John 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
These words were spoken by Jesus Christ to Pilate on the night of His crucifixion. And I can almost hear somebody thinking, "Wait a second, Jesus. What do you mean about this greater sin? Aren't all sins the same?"
Well, no, not according to the Bible. But let's get some background.
The Roman Catholic Church has this teaching concerning what they call mortal and venial sins. In this system, there are three conditions that distinguish between the two:
- Does the sin concern a "grave" matter?
- Was the sin committed with full knowledge?
- Was the sin committed with both deliberate and complete consent?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, it is a venial sin. If the answer to all 3 is YES, it is a mortal sin.
A mortal sin, unless confessed and absolved, condemns a person's soul to hell after death. These sins are considered mortal because they constitute a rupture in a person's link to God's saving grace: the person's soul becomes "dead." (reference)
While venial sins do not condemn a person's soul to hell, they do add to the length of time that person must spend in purgatory, which can be offset by the performance of some penance prescribed by the priest. (reference)
Obviously, this teaching is in error. According to the Bible, God's saving grace has nothing to do with our works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and there is no such place as purgatory.
But what has happened is that many have reacted to this false teaching in such a way as to jump into the ditch on the other side of the road and say things like "All sins are the same." Well, according to John 19:11, that's simply not true, either. The Pharisees and chief priests committed a greater sin than Pilate did.
Don't get me wrong. One sin makes you a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, only available through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But all sins are not the same. Some will warrant a lecture or a spanking, while others will get you thrown in jail or executed.
Now again, a sin is a sin. And the fact that some are worse than others is absolutely no excuse to commit what you might consider a "little" one. You see, I could try to deter myself or somebody else from committing "little" sins by saying that all sins are the same, but then I have to answer the guy that figures if all sins are the same, he'll go ahead and commit the "big" one.
John 8:11…Jesus said…Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.