What do you think is the worst sin?
Granted, that is quite a question.
The worst sin!
Typically, we might be inclined to back off by raising a related question. Is there such a thing as bad, worse, and worst sins as far as God is concerned? Are they not all terrible? Certainly there is not such a thing as a “little” sin in God’s eyes?
No, we agree, that before God no sin is considered small. Nevertheless, this is not the same as saying that all sins are equally bad. There are degrees of sins as well as degrees of sinners.
DETERMINING DEGREE OF SIN
Perhaps your reaction is that we beg the question. Prove, you say, that there are degrees of sin before God.
Consider what Ezekiel saw in the “vision of God,” recorded in Ezekiel 8:6. “He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again and thou shalt see greater abominations.” God’s evaluation of Omri is that he, “wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him,” I Kings 16:25. Paul warns Timothy that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” II Tim. 3:13. Consequently, God will reward and punish according to the degree of good or evil, “And, behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be,” Rev. 22:12. There will be greater condemnation for the wicked who have done greater evil, “Beware of the scribes . . . which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; these shall receive greater damnation,” Mark 12:38-40. So also for God’s people, those who are faithful unto death shall receive the greater reward, Matt. 5:12.
To pursue this point a brief moment, we might add a related question: what determines the degree of good or evil? Matt. 11:24 sheds some light on this, “But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” Why would Sodom, which was destroyed by fire and brimstone, have it more tolerable in hell than, the people of Capernaum? The answer is clear, because Christ preached in the city of Capernaum and the degree by which one is exposed to the light of the truth, by that degree they shall be judged. All men have the light of nature, and all are thus held accountable, whether they hear the preaching of the Word or not. Those that hear the preaching of the gospel are more accountable. For this reason there is no grace (favor) for all who hear the gospel. There is grace only for those who believe. Similarly, for God’s people, those who hear the Word and do it shall receive a greater reward, especially if they are faithful unto the ultimate test, giving their life for the sake of the gospel. This reward is the reward of grace.
THE WORST SIN
Now, let’s get back to that question once again.
What do you think is the worst sin?
Alas, in answer to this, a vast panorama of human depravity passes before our minds. A brutalized body lying in a pool of crimson makes one shudder. The accounts of torture penned in the books of the history of the church can only cause one to cringe before man’s inhumanity to man. Crime is a vicious assault upon many helpless victims, especially children and aged. How low can anyone stoop to unleash the ferment of a decayed soul?
What is the greatest sin?
Since sin is ultimately against God, the answer to this question must not be determined by the degree whereby man sins against his fellow man as such; rather the worst sin is determined by man’s dealing with God. Along this line the Bible speaks of an “unpardonable sin.” Reference is made to this in Matt. 12:31, 32, “Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” Similarly in Heb. 6:4-6, I John 5:16. Usually this is explained as one who has been in contact with the gospel, rejects it, and despises God and His Word, going so far as attributing the work of God to Satan. It is an expression of hardness of heart which is so great that repentance is out of the question, hence also beyond divine forgiveness.
Along this line our Reformed fathers also evaluated the sin of taking God’s name in vain. They do not put it in the category of the unpardonable sin, but they evaluate it in the light of a person’s deliberate attack upon God and His Holy Word.
Hence the question is raised, “Is then the profaning of God’s name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that His wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavor as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing? Answer. It undoubtedly is, for there is no sin greater, or more provoking to God, than the profaning of His name, and therefore, He has commanded this sin to be punished with death.” Heidelberg Catechism.
And there you have it!
The worst sin? Taking God’s name in vain.
If we think for a moment, we can well understand why this is considered the worst sin.
Of all that God owns, and He owns everything, nothing is more precious to Him than His name. His Name is His honor, His glory, His own Being as He stands in relation to the creature. Everything was created for His own Name’s sake! The Psalms make up one long declaration of praise to Jehovah’s Name. “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy Name in all the earth,” Ps. 8:1. “I will wait on thy name for it is good,” Ps. 52:9. “In Judah is God known; his name is great in Israel,” Ps. 76:1. “Holy and reverend is his name,” Ps. 111:9.
We have a little reflection of that in our own life. Our name is also identified with us. Whenever we hear people use our name or make reference to us by name, we become extremely interested, wondering what they are saying. Our name is our reputation, and the Bible also reminds us that a good name is of greater value than great riches.
No one can take God’s name in vain without doing it deliberately. Whenever we take God’s name on our lips, we are consciously making use of God’s name. When we swear, we are trying to take God down from His holy place and not only put Him on the level of sinful man, but worse yet, drag Him into the mud and treat Him in a way that we wouldn’t even dare treat our fellow man. One can do this thoughtlessly, but always deliberately. Nothing is more offensive to God and incurs greater guilt than such a practice. Hence, in the Old Testament times the offender was removed from Israel by the sentence of death as a testimony that God’s judgment rested upon such a person.
No sin was greater than that, and it deserved the extreme penalty.
Today is no different. Even though we do not put to death people that swear and use God’s name wrongfully, this does not mean that it is any less evil. It is the worst sin also today.
And we so easily commit it.
Sometimes we can become pretty conceited with our piety. We can look at the wickedness about us and act like that Pharisee who just about broke his arm patting himself on the back when he prayed to God, “I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess,” Luke 18:10-12. Sure there is crime, apostasy, every form of abomination that increases as the end of the world comes upon us. How easy for us to look around and say, we aren’t that way! We go to church, we study our catechism, we attend a Christian school. We have a long list of things we do. Yes, indeed.
Yet, how often do we commit the worst sin?
Worse than murder, worse than messing up one’s life with drugs and sex, worse than frittering one’s life away with the pleasures and treasures of this world, is taking God’s name in vain.
Oh, yes, I know the ungodly do this also. It is becoming more and more difficult to practice what the Heidelberg Catechism tells us in question 100, that is that God’s wrath is upon those who “do not endeavor as much as in them lies to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing.” Public swearing is increasing. You walk down the street and can’t help but hear the passersby using God’s name in vain. The radio, television, and printed page are full of it. You work amongst the world, and sometimes the air is polluted with this verbiage of rebellion against God. How can one begin to correct all this? Yet, we must do our utmost to testify against this evil. It only shows that depravity is increasing as the return of our Lord is near.
Yet, when we swear and take God’s name in vain it is far worse. Our guilt is determined by the degree that we know God’s name; and we, who are born and raised in the covenant, taught to use God’s Name with reverence from infancy on, have no excuse at all. None have excuses, certainly we do not. We stand responsible before God. We know what we are doing more than anyone else.
Don’t you see the need for repentance by us as covenant young people? Sometimes we like to think it is smart to swear.
Sometimes we take God’s name thoughtlessly. Other times we get angry and let loose with an uncontrolled volley of evil. If you stop to think what this means, don’t the chills go down your spine at what you are really doing. At such times we are committing the worst sin.
There are other times we don’t quite dare to be so brash. Maybe we are like some of our parents who are tempted to swear also and who do it in Dutch. It’s a cover-up. But isn’t that also true of gosh, gee, heck, holy cow, guy, golly, etc. They don’t make any sense taken by themselves. Yet, they are substitutes for words that are attributed to God, His virtues, and His Holy Name.
God looketh not as man does, but Jehovah looks upon the heart.
He hears all those cuss words, those curses, those expressions of swearing, those willful expressions of blasphemy.
No, we don’t have to become proud with our piety and imagine that the cesspool of corruption is tilled with the sins of others. We have plenty of our own, even the inclination to commit the worst sin.
Well may our tears flow in repentance.
Well may we humble ourselves and plead for mercy.
Well may we realize that God has given His Name to us to be used in a way that gets to Him the glory that is due unto Him.
Yes, we have a mind, we have speech, we have the knowledge of God’s greatness. Rather than busying ourselves in man’s greatest depravity, may we busy ourselves in man’s highest calling, that is, to take God’s Name upon our lips with praise and thanksgiving.
The Word of God instructs us, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord . . . Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile,” Ps. 34:11-13.
Keep thy tongue from evil! Let’s make it our prayer, “Father, hallowed be Thy Name.”
May the Father in mercy forgive us and strengthen us.