Whose Sin is Worse?
Luke 13:2 Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
A couple times over the last week, I have been drawn into a conversation regarding the weight of sin. Are some behaviors worse than others? Is the drug dealer more evil than the thief? Is stealing worse than outbursts of anger? Is anger more destructive than overeating?
In today’s passage, Jesus was asked a similar question. Some Galileans had apparently been killed by Pilate, a Roman prefect. The fact that these individuals met with a violent end stood as evidence to some that they, the victims, were guilty of some horrible sin. Those who posed the question sought to make sense of evil by blaming those killed. They must have mortally offended God, right?
We see this with natural disasters. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed thousands, internet articles circulated attributing it to God’s wrath on the godless pagans. Those people deserved it, right God?
Jesus answered this by telling us that we are all in the same boat. We all engage in destructive behavior and we all need God. We may try to assuage our conscience by comparing ourselves to those who sin worse than us, but in the end, we all need God the same. We all struggle with something.
Jesus did not say that all sins have the same practical consequences here on earth. If I get angry and think mean thoughts, that is not as destructive as if I act out those mean thoughts. Overeating may be harmful but it is not as immediately harmful as using drugs. It is not wrong to recognize that different sins have very different consequences. In that regard, not all destructive behavior is the same.
Jesus point was that we are not to use this hierarchy of sin to look down on others while elevating ourselves. We all need God the same. I need God as much as the man sitting in prison. My behavior may not be as obviously destructive as his, but I need God no less.
The one who has caused himself the more obvious destruction is often more likely to see this reality. The one who has never engaged in any big sin, still struggles with some defect and thus, still needs God. The problem of course, is that the one who has only done a little wrong may become prideful and condescending towards those who are really bad.
This is like taking pride in being an inch taller than my neighbor when we are both a million miles below God. But I’m closer! When I compare myself to others, I cannot focus on God. When I focus on God, I see my need and I do not concern myself with the defects of others.
Jesus pointed out the absurdity of comparison by insisting that we all are on the same level in relation to God. Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (v 5). We all need God, we just do not all see it.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.