The Death Sentence For a Little "White" Lie?

Why every sin leads to the same eternal judgement.

Posted by David Wyatt on September 01, 2023 · 6 mins read
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James 2:10

We’ve all told little white lies to avoid awkwardness or protect someone’s feelings. But are these “small” sins viewed the same by God as theft, murder and adultery? James, the biological brother of Jesus, unequivocally asserts they are.

To appreciate the significance of these words, we must understand who this James was. He grew up in the same household as Jesus, though he only came to believe in Christ’s divinity after witnessing the resurrected Savior. James then became a pillar of the early church and leader of the Jerusalem Council.

Having been immersed in Jewish law and customs his whole life, James understood the religious sensitivities regarding sin. For him to boldly assert all sins are equal would have been radical. Yet the brother of Jesus pulls no punches.

The Eternal Stakes: Separation from God

Scripture makes clear the dire eternal consequences of sin. It states, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This is not merely physical demise, but everlasting spiritual separation from God in hell.

Because our Creator is perfectly holy, He cannot tolerate evil in His presence. Isaiah 59:2 declares, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.” Whether through lying, envy, or lust, our sins build an impassable chasm between us and God leading to eternal damnation.

Unless redeemed through Christ, even one minor sin destines our souls for an eternity apart from our Maker. The earthly offense may vary, but the ultimate consequence remains fixed. Thus in God’s eyes, no sin can be considered truly “small.”

All Sins Equally Offend our Holy God

To understand this concept, we must first recognize the biblical definition of sin. Scripture states “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Sin is any thought or action that violates God’s moral law. It severs our relationship with Him.

The Bible illustrates degrees of impact from sinful acts. Jesus notes, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Some sins cause greater earthly destruction than others. But all sins equally offend our holy Creator.

Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not murder,’ but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Here Christ equates anger and insults to murder in God’s eyes. The outward act is not what ultimately determines the severity of a sin, but the heart and motive behind it.

This principle remains whether the sin is acted upon physically or just pondered inwardly. Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Even hidden thoughts rise to the level of sinful acts in God’s view.

Our Flawed Human Perspective

From gossip to greed, envy to deceit, we tend to view some sins as minor when compared to “major” offenses like murder. Scripture offers no such distinction. But given our innate sinfulness, we intuitively view our own infractions as less serious than those of others.

This perspective fails to grasp sin’s true offense against an infinite and holy God. Philosophers like Kant argued for objective moral truth that transcends culture and personal preference. Similarly, the Bible presents sin as a morally corrupt act regardless of its perceived degree.

Consider humanity’s first sin. Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. We might consider this a harmless act. Yet it set in motion the fall of man, the entrance of death and suffering into creation, and alienation between God and humanity. One act of “minor” disobedience permanently marred human nature.

Christ’s Sacrifice Shows No “Small” Sins

So how does God view even our “small” sins? Seriously enough that the sinless Christ still had to suffer torture and death to redeem us.

Scripture states, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Without Jesus sacrificing Himself to atone for all sin, large and small, we would remain eternally separated from the Father.

As 1 Peter 3:18 states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Our Lord did not die merely for the major sins of murder and adultery, but for the entirety of human disobedience. This underscores that no sin is truly “minor” in God’s eyes.

The Necessity of Repentance

Where does this sobering truth leave us? It should drive us to repentance. The Bible calls us to turn from all known sin, regardless of its perceived degree. Through Christ, God “forgives us all our sins and heals all our diseases” (Psalm 103:3).

This offer of redemption is available for every sin. But we must walk in obedience to Christ (John 14:15), who died to free us from sin’s control.

1 John 1:9 offers hope, stating, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Let us live fully for our Savior, repenting of every sin whether big or small.

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