not the standard. Again a topic for another time. But how can lying really be as bad a murder?

The least commandment

You might be thinking, clearly, some sins seem like they have more weight than others. But surprisingly enough, not all sins have a direct connection that we see right away. Some have connections that are greater in a passive way than what we think they really do. For instance, let’s take arguably the simplest of commandments:

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7 ESV

Often we say, don’t swear, and use God’s name in the same sentence. But it turns out there is more to it than just that. We find (as I talked about before) that the name of God is extremely important to God. Even Moses knows this as he is “negotiating” with God in Numbers 14:13-19. We find here that Moses is talking about God’s reputation and about how he is a loving father, protector, and guide to humanity. But then we get to the new testament:

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

Now we have a problem if we are God’s (Christ) ambassador, then that means we carry his name and reputation. If we don’t represent God right, we are taking his name in vain. Again we can find Moses do this in the old testament in Numbers 20:2-13. Here Moses does not do exactly what God wanted. Moses misrepresented God and there are consequences because of it. There is a bigger issue about this. It is sad to say many people don’t really read the Bible regularly (let long many Christians). Often you are the only Bible some people will ever read. People often look at Christians and point fingers quickly to point out when you do something wrong. But often what people really want before they convert is to see that the Bible is real. They want to see that a human can really be changed by God. They want to see themselves in someone who can do it to know they also have a chance. When we say we are a Christian we are affecting generations of people who will have their understanding and image of God shaped by the way we act.

Is lying equal to murder?

  Oftentimes we tend to forget how much our words have an impact on those around us. When someone asks the question, is lying really as bad as other sins, all you have to do is look at the first time a lie was told in the Bible. Simply because of one lie in the Bible, all of humanity has become trapped in the evils of sin. Because of one lie, generations of people have lived through pain and suffering that God did not intend for man. 

Of course, most of that is semi-physical effects that we directly see. But often words can have a much more deeper effect. We often don’t know the full mental impact our words can have. Often saying something as simple as “I love you” to someone can have depths of meaning at different times in their lives. A simple phrase can bring up all kinds of emotions from romance to rival or broken friendships to a father and son finally connecting. In many ways, negative words have similar effects. Oftentimes what we think of as a joke might not land well with others. On the surface, we make a joke about someone being playful and teasing but deep down, after they are alone, it brings up painful memories. Even when we don’t intend to hurt someone, others before them have hurt them and they erase us and bring up all the memories of the past in our place as we speak. 

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21 KJV

What was stated previously is really just an abstract sense of it. We really can’t fully understand what impact our words have even if we tried. The reality of our words affects us much more and spreads much deeper than we could even think. One way I heard it put that really paints a picture, is in the context of gossip. Imagine an old feather pillow that someone tears up and shakes around the room. When you try to clean up the mess, you have an idea where the wind carried each and every feather. They can end up in places you never thought possible even months after the event. The big issue is, you can’t predict where all of them will be and you have no idea how many there were, to begin with. So even if you think you have collected all of them, there is no way to tell. In many ways, when we talk about peoples, events, and situations, it is very much the same thing. The only problem is our feathers spontaneously combust into multiple new feathers each time they hit the floor. 

We can constantly find all throughout scripture the importance of our words. We generally downplay it, but the scripture is extremely clear on this point:

1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. … 14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 15:1-2, 14 ESV

13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

Psalm 34:13 ESV

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Psalm 141:3 ESV

18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. 19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. … 31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

Proverbs 10:18-21, 31 ESV

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

James 1:26 ESV

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV

10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

1 Peter 3:10 ESV

Why is sin so serious?

36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:36-37 ESV

  Let’s come back to  James 2:10-11, which says that breaking one part of the law is the same as breaking all of the law. How can something be this serious? If the above didn’t paint the picture let’s step it up a bit more. 

Imagine you have a glass window and you throw a rock at it. Could you ever repair it? You might think yes, but it turns out you can’t. If you put all of the pieces together it won’t stay together when it is lifted up. If you put some tape on it, that doesn’t change the fact that the window glass is still separated into pieces. Let’s imagine you put some glue into it, well the glass won’t let in the light the same way. Let’s say you made the glue transparent, is it still the same? It holds together and now it looks like it never broke. Well, it turns out the window is still fundamentally different. You just introduced some material to the window that wasn’t there before. If you look at the window before and after, on a macro-scale, it looks the same, but on the micro-scale, there are many differences. 

The issue is you could never guarantee that the window will be exactly like the way it was before. Even if you find a process to fuse things together, can you guarantee the exact same atoms are bonded to the ones they were previously? Could you guarantee they were in the same location and rotation they were before? It turns out this is impossible. 

There is some interesting sub conversion I tend to have with some people. In physics, there is this concept called entropy. It can get a little technical but the simple way to understand it is in terms of an ice cube melting in the sun. When it starts off it is in an order cube with all of the bonds together. As the ice cube melts, the bonds break and the atoms start turning into water and the water is in a less organized form. The concept being that things start in an “organized” state and over time tend to a “disordered” state. Entropy is like a measurement of the disorder of a system in some sense. The more entropy the more randomness (more water than ice). Then looking at something before and after, the total change in entropy (randomness) can never be less than zero, it is always either exactly the same or greater (more random or exactly the same randomness). It is interesting that in Genesis 1 you find that God created everything and each day goes from “evening” to “morning.” God in “organizing” the universe and each day it goes from less order (evening) and more order (morning). After day six, there is no evening or morning on the seventh day when God starts creating. I bring this up to come to the next bigger point.

Back to the window, how can you possibly fix the window to make sure it is exactly the way it was before? It turns out you can’t, it would be nearly impossible to do in any practical sense. But there is something you can do. You can just start over. You can melt down the window and make a new one. Strangely enough, it seems that is exactly what God will do with our universe that has been corrupted with sin.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Revelation 21:1 ESV

Big problem

There is one problem. God can’t just recreate the universe, it would be easier, and we find a few times when God could have (Genesis 6:5-8, Exodus 32:9-14, Deuteronomy 9:4-16). But God doesn’t just start over. Why not? Because of you. 

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:36-39 ESV

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV

God could have just restarted, but God loves us so much he would rather find a complicated way to bring us into a relationship with him then destroy us. But that brings in a whole problem. We have sinned before God, and God is a holy and justice God. Our sins have separated us from God. So How can a holy God spend eternity with us and yet overlook our sin? 

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