I don’t know where we got the idea that all sins are equal. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t from the Bible. All sin will equally send you to hell and I think that is what many people mean when they say all sin is equal, but when we make blanket statements like “all sin is equal in God’s eyes” people who aren’t seeing the world through Christian lenses misunderstand. I have seen these misunderstandings play out, and I have seen “all sin is equal” used to shut down conversations about sin and shame Christians into shutting up.
The prohibitions against sins aren’t just to keep you out of hell. I mean, the prohibitions in the Bible aren’t there to keep you out of hell at all. If you stopped sinning today but didn’t repent and believe Jesus is the savior you will still go to hell. But God isn’t only looking at sin as the thing sending you to hell, he also understands how it affects your life in the here and now. Throughout the Bible there are promises for what will go good for you if you obey God and there are curses for disobeying God. We can also use a little bit of logic to understand that not all sin is the same. Some sin only affects you, some affects those close to you, and others can affect an entire community. A lie might only affect you. Stealing might affect you and your entire family when you have to pay restitution for what you stole or spend time in prison. And a sin like murder or kidnapping can affect an entire community.
The first Biblical evidence that not all sin is equal is the Old Testament law. This is pretty clear because the law has varying punishments for sin. Some prohibitions do not list any specific punishment (I would assume a sacrifice is what these sins required). Just to pick out one passage that demonstrates this we can look at Leviticus 19:11-14. A few things this passage says is don’t steal, lie, oppress your neighbor, withhold wages, or trip a blind man but no specific punishment is listed if you do any of these things. Just a side note, the prohibition of wearing garments made of two different fabrics is in one of these passages that doesn’t list a specific punishment.
Other sins had a specific offering you had to bring before the Lord. We can find an example of this in Leviticus 6:1-7. This passage describes what should happen if someone steals or deceives his fellow citizen. He is to bring a flawless ram (or silver shekels) as a guilt offering and his sin will be forgiven.
Then there are the worst of the worst sins. The punishment for these sins called for the death of anyone who was found guilty. These sins are murder, kidnapping, homosexuality, adultery, rape and so on. Many of the sexual sins result in the death of one or both parties. I think a lot of people wonder why that is. The short answer is because sex is the most intimate human relationship designed by God. In Genesis women is taken out of man and sex is the act of them coming back together and becoming one flesh. Sex outside of God’s design is telling Him that He got it wrong or that we don’t care what his intentions were. Sex is a big deal! In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul is dealing with sexually immoral people who are arguing that all sin is outside the body, but Paul refutes them by saying when you sin sexually you sin against your own body! Furthermore as a Christian when you sin sexually you sin against the body of Christ because you are one with Christ. That’s about as bad as sin gets!
Hell Will Be Worse For Some People
Even though any sin will send you to hell, hell will be worse for some people than others. There are levels of reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12, Luke 6:35, 1 Corinthians 3:14) so it’s pretty safe to assume there are levels of torment in hell. Jesus alludes to this. He tells his disciples it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gommorrah on the day of judgement than for the towns that reject their message (Matthew 10:14,15). While the context of that is not necessarily about their sin it does indicate hell will be more or less bearable for some. Revelation 20 also speaks of each one being judged according to their deeds in verses 12 and 14.
Not All Sin Is Equal
So if “all sin is equal in God’s eyes” why do the punishments for sin vary in his law? Why does Jesus indicate judgement will be more or less bearable depending on what people did on this earth? Why are the dead, great and small, judged according to their deeds? It’s because not all sin is equal in God’s eyes!