We often say that all sin is the same and any sin not repented of could cost one his or her soul. It is true that all sin is a transgression of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4; cf. Isa. 59:1-2). Likewise, all unrighteousness is sin and there are no exceptions (1 Jn. 5:17). But we might be tempted to look down on certain sins more than others. There are public sins that draw attention and might be more repulsive to us. Sins like adultery, fornication, murder, and stealing are hard to miss and are easy to disapprove of.
However, we should keep in mind that even the “small” sins that we might overlook or tolerate are equally evil, and if left unchecked, carry eternal consequences. Sin, no matter how small, always keeps good from us (Jer. 5:25; cf. Isa. 3:11). In fact, it might be safe to say that many of us are in far greater danger to err in these areas than in the areas that draw a lot of attention.
We should keep a close eye on ourselves and be sure that we are not guilty of minimizing anything that God hates. Let’s be sure we do not rationalize our way into unrighteousness and practice things that will invite God’s wrath. Here are a few “small” sins that carry big consequences.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see this on the list. We are told specifically that God hates lying (Prov. 6:17, 19). Lying lips are abominable to the Lord (Prov. 12:22) and God desires truth internally (Ps. 51:6). The Law of Moses forbade Israelites from lying to each other (Lev. 19:11) and Christians are commanded to put lying away because they’ve been raised with Christ (Col. 3:9). As clear as the Bible is on this subject, we might not take it as seriously as God does.
God makes no distinction between big lies and little, “white” lies. God hates all lying. We need to tell the truth to our co-workers, our friends, our spouses, and strangers. We might not think much of the quick lies we tell because we do not want to hurt someone’s feelings or because we think a lie is more convenient than the truth but lies always cost us. Dr. Suess famously said, “a person is a person no matter how small.” It is also true that a lie is a lie no matter how small. Develop a love for truth in your life. Don’t just demand the truth from others, also be sure to demand it from yourself. Lies align us with the devil (Jn. 8:44), and will ultimately separate us from God (Rev. 21:8).
Gossip is a sin that is easy to start and hard to stop. A gossip is defined as a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. Another definition says that a gossip is someone who enjoys talking about other people and their private lives. Notice that gossip has nothing to do with saying false things about others. Gossip does not deal with whether what is said is true. Gossip is more concerned with who is and who is not present. If we are negatively talking about someone when they are not present and sharing information about them, even if it is factual, we are gossiping.
God never wants his people to spread slanderous gossip (Lev. 19:16). Revealing secrets about others is frowned upon in the book of Proverbs (Prov. 11:13; 20:19) and gossip is included in several sin lists in the New Testament (Rom. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20). Our world may take gossip lightly, and even view it as a helpful social skill, but God views it as a serious sin.
When you are tempted to gossip remember that God is listening. The old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing at all” is good advice. Gossip may seem innocent to us, but God hates to hear us put down fellow divine image-bearers. Silence can be golden and God-honoring. Be careful with your speech because the consequences of gossip are costly (Prov. 13:3).
We may love to be patted on the back and told how great we are, but we need to remember how deadly pride can be. Pride may not be as visible as we think. Even those who appear to be humble may be the most prideful. Pride is a poison that kills one slowly from the inside out. Prideful people believe that what they possess has come because of their own effort with a failure to credit God (1 Cor. 4:7).
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Pride is an inflated view of oneself not based on reality. We may think we are better than others or more valuable than them based on where we are from, our level of education, amount of worldly possessions, or some other superficial marker. God is not impressed with our view of ourselves because he sees us as we truly are and knows us at the most intimate level. Pride is problematic because it robs God of glory that is rightfully his (Prov. 6:17; cf. Acts 12:20-23).
Fight pride that tries to work its way into your life. God does not want us to hate ourselves, but he also does not want us to worship ourselves. God tasks us with humbling ourselves so that we do not become his enemies through our pride (James 4:10). We can humble ourselves now or God can do it later. The choice is ours (James 4:6).
The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives does something to our disposition as we embody his teaching (Gal. 5:22-23). We must be sure that we not only believe the right things but that we have the right attitude. Sometimes we overlook bad attitudes in the body of Christ. To be rude, habitually cranky, irritable, or grouchy may be viewed as tolerable offenses but they can harm our influence with outsiders. People have no reason to believe the gospel has any power when it has not changed our lives at the most basic level.
Rather than excusing our attitudes by saying things like, “that’s just the way I am,” “she’s always been that way,” or “he’s a really good person otherwise,” we should work to let God shape every part of who we are—including our attitudes (1 Thess. 5:23). We do not have God’s permission to have a nasty attitude. Instead, our cheerful countenance and deep-seated joy should serve as an indication that we are God’s people (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16).
Sin is sin. All sin violates God’s will and carries consequences. The sin that should always bother us the most is our own. Just like the little foxes spoil the vineyard (Song. 2:15), the little sins can spoil the soul. If we walk in the light and openly confess our shortcomings God will forgive us (Prov. 28:13; 1 Jn. 1:7, 1:9). Don’t overlook these areas but look deep into the word of God. Then look deep into your own heart and be sure that you don’t let the little things trip you up.