For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. [James 2:10 (NLT)]
Last January, an official in a northern city was found guilty of twenty counts of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy along with mail, wire and tax fraud. His crimes netted him over $2 million in ill-gotten gains. Last month, he was sentenced for those crimes and, while he didn’t protest his innocence, he did protest his punishment. His crimes were merely “ethical mistakes” made because he was inexperienced and just doing his job. His lawyer compared his offenses with those of other corrupt officials, asserting his client’s felonies were less criminal so a shorter sentence was in order. In addition, he wasn’t really all that guilty since, in spite of his dishonesty, the city still managed to collect over $700 million in fines from the program he managed. Being just a little guilty, however, is much like being just a little bit pregnant—no matter how you spin it, you’re still guilty or pregnant.
Since the beginning of time, man has tried to deny responsibility, spread the blame and minimize his guilt. Believing he was only a little guilty, Adam blamed Eve for the apple debacle and then had the audacity to blame God for giving him Eve in the first place. Eve, of course, minimized her guilt by blaming the serpent. When King Saul was told to destroy everything possessed by the Amalekites, he only destroyed what was worthless or of poor quality. After lying to Samuel about his actions, he tried to minimize his guilt by blaming the people for his actions. Then he tried to put a positive spin on his disobedience by saying they’d only taken the plunder to use as sacrifices to God. For their sins, Adam and Eve were evicted and Saul lost the kingship. That guilty city official? He got ten years in prison!
We’re all sinners and, like Adam, Eve, Saul and convicted felons, we try to minimize our guilt. Clearly some crimes are greater than others; stealing a candy bar is not same as murder. Yet, the guilt is the same. Some sins also seem greater than others; profanity doesn’t seem as sinful as worshipping an idol. Nevertheless, they both are sins and offensive to the Lord. Big or little, every sin separates us from God and every sin deserves the death penalty. Fortunately, the blood of Christ and our heartfelt confession and repentance have commuted the sentence we so rightly deserve.