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Is One Sin Worse Than Another, According to Amos?

Though Israel was no stranger to violence, Amos called out different kinds of sins in his prophecy against the people of Israel: disregarding the needy; trampling the poor; denying justice to the oppressed; sexual immorality; causing Nazirites to break their vows; commanding prophets to be silent; flaunting wealth with winter and summer houses made of ivory. It was clear that all the sins enumerated by Amos — those of violence and those listed above — would be punished by God.

So, are all sins the same? We may likely put the sin of gutting a pregnant woman in a different category than the sin of disregarding the needy. But does God?

It’s interesting that in both Old and New Testaments, God often criticized those who committed what we might think of as minor sins in today’s culture.

“Woe to those who…withhold justice from the oppressed.” (Isaiah 10:1-3)

“Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker…” (Proverbs 17:5)

“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith…? But you have dishonored the poor…” (James 2:5-7)

In Amos 5:11-12, the sins of Israel were said to be every bit as bad as the violent ones of the nation’s neighbors: “…[T]hough you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them…For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins…[against] the innocent and…the poor…”

I’m not sure that ranking sins matters, as long as we realize we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23) And as long as we’re not concerned about the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye when we have a plank in our own. (Matthew 7:3)

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