the “Sin List”, where do you rank?

In the replies to “trembling before G-D” there was mention of a “ranking of sins”, saying that some sins were worse than others. I wanted to throw some thoughts out there and see what you guys think….

Re: “ranking of sins”. To what degree would you say that the “ranking of sins” is a construct of society? For example, in Saudi Arabia they have religious police that regulate modesty. They walk the streets and look for women that have their wrists, or ankles, uncovered. To our western minds this seems ludicrous, but to them it ranks pretty high on the list of sins. How about language? When Jesus walked the earth words like “fuck”, or “shit” would have meant nothing, but to call someone a dog was the worst insult you could hurl at them.
Words have the power that you give them. It’s all about the cultural setting. While some sins are certainly less palatable to us I don’t know that one is more or less sinful than another. The scripture that comes to mind is when Jesus talks about lusting after a woman in your heart in Matthew 5.27-28. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It seems to me that, in essence, Jesus is saying that sin is sin. I think the danger of ranking sins is that we start to feel self righteous if we can avoid some of the “bigger” sins. Another scripture comes to mind. Isaiah 64.6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” This verse kills me, it’s basically saying that even at our most righteous we are still like filthy rags. So it all comes down to grace. The thing that upsets me though is that it seems like some of us feel like we are more entitled to grace than others, because when we sin, we try to stick to the fairly “low level” sins. As long as we’re not as bad as the other guy we’ll be OK. We need to stop pointing the finger at others and look within. We need to be as accepting and loving as Jesus is with us.

Let him without sin cast the first stone.

“First Stone” painting courtesy of Jamie Wells
Image hosted by Photobucket.com


matt said...

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

To me, that makes the standard of righteousness infinite perfection, the perfection that Christ alone could live. Imagine a ladder with an infinite number of rungs. Christ's perfection is the top of the ladder. Starting at your curent level of righteousness how long would it take you to reach perfection? How about to get just halfway? How much progress can you make climbing an infinite ladder?

What would God owe you if you could stop sinning this instant and attain perfection?

StorminNormin said...

The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture (cf. I Jn 5:16-17), became part of the tradition of the church. It is corroborated by human experience.

Venial sin damages the relationship with God; mortal sin destroys it. Venial sin is like a fight between spouses; mortal sin is like a divorce. To die in a state of mortal sin is to lose heaven forever. For there is no more rime for repentance and conversion after death. To die with venial sins on the soul is to need purgatory to purify the should before heaven. To die with neither kind of sin or their consequences in the soul is to merit heaven without the need for purgatory

Thomas Costello said...

Here is my current thought on the ranking of sins. Of course all sins are not equal in human eyes. We can see that in our human experience. we are more angered by people who rape and kill 9 year old girs than by people who use two profanities as was done in this article. To say that God sees the situation differently is absurd. Is god equally disapointed with me for speaking negitively about others as he is with someone who flys a plane into the world trade center? It can't be. When we look at scripture I think we can mae this case. God never destroyed a group of people for cussing or gossip. He did destroy several groups of people for things like sacrificing children, and making homosexual relations normative. I have to conclude that he feels strongly about certain kinds of sin and super strongly about others. He hates them all, but I can't say it is to the same degreee.

matt said...

What is the consequence of sin? ANY sin? Death. God may hate one sin more than another, but there is only one result, no matter what the sin.

Since one death covers all sin, the result is that all sins are equal. We all sin and fall short of his glory, yet he paid the price for all sin. There is no way I could ever earn freedom from guilt, but He gives it freely, and I am eternally grateful.

ben said...

Matt, I was interested by what you said..."What is the consequence of sin? ANY sin? Death."...
I was thinking about that statement in regard to the length of a human life, from birth to an ultimate death that is inescapable no matter how hard you try to avoid it...death is at the end of a human life – Is Sin to blame for this rule of existence? Would Death exist without Sin? Can you remove one from the other?
From my understanding of the Bible; the amount of time allotted for our human existence began with an eternal timeframe in Adam and Eve - and since their initial sin and the many subsequent sins that occurred after that original sin; our human existence has come to a sort of level – on average of 75 years according to the old testament – Sin can not take anymore of our lives than it already has by limiting our time on this earth…or is it God that limited our time on earth because of sin entering the world through Adam and Eve?…If this is all true, sin is unavoidable, it surrounds us, we were born into it and it’s power is inescapable – in this life. Where we find our salvation from this sin/death is in the next step through Jesus Christ...in which we are assured Life-Eternal, right?

Matt said...

I think I would agree. If you look at the situation in the garden, God removes them from the garden so that they would not eat of the tree of life, and live forever in that sinful state. He sends them out to live and then mercifully die.

They could have lived eternally in shame and sin, or died to escape that life. God chose to let them die.

Cynthy said...

You said: "So it all comes down to grace. The thing that upsets me though is that it seems like some of us feel like we are more entitled to grace than others, because when we sin, we try to stick to the fairly “low level” sins. As long as we’re not as bad as the other guy we’ll be OK." Forgive me...but I must use some big, christianese words from my former evangelical upbringing to explain where I beleive the struggle is for me anyway: Justification vs. sanctification. Justification levels the playing field...it's all grace. There's something in the sanctification process that makes me feel like it's up to me to do the hard work alongside of God so that someone who is not working as hard as me at cleaning up & keeping clean is not as "entitled" as I am. I hate this struggle but find myself in it often.