All sin is a falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). So there’s either righteousness or unrighteousness, and righteousness—perfection—is an absolute. Broadly speaking, all sins are equal to God in that all sins are by definition “unrighteous” and “imperfect.” All things less than holy share the quality of unholiness.
We can picture man’s efforts to attain righteousness as a group of people trying to jump a chasm. Some get a running start; some try to pole vault; others flap their arms on the way across—but none of them reach the other side. It doesn’t matter if they fall short by two inches, two yards, or two miles—they all plunge downward. In a similar way, all sins are equal to God; it doesn’t really matter how short we fall. We all fall.
Jesus indicated that, by their nature, all sins are equal to God. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord mentioned two “big” sins—murder and adultery—and equated them with unjustified anger and lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). Anger, murder, lust, and adultery are all sins, and we need to take them all seriously.
Now that we’ve established the general rule that all sins are equal to God by nature, we can add some refinements. Although lust and adultery are both sinful, that does not mean they are equal in every respect. Having lust in one’s heart will have consequences in this world, but those consequences will not be as severe as committing the physical act of adultery. The same is true with harboring a grudge versus actually committing murder. Coveting has a lesser effect than thieving. Sin is sin, but not all sin bears the same penalties in this world. In that sense, some sins are worse than others.
Scripture singles out sexual sin as having worse consequences than other types of sin: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). In this passage, immorality is considered apart from other sins such as dishonesty, pride, envy, etc. All sin will negatively affect the mind and soul of a person, but sexual immorality will immediately and directly affect one’s body. The destruction wrought by sexual immorality will have a physical impact. The extended warning against sexual sin in Proverbs 6 contains this warning: “A man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself” (verse 32).
All sins are equal to God in that any and every sin will keep one out of heaven. In the eternal state, the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by the righteous, the redeemed of the Lord. “Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie” (Revelation 22:15, NLT; cf. 21:8). At the same time, even in the final judgment, there seem to be degrees of punishment among the “dogs”: “Someone who does not know [the master’s will], and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly” (Luke 12:48, NLT). So not all sins carry the same weight of punishment in hell.
There is one other way in which all sins are equal in God’s eyes: all sins, no matter how “big” or “small,” can be forgiven in Christ. Scripture says that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). No one can out-sin God’s grace. We are all equally sinful before God. But, in Christ, we are made righteous. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood” (Romans 3:24–25). By faith in Christ, we are born again and therefore victorious over sin: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).