Over the years as a Christian, I have continually heard different clichés repeated. Some appear on bumper stickers while others reappear in perpetuity on social media. One such falsehood that continues to be passed on from generation to generation is the idea that “all sin is equal” or “all sin is the same.” Not only is this a bad idea, it’s a very dangerous teaching. Consider the following three reasons why you should stop saying all sin is the same.
All Sin Is Not the Same According to Biblical Teaching
The absolute best method of testing a theology or a popular catch phrase is by Scripture. If any teaching will stand the intense scrutiny of Scripture, it proves itself to be a trustworthy doctrine. This is true on all matters of theology—from bumper stickers to historic creeds and confessions. The question that we must be asking ourselves as we build our positions is, “What does the Bible say?”
When it comes to sin, the Bible is crystal clear. Sin is an offense to God’s holy law. Any action that misses the perfect bullseye of God’s holy law is a sin—no matter if it hits within a millimeter of the bullseye or fifty yards from the target. Any deviation from perfection is a sin. At this point, many people make false assumptions concerning sin. They make wrong theological statements such as, “Well, all sin is the same.” What does Jesus say about this subject?
In Matthew 10:5-15, we see Jesus sending out the twelve apostles to preach the gospel from town to town. Jesus warns them that not everyone will receive their message. Jesus then made this definitive statement, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matt. 10:14-15). Notice the choice of vocabulary Jesus employed. Jesus never misuses words or throws around vocabulary without a specific intention. He said that those cities who heard the gospel and rejected the message would receive a more intense judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah.
In a similar way, Jesus makes a statement about unrepentant cities who heard and rejected the truth of the gospel. Jesus said, “Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.” (Matt. 11:20). Jesus went on to call out Capernaum specifically. He said:
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:23-24).
In other words, the central cities surrounding Jesus’ hub of earthly ministry had more light and heard more gospel than any other region on planet earth during Jesus’ preaching ministry. Yet, as John the apostle recorded, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11).
Jesus makes it clear that people who have heard the gospel and rejected it will be held to a higher and more severe judgment than those who have never heard the gospel at all. God judges with perfection, and not all sin is equal.
All Sin Is Not the Same in Its Effect
Suppose you’re standing on the side of a mountain lake in the early hours of the a beautiful fall morning. As you watch the sun rising over the hills, your eyes behold the stillness of the water that serves as a mirror to the brilliant foalage surrounding the edge of the lake. If you toss a rock the size of a quarter into the sill water, it will have a certain effect. A number of ripples will disrupt the stillness of the water. However, if you decided to toss a rock the size of a softball into the water, a much different result would occur. The same thing can be said regarding sin.
When a person murders another human being who is created in the image and likeness of God, it will have vastly different effects than the person who chooses to lie about their taxes in April. Both are undoubtedly sinful, and both deserve the holy judgment of God. However, both sins will leave different ripple effects in their wake. Not all sin is the same in the effects that follow the decision to violate the perfect law of God.
The “All Sin Is the Same” Phrase Promotes Capitulation Rather Than Mortification
The devil is a created being, and just as all humans have a beginning—so does the devil. Satan has lived and learned much over the thousands of years of his life. He has learned how to increase in his craft of subtle temptations. In a masterful way, he can make God’s children who have learned to hate the very things that God hates to lower their guard and capitulate on their choices of sin.
Like a person who has been trying to keep a strict diet, when they have a bad day, the next delicious temptation on that very day will be a little easier to accept. People often compromise their diet in the afternoon hours after blowing it at lunch by telling themselves, “Well, I’ve already blown it today, so I will just start over tomorrow.” Unfortunately, some people approach sin in the same manner telling themselves that they will start over tomorrow.
In addition, people who live by the idea that “all sin is equal” will be less likely to mortify the flesh and fight sin. How many men have made the grievous error to enter into an adulterous relationship with a woman after lusting after her on social media? After being reconnected through Facebook, the man falls into a lustful pattern of sin and when he physically meets with this woman, he makes the damaging choice to capitulate because he tells himself that he lusted after her and has already committed adultery in his heart. While this is true, it’s not the same to lust after a person and actually commit adultery in a physical sense. Both are sinful and both will have very different results in the end. Kevin DeYoung writes:
Here’s the problem: when every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sins at all. Why should I stop sleeping with my girlfriend when there will still be lust in my heart? Why pursue holiness when even one sin in my life means I’m Osama bin Hitler in God’s eyes? Again, it seems humble to act as if no sin is worse than another, but we lose the impetus for striving and the ability to hold each other accountable when we tumble down the slip-and-slide of moral equivalence. All of a sudden the elder who battles the temptation to take a second look at the racy section of the Land’s End catalog shouldn’t dare exercise church discipline on the young man fornicating with reckless abandon. When we can no longer see the different gradations among sins and sinners and sinful nations, we have not succeeded in respecting our own badness; we’ve cheapened God’s goodness. If our own legal system does not treat all infractions in the same way, surely God knows that some sins are more heinous than others. If we can spot the difference, we’ll be especially eager to put to death those sins which are most offensive to God. 
Any teaching that condones sin because “all sin is the same” is nothing less than a devilish trap. Not all surgery is the same. Having a wart removed is not the same as a heart transplant surgery. Both are considered the cutting of the human body, but both are quite different in their effect on the body. It would be wise to follow the teachings of Scripture and to avoid all sin. When you hear people classify all sins as the same—remember the words of Jesus. One day in the future, judgment day will prove in a definitive way that all sin is not the same.
- Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 72.