“Little sins.” “White lies.” “The lesser of two evils.”
To these we could add a host of other expressions which give state the same thought with different words. “Nothing is wrong, if it is not done in excess.” “One must sow a few wild oats.” “It was only a little harmless disobedience.” “The end justifies the means.” But why go on? It is characteristic of the evil mind of fallen man to excuse his sin, to minimize it and try to satisfy and soothe his conscience in any way but in the way of repentance and the cross of Christ.
We have never liked the distinction of little sins and big sins and of calling people big sinners, as though there are also little sinners. Of course, as far as men are concerned it makes a world of difference whether one steals a penny from you or ten thousand dollars. It certainly makes a difference also before God whether you are an harlot and adulteress like Rahab or an adulterer and murderer such as David. There are simple sins and complex sins. There are single sins and double sins. One cannot break any one of the commandments from two through nine without committing the sin of idolatry. Whatever sin we commit, it is always because we have another god before and in place of Jehovah. THAT is always the case. We serve our flesh. We are a god unto ourselves. That is the sin which Adam and Eve committed when they ate of the forbidden fruit. And all the rest of the sins in the world flow forth from and come out of that sm. When we sin, we, disobey God. And that is the same as saying that we do not have Him for our God. Deception and theft go hand in hand so often. All theft is not forceful depriving of the neighbor of his goods. Even then, theft and murder or bodily violence go together. And David. showed us that adultery and murder also walk together—to say nothing of deception—as his subtle deeds with Uriah reveal.
But a little sin there really is not. They are all big. In fact they are all equally big in the sight of God. The judge in police court may make a distinction and charge you $10 and costs for your first offense of speeding and $25 and costs for the next. The courts may specify a higher fine for running violations than for parking “irregularities.” The city or village may even make it so convenient for you when you violate the parking laws, that you need not even appear in court. Just place your 50¢ or a dollar or two in the envelope provided by the ticketing officer and drop it in a box conveniently located, and forget about the whole business. It is after all a minor violation, and even the authorities do not want to be bothered by such little misdemeanors. Yet we insist that before God there are no little sins.
Pray tell me, what do you consider to be a little sin?
Shall we begin at the very dawn of history and, try to find one? Was it a little sin merely to reach out and pick a piece of fruit from off a tree and eat it? O, we speak of harmless disobedience. Here, surely, was a harmless deed, if your eye is focused only on man. Eve did no bodily injury to Adam. He did not bring any pain to her flesh. Neither one coveted what the other had, deceived or stole from the other. A little sin? It opened the gates of hell! It brought the curse upon the whole earth. The wages of sin is death, whether you want to call it a little sin or a big sin. The wages of each and every sin is death!
Uzzah meant so well???!! The ark of God was on a cart. The oxen stumbled, and that glorious manifestation of God’s presence and of His mercy and grace threatened to fall into the mire, be split wide open and be ruined. Uzzah put forth his hand to prevent such shame and disgrace! A little sin? God smote him for his error (rashness). It was not a little sin in the sight of God.
And Ananias and Sapphira lied. They kept back part of the money which they obtained by selling a piece of land. But they still gave a goodly sum to the Church. They stilled helped many an hungry mouth and empty stomach. It was harmless disobedience, “What you do not know will not hurt you.” And the rest of the Church knew nothing about it. They received that gift, with thankful hearts and thought very highly of this “devoted and saintly couple.” But a little sin? God struck both of them down with instant death! He cast them at once into hell!
To be sure, men will be rewarded according to their works. By the way, please note that Scripture always puts it that way also about the reward of grace. We are rewarded with glory and blessedness not on account of our works, not because of our works, not in view of our works but according to our works. That simply means that those with few good works are rewarded with, less glory than those with many good works. Even then, he who stands in the lowest place in God’s kingdom has an indescribable glory and bliss. Likewise he who stands in the highest place in hell has an indescribable agony and torment. But men certainly are rewarded in accord with the number of their works; And we may call them big sinners, perhaps, in that sense that they have had and have taken the opportunity to commit many more sins than others. We may even say with Jesus that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for some than for others because of the revelation that they had above others. But that exactly again underscores the fact that we ought not speak of little sins. These for whom it shall be more tolerable shall still be cast into hell. They have not added to their sin the sin of consciously and willingly resisting a way made plainer to them than to others, but they have committed that which has for its wages death.
Jesus speaks of the great commandment but not in the sense that the punishment for breaking the second commandment is any the less. For both it is hell fire. And Jesus does teach us that to hate is even as to kill, to lust even is to commit the act of adultery. The act becomes a double sin and is greater in that respect. For it is committing it with the heart and the body. It becomes a complex, a double sin, for it is not possible to commit it with the body and not in the soul. There are sins, such as covetousness that can be committed only in the soul and lead to theft, murder and acts of the hand, the mouth and the tongue. But we always sin against God and man and never merely against man.
Consider then that every evil deed, no matter how big or how little it may seem in the eyes of men is always an act of hatred against the living God. No man yet sinned because he loved God. That is quite impossible. Once again, Uzzah’s act is called a rash deed, and you may be sure that it was an act of hatred against God. No, you and I cannot read the heart and we had better be careful not to try to read and judge motives. But the reaction of the living and just God to this deed of Uzzah indicates His judgment. He considered it to be sin. He punished it with death. Adam and Eve’s sin, no matter how harmless it might have been as far as mankind is concerned, was an act of rebellion. All sin is rebellion. That which we call gross sins but also that which men label as little sins is still nothing less than rebellion against the infinite and sovereign God. And rebellion roots in hatred. Love manifests itself in obedience and service. Hatred manifests itself in rebellion perverseness. Test it out in your own life. Look and see whether you actually have a good end when you feel the need of evil means! Is that end actually the glory of God or our own self-vindication or glory? Are we seeking to be pleasing in God’s sight or to satisfy our own flesh or that of fellowmen? Ridiculous!! How can we possibly be striving to please God when to do so we must break one of His commandments? Can the end ever justify the means? Were it not for the redeeming and pardoning grace of God we could pretty soon talk that over with Uzzah and Ananias and Sapphira! And we can be instructed by Abraham and Sarah as far as “white lies” are concerned. Indeed Sarah was Abrahim’s sister. But did all that plague upon the house of Abimelech come because no sin had been committed? Surely, he had to save his life, for the covenant, promise was to him and to his seed. The land of Canaan had been promised to him. God would make a great nation of him. The end justifies the means. A white lie can serve God’s cause. And what more shall we say? We shall say this: Abraham’s lie was an act of hatred against the living God. In it he rebelled against God. In his flesh dwelleth no good thing. Romans 7:18. His carnal mind, according td his old nature, was, not subject to the law of God and indeed could not submit itself to that law. Romans 8:7. Left to himself and apart from the cross and blood of Christ Abraham must perish everlastingly. And what is stated of Abraham is true of each and every one of us. Our “little” sins call for nothing less than hell fire, for the simple reason that they are always acts of hatred against God.
And that is what makes the love of God shine forth wondrously at the cross. Christ died for “little” sins and “white” lies and “harmless” disobedience. As we pointed out, that which men might call the smallest sin is punished by God with hell fire. And that means that only the cross of Christ, that awful agony, that terror of hell can pay for such “little” sins and “white” lies. When you stand at the cross or tremble in the dark shadows of Gethsemane and hear the Son of God in our flesh crying with His troubled soul and see the drops of blood from His brow, from His hands and from His feet, those “little” sins do not look so little anymore. They require an eternal measure of punishment as well as any other act of rebellion. They require the blood of the Son of God to blot them out as surely as murder and theft and idolatry and blasphemy. For essentially they are no different than these and in principle are these. For they are acts of rebellion and hatred against God.
Little sins? That is belittling, is it not?
Your own are little; but the other fellow’s are big? Is that perhaps why we want to make the distinction? As the wicked Jews who saw the adultery of the woman, and wanted to cast stones until Jesus pointed out that their “little” sins also called for stones? As evil and filthy as adultery is, are your and my sins better sins. How silly! Can you talk of better sins? Well, then you can talk of little sins too. Every sin is wholly evil. By nature a man can do nothing that is good. He is spiritually dead, not sick or weak. Is it because we do not want the truth of God’s Word that we want to speak of total depravity that is not absolute depravity? Is it because we want to find a little spot of good yet in the corrupt man, that we also want to speak of little sins?
Ought we not to stand with the publican rather than with the Pharisee and with Paul and penitent David? The Pharisee was ready to admit “little sins” even though he was not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers. But he did not go home justified. The publican saw the enormity of all his sins and smote his breast in the agony of being what Paul calls a wretched man. He found peace and went home with the joy of justification.
Little sins unconfessed, because they are so little in our sight, and unforgiven bring an enormously great punishment and fear upon the death bed. All sin seen in His fear as great wickedness and guilt before God and blotted out by the blood of the cross bring infinite and lasting peace.
In minimizing sin we bring ourselves into the terror of these sins and are the like the man who ignored the little spark in a room filled with gas; or like the man who minimized the little hole in the bottom of the boat which he took out far from the shore; or the captain who ridiculed that little part of the huge iceberg that showed above the top of the water; or even the man who was not afraid of that little bare spot on the wire of high voltage electricity.
In His fear, we have no fear of sins, because, although we see their enormity, we also see the greatness of God’s love and the power of the cross.