The Naughty Lists

In scripture there are several lists of sins that cover a wide variety of things. These lists include Revelation 21:8, 1 Cor 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, Col 3:5-6, and 1 Samuel 15:23 (just for good measure). Here are all the naugthy lists combined into one big list:

  • cowardace
  • unbelief
  • being vile
  • murder
  • sexual immorality
  • practicing magic arts
  • idolatry
  • lying
  • being wicked
  • adultery
  • being a male (or female) prostitute
  • homosexual offenders
  • stealing
  • greed
  • getting drunk
  • slandering
  • swindling
  • impurity
  • debauchery
  • witchcraft
  • hatred
  • discord
  • jealousy
  • fits of rage
  • selfish ambition
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • orgies
  • impurity
  • lust
  • evil desires
  • arrogance
  • rebellion

If we aren’t careful we can really fool ourselves with our own sense of “goodness” because some things on this list don’t tempt me at all. I have never been tempted to be a male prostitute and have never been tempted to have an orgy. But I have had envy, selfish ambition, and arrogance in my life. I have never wrestled with drunkness and debauchery but I have had to deal with lust, jealousy, and hatred. I haven’t ever practiced any witchcraft or magic or murder but I know I have been a coward in my faith when I should have stood up for things. It is easy to point fingers at things we don’t struggle with but all of us have probably struggled with something on this list. That makes this list a real guy check for me because it is easy to think we have it together better than those who struggle with the “really bad stuff” but the truth of the matter is we all wrestle with some powerfully bad things.

If God is even handed about these things He can’t tolerate, shouldn’t we also see them all as serious too? I have never seen the AFA or any other Christian organization boycott someone or something for being arrogant or having selfish ambition. When was the last time you heard Christians shouldn’t watch a particular television program because the characters are so selfish? (I am not calling for boycotts or else we would ultimately have to boycott ourselves too! I am calling for us to be fair in our approach to what we do and do not tolerate in our own lives.) I know I have overlooked many of these things among my friends, the entertainment I have chosen, and even in my own attitudes and actions. Yet none of these are more or less dangerous to our lives than any of the others. But before you go reprimand someone for being greedy…make sure you aren’t arrogant, hateful, or doing it for selfish reasons!


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

46 Responses to The Naughty Lists

  1. Jerry Starling says:

    But before you go reprimand someone for being greedy…make sure you aren’t arrogant, hateful, or doing it for selfish reasons!

    Do you reckon this is why Jesus said we should not judge or we, too, will be judged?


    • mattdabbs says:

      I don’t think Jesus minded any of us calling a sin a sin. The problem is, it is very easy to judge for the wrong motives, to judge hypocritically, or to judge in a way that is just as sinful as what we are judging. Also, I think Jesus was recognizing we aren’t the judge…God is.

  2. Good post.

    I liked how I heard Randy Harris zoom through one of these lists one time. And then he explained, “I always have to read these lists very fast. I don’t want to give my students any ideas…”

  3. hank says:

    I have been thinking about this topic for a little bit, and while I understand that all sin (be it murder or gossip) is against the will and law of God and at some point damnable, I am somewhat hesitant about lumping every sin together and not declaring some sins much worse and “dangerous to our lives” than others. I believe that we all consider certain sins greater and potentially more damaging than others and that we are justified in doing so. For example, suppose your child asks to spend the night at a friends house but you are convinced that one of the parents is a lukewarm Christian and the other parent has been known to gossip and be quite greedy at times (but for the most part, both parents are trustworthy and responsible). Should the child be allowed to spend the night or weekend with such? But, suppose the parents were never married, were known to have homosexual relations, and really struggled with telling lies and stealing. Wouldn’t this second couple be guilty of “greater” sins than that of the first? If not, should both couples be treated with equal respect and be judged the same? For sake of argument, we could make them all believers…or all unbelievers.

    I just don’t see the Bible instructing us to treat, consider, and/or judge every brother equally. Nor every nonbeliever. If so,

    • mattdabbs says:

      All of these things are on lists that include a warning of how serious these things are. How much more serious can something be than: resulting in the second death (Rev 21), not inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6 & Gal 5), or things resulting in the wrath of God (Col 3)? The Bible doesn’t just say this is in regard to murder or theft but also in regard to greed and dissension.

      In your reply you acknowledged this in saying that all these things are “against the will and law of God.” To me that makes them all extremely dangerous.

      “I believe that we all consider certain sins greater and potentially more damaging than other and that we are justified in doing so.”

      There are consequences to sin and some sins have greater consequences in this life than others. However, earthly consequences are not the criteria for the ultimate seriousness of sin. Ultimately all sin leads to the same thing – death. So I don’t find grounds in scripture for saying we are justified in considering these things different from each other. When you say some of these are worse than others you are also saying some sins are better than others. That is not a direction I would want to endorse.

      I guess I am in a place where if Paul puts these things in the same list, then so do I. If John puts them in the same list then so do I. If God puts them in the same list then so do I. I hope that helps clarify where I am coming from on this one.

  4. hank says:

    If so, what right would we ever have of saying, “I don’t really want to be around you so and so” or, “no son, you are not allowed to go over to so and so’s house”

    However, you make some good and pertinent points. We do need to take heed in not considering our own sins minor, and thinking we are so much better than others.

    But, I do think some sins are just worse than others….I think we have to.

  5. hank says:

    Yeah, I understand that from God’s perspective, all (any) sin is equally wrong and soul threatening (although the Bible does call certain sins “against nature”, “unnatural”, etc. — implying that other sins, while against the will and law of God, are not “against nature” and/or “unnatural”. Are sins “against nature” worse that those which are at least natural?).

    At any rate, if we took the position that every sin was equally damaging to souls AND that we should treat them ALL equally…wouldn’t we then be hypocritical to allow our children to frequent the home of the arrogant gossipers, but not the home of sexually immoral liars? Or for wanting to punish the guy who shoots his innocent neighbor more, than the guy who lied on his tax return?

    I don’t know…

    • mattdabbs says:

      Certainly not saying this is easy as pie but is at least good to wrestle with and try to understand sin for what it really is and does. Obviously if I had the choice of babysitters between a murderer or child molester and someone who told a lie I would pick the second!

  6. hank says:

    Plus, the guy who had his father’s wife was to be expelled from the church but lots of others sinners were allowed to remain. Was not his sexual immorality in some sense worse? If not, why the harsher (more drastic) judgement?

    • mattdabbs says:

      The difference in 1 Cor 5 is not the sin itself but their attitude about the sin, “And you are proud.” (5:2). So here I don’t think it is one sin worse than another so much as their attitude about this sin is that they are proud of this behavior! That would be like someone being accepting of homosexuality as morally acceptable today and open to it in the church and be proud of their openness and acceptance of this. Paul wouldn’t be so upset because it was this sin vs that sin but because of their attitude toward the sin is one of acceptance.

      I also think that there is a difference between having done any of these sins and really living in these sins. Just because you have ever done something on this list doesn’t mean you are destined for hell. But if you continue in them and accept them as acceptable practices, that is another matter.

  7. hank says:

    There were two problems going on there in 1 Cor. 5 — First, some brother was being with his stepmom and Second, at least some of the brethren were cool with it. Paul was no doubt upset with both problems, but it was only the brother guilty of the sexual sin that was to be expelled from the church and delivered to Satan (in hopes he would be ultimately saved). Had Paul considered both parties equally wicked, why not also expell the ones who were tolerant of the wicked brother? Remember too, that Paul described the having of his stepmom as being an even greater wickedness than the pagans were practicing. It seems clear to me that the wicked brother was involved in a “special” sin that warranted swift and special consequences. Therefore, I still contend that certain and unnatural sexual sins are worse and more damaging (perhaps instantly) than gossiping is, and I think 1 cor 5 supports as much. IDK, maybe gossips get more rope than the brother who so sins with his body contrary to nature? Not that gossiping is acceptable to God.

  8. hank says:

    Kinda like how parking tickets can result in a loss of liscense just as much as can reckless driving… but you can usually get away with a few more parking tickets than driving wreckless…

    • mattdabbs says:

      We know from scripture that the wages of sin is death and sin separates us from God. So all sin can potentially result in the same outcome. The question that follows is, if they all can result in the same thing (death) does that mean God views all sin the same? You point out one area where people can be disfellowshippped for some things but others are sinning and not being kicked out of the congregation. Why the difference? Is the difference on God’s side of things or ours? Do we fellowship some and disfellowship others because God sees some sins are more serious than others? Or do we fellowship some and not others because those we fellowship, while they do sin (and so do we), are remorseful and repentant about it…and those who are to be disfellowshipped are hardened in regard to their own sin?

  9. hank says:

    What we can know is that when Paul wrote and sent his first letter to the Corinthians, there was a brother who was actively involved (not remorseful and penetent) in a sexual sin not even named among the gentiles (it was a really bad one). At the same time there were others actively involved (not remorsful and penetent) in other sins, one of which was in accepting the wickedness of the sexually immoral (of course there were many others actively involved in other sins as well). Of course, Paul’s entire point of sending the letter was to get all of those sinners to be aware of and repent from each of their sins. But to the one guy who was being with his own stepmom, Paul said to expell. Period. Remove him.

    The instruction is for us as well today. In some cases (which I believe to be rare and extreme), God would have us to expell certain ones from the church. However, I don’t believe that such instruction goes for every sin in the church not yet repented of. If I am wrong, we got some serious expelling to catch up on….

    • mattdabbs says:

      I totally get what you are saying and you really make some great points. If you follow my line of thinking I am not saying that disfellowship goes for every sin in the church not yet repented of but for those sins that are blatant and that people are so hardened to that they are actually proud they are doing those things (whatever that sin may be). That would be the difference to me between the guy sleep with his mother/step-mother and the other guys in Corinth. But you really could be right on this.

      At the end of it all the whole point is that we recognize all sin is serious and that we don’t just rationalize our sins as not being so bad or as bad as the next guys.

  10. hank says:

    For, if God instructs us to expell certain unpenetent sinners from the church, and if all sins are in fact equal, then we are suppposed to expell every unpentent sinner. Right?

    Would not that be the logical conclusion to the idea that EVERY sin was equal to every other?

    • mattdabbs says:

      So who gets to make up the “sin spectrum” from least bad to most bad? How will we pull that from scripture? These are easy things to talk about but harder to actually put into practice. Thanks for challenging my tiny brain and making it grow a few sizes.

    • mattdabbs says:

      How about Matthew 18:17 – “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

      This is not in regard to only the very worst of sins. Jesus starts with, “If your brother sins against you…” he doesn’t say what the sin is. But the process exposes that brother’s heart. If he repents, praise God! If he refuses the first attempt, second attempt, and finally the church trying to help him repent then “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Sounds like disfellowship to me. What do you think? Do you think Jesus thought we should only do this for the worst kinds of sins, if so, why didn’t he give that caveat? I am really trying to get my mind around this and I appreciate this dialog.

  11. hank says:

    Your “at the end” comment is right indeed. I appreciate your work bro.

  12. hank says:

    Cool. Concerning Mat. 18, I would go back to my parking ticket / wreckless driving illustration. Any sin can lead to disfellowship and eventual loss of salvation but some just get you there a lot faster. No matter how “small” a sin a brother commits against another (say gossip), once he refuses to come correct after several brethren and then the entire church pleads for him to do so, he manifests a sin problem far greater than his initial transgression. As far as the “sin spectrum”, of course there is no such thing and I don’t necessarily try to rank em from worst to least worse. But, that does not mean that it is not more displeasing to God to cheat on my wife or kill a kid than it is to roll through a stop sign. I believe that cheating is a greater sin than not stopping all the way not only to us, but to God as well.

    As far as the whole “blatant sin” and being actually proud of sin, i m not so sure. I mean, do you believe most churches have some of those in them? When is a sin “blatant”? When an unmarried couple lives together as ifd they were married, or only if and when they go around telling people of their sin? But, we have no way of knowing such about the 1 cor. Brother. For all we know, he may have been trying to hide it and got caught and then the church just made it a no big deal kind of thing even to his surprise?

  13. Theophilus says:

    By referring to “the weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23), Jesus makes the point that some commandments are more important than others. All of God’s commandments are important, but they are not equally important. This is because sometimes the commandments of God contradict each other. When they do, we are to follow the more important of the commandments.

    This was how Jesus could break the Sabbath & still be without sin. The Sabbath commandment was important, it was one of the Ten Commandments, but it wasn’t the most important commandment. The greatest commandment is to love God & love your neighbor as yourself. To see a person in real need on the Sabbath, it is more important to help them than to refrain from doing so in order to “keep the Sabbath.”

    In regards to sin, one sin, any sin, whether “big” or “little,” is enough to disqualify one from Heaven. Heaven is the perfect reward. The only people who deserve to go to Heaven are those who are perfect (Jesus alone). Apart from this, only those who are considered perfect, reckoned as righteous (by being forgiven), go to Heaven.

    Even so, some sins are worse than others. Jesus refers to those who have the “greater sin” (John 19:11). How “great” the sin is, in part, is determined by how much one knows. This is what Jesus was speaking of in Matt. 12:41-42. Passages like Matt. 11:21-24 & Matt. 12:41-42 suggest that the lost will receive different levels of punishment at the final judgment.

    • mattdabbs says:


      Thanks for commenting. A couple of questions:

      When did Jesus break the Sabbath commandment(s)?
      Can you site two laws that contradict each other? Just curious on that one.

      As best I can tell it and understand it, Jesus broke the traditions of the elders when it came to Sabbath. They had made the requirements stricter than the Law of Moses allowed for. So when they accused him of breaking the Law, he was really breaking man-made traditions. So it wasn’t an issue of Jesus breaking the Sabbath and still being without sin. He didn’t break the Sabbath as God defined it.

      In Matthew 23:23 Jesus was pointing out that they had learned to check boxes better than they had learned to actually have godly hearts. The second is certainly more weighty than the first. God doesn’t want robotic commandment keepers. He wants all of us, 100%. That is what is weightier.

      John 19:11 – would you say Jesus said this because Judas was a Jew and should have known better and Pilate was a pagan Gentile and was just following orders of what one does with an insurrectionist? In context, this may not be about weighing sins against each other but like in all the rest of these instances we are talking about – where is the sin coming from? It is more serious that the well informed and educated Pharisees do some sin (who know better and have selfishness or arrogance issues, etc in their hearts) than some uneducated person who isn’t in a leadership position (who is just doing so out of ignorance). Same sin, one is more serious than the other.

      You are making me think and I appreciate that. Keep them coming because this is really helpful to me. I hope I am listening better than I am talking here.

  14. hank says:

    In John 5:18 it says that Jesus “had broken the sabbath” kjv. I know people usually say “according to the opinion of the jews” and such, but the Scripture simply says that he “had broken the sabbath.”

    • mattdabbs says:

      In the Jewish way of thinking there was only one who could work on the Sabbath and that was God. Since babies are conceived, formed and born on the Sabbath it was reasoned that God alone was permitted to do work on the Sabbath. No one thought God doing work on the Sabbath was wrong or that God was guilty of breaking the Sabbath Law. That is the point here. The whole point Jesus is making in John 5 is that he is equal with God. You see that in 5:16-18 where he both calls God his father and works on the Sabbath, both of which they believed he was blaspheming by putting himself on level with God. That is, in fact, what Jesus was doing. Little did they know, Jesus was right!

      So if you take a step back and look at the broader context, Rabbinic tradition, and theology of John you will see that the point of John 5 (especially 5:16-18 is that Jesus was a not a lawbreaker, but that he is equal with God – able to create, heal and restore just like His Father. The bigger, broader theology of John 5 is that Jesus is putting himself on level with God. Therefore, he too is able to work on the Sabbath and not be a Law breaker. So yes, it says he “broke the Sabbath” and the point is he isn’t a lawbreaker for doing so because he has authority to create and restore because he is God. Hope all this rambling makes sense!

  15. Theophilus says:

    In Matt. 12:12, Jesus doesn’t deny that He had just “worked” on the Sabbath. He concedes that He worked on the Sabbath. But He concludes that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Do good what? It is lawful to do good works on the Sabbath.

    Strictly speaking, that was not true. The Sabbath commandment forbids one from doing “any work.” So if it was work, & Jesus agreed it was work, then it was forbidden. I come from a fairly “traditional” background, & I had a(n over)simplified, rigid understanding of law & commandments. Which caused me problems when I read the Gospels, because under my view, Jesus was wrong & the Pharisees were right. Obviously, I knew Jesus had to be right, but He wasn’t right under my way of thinking. So I had to change the way I looked at the commandments of God, in order to bring myself inline with Jesus’ view.

    What is the Sabbath commandment ultimately about? The rationale behind the Sabbath commandment is found in Deut. 5:15. The reason God gave the Sabbath commandment was because the Hebrew people had been slaves in Egypt. They were worked 7 days a week, 365 days a year, without any rest. The Egyptians treated them like machines & worked their fingers to the bone. This was not good. This was harmful for man to work such. It went against the principle of love – doing what is best for others.

    So God commands them to observe a day of rest. Not just for the Jew, but also for the servants & slaves & work animals. The whole point of the Sabbath was to do good towards man. The Sabbath should never be understood or applied so as to bring harm, for that goes against the spirit of the law.

    In Matt. 12:11-12, Jesus points out that the Pharisees both knew & acknowledged this in their own practice of the Sabbath. So the Pharisees were judging Jesus hypocritically; it was all a sham.

    In Matt. 12:5, Jesus points out that the priests in service at the Temple break the Sabbath, & yet are innocent. The priests worked on the Sabbath. Again, if the Sabbath is taken in a strict, literal fashion, they would be condemned for doing so. But Jesus correctly pointed out that sometimes you have to break the Sabbath in order to keep the Sabbath. This is because the Sabbath is designed to tend to the needs of man. That is Jesus’ point when He said “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

    Since the Pharisees correctly considered it lawful for priests to break the Sabbath in service at the Temple, how much more so is it lawful for the disciples to break the Sabbath in service to the Messiah, Who is far greater than both the Temple & the Sabbath commandment (Matt. 12:1-8)?

    • Theophilus says:

      Certain passages make it sound like Jesus was above the Law, as if He was free during His earthly ministry to set aside or change the Law as He saw fit. But this is not true. This is what the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing (Matt. 5:17-19), but Jesus expressly denied that He was doing that. During His earthly life, Jesus never set aside the Law. He always kept it perfectly.

      Gal. 4:4 tells us that Jesus was “born under the Law.” A Jew born under the Law remained under the Law until they died (Rom. 7:1-4). So from the time Jesus was born until the time He died on the cross, He was not above the Law, He was under the Law. If Jesus ever set aside the Law during His life, then He was a lawbreaker guilty of sin. But Jesus was sinless (Heb. 4:15).

      So John 5:17 doesn’t say that Jesus was exempt from the Sabbath. He is saying that He was doing the work of the Father – He was doing good toward His fellow man, & the Sabbath doesn’t trump that (similar to what we saw in Matt. 12).

      This was shocking to me when I first realized this – there is really only one commandment in all of Scripture. Love. The reason why love is the only absolute commandment is because God is love. It stems from the very Nature, the very Being of God.

      That is why love is the “great and foremost commandment.” Some commandments are greater, more important, take precedence over others. On the command to love depends “the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40). The one who loves has fulfilled the law, because love sums up the commandments & is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8-10). Against love, there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23).

      So it is always right to love, & a lack of love is always wrong. That is, once we understand what true love is, as God defines it. We do not know how to love as we should, which is why God gave us the commandments. What the commandments are is this: it is taking the divine principle of love, & showing how it applies in various circumstances. God gave us the commandments to teach us how to love.

      In some circumstances, the commandments will contradict each other (don’t work on the Sabbath vs. do good towards your fellow man). In such cases, we are to hold to the commandment that is the higher form of love. That is why “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Judgment has to do with fairness, justice, which is a form of love. However, mercy goes beyond being fair, it is “better” than fair, for it is a higher form of love, a greater expression of love. When mercy & justice come head to head, justice must yield the right of way to mercy.

      We don’t keep commandments for the sake of keeping commandments. That is what the Pharisees did. They “kept” the Sabbath for the sake of keeping the Sabbath. But commandment keeping isn’t the end, it is merely a means toward the end. The true goal is love – towards God, & towards those made in His image. That is what grace & freedom in Christ is really all about.

    • mattdabbs says:

      So your definition of Jesus breaking the Sabbath was that Jesus really did break God’s Law? Obviously not because that would mean he sinned. Jesus was upholding the Sabbath as it was originally intended by God and that is why he DIDN’T break the law or the Sabbath. So if you go back to John 5, you are making my point for me…Jesus didn’t break the Sabbath as God intended and designed it. Jesus was moving the Sabbath to its original intention and not breaking the Law at all. So wouldn’t that completely dismantle your assertion that Jesus, “could break the Sabbath & still be without sin” citing it as just a less important commandment?

      Also, if the Sabbath commandment was less important (as you asserted above) then why in Deut were people to be killed for violating it? That sounds pretty serious to me.

  16. hank says:

    Bro, if sinners are to be publically disciplined (expelled) not for any perceived greatness or severity of a sin but rather when ANY sin / sinner is “blatant”, what does that mean? When would a sin / sinner be considered “blatant”? And from what passage are you basing such?

    • mattdabbs says:

      I don’t think I said we expel people for any and every sin. I am trying to say, maybe I haven’t been clear enough, that any sin could be the basis of expelling people if they are blatantly unrepentant of that sin. So in the church we might have someone we fellowship who had murdered someone or raped someone in the past. But they have repented and are sorrowful for those past actions. But we should take a seriously look at things when people are unrepentant. That is not just my advice. That is what Jesus said to do in Matthew 18:15ff. Jesus doesn’t say you go talk to a brother who has sinned against you only with the BIG sins. He doesn’t specify the sin, just that it needs addressed until the person is repentant of that sin. If you read that passage about how Christians are to deal with sin you will notice that if repentance occurs the whole thing comes to a stop and fellowship is maintained. But if the person is unrepentant/refuses to listen (of whatever sin this might be) they are to be treated as a pagan or tax collector. In other words, if people refuse to repent of their sins then, after the appropriate attempts to reconcile it, they are to be treated in line with Matthew 18:17 of what you do with those who refuse to listen.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Let’s flip this around…Would you disfellowship someone who was convicted of murder but is obviously remorseful and has repented and changed their life since then? Well, that was one of the BIG sins. But their attitude about it has changed. So we would fellowship them if they were getting their life back together. But if someone comes to church and is guilty of murder and is still breathing murderous threats toward others we would have follow Matthew 18 and then go from there. If they repent, its all good, even though the sin was, in our eyes, really serious.

  17. hank says:

    Very well said T. And amen.

  18. hank says:

    This is good and interesting bro. As far as Jesus and the sabbath, I pretty much agree with T. Remember that Jesus himself talked about how David ate that bread which was “not lawful” (against the command of God) and was yet innocent and guiltless. I think that Jesus considered he and his disciples to have been in a similar situation to that of David’s seeing how he referrenced David’s situation when accused of breaking the law. Further, we have the plain and inspired word of John who clearly wrote that Jesus “had broken the sabbath.”

    As far as the position that every sin is exactly equal in severity to every other sin, and that the only thing that would make one sin “worse” (say worthy of disfellowship), would be when any sin (no matter how “small”), is committed “blatantly”…..could you elaborate? What exactly constitutes the term “blatant”? Would it be when it is committed right in front of others? And would a blatant sin really be worse than another sin that had been hidden from others? Or a sin that was going on wherein the sinner and the church had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement? And does the Bible talk anywhere about church discipline being reserved for said “blatant” sins?

    I trust you know that my words are sent in love and out of genuine curiosity of your position. I have great respect for you bro. Thanks.

    • Matt Dabbs says:


      I would only take your thoughts in a way that is respectful. You know the same is true of anything I write to you as well. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts here. I told T in my last comment that there are certainly things I will be adjusting in my thinking based on these conversations, so I am very thankful we have dialoged on this.

      I feel like I elaborated on the “blatant sin” thing several times now. Let me sum it up. First, Matthew 18 tells us plainly that if people sin against us that we are to go to them and partner with them in trying to make it right. If that person refuses repentance over something clearly a sin then, as a final step, it is possible to disfellowship that person. That is exactly what Jesus is saying in Mtt 18. But if that person is repentant we are so thankful that their hearts were turned to the truth about their sin…that means we continue in fellowship with them. Let me ask you, do you see anywhere in there that Jesus says only do this and only take this to the most extreme form of discipline if it is a big sin vs. a little sin? So it is possible, based on the person’s reaction (which comes from their heart (Mk 7:15 and other verses), that any sin could end in the ultimate form of discipline if we follow the model Jesus gave us in Matthew 18. The difference between just doing step 1 and going all the way to step 4 is their heart/reaction to the correction…no matter “how serious” the sin.

      What questions does that bring up for you?

    • mattdabbs says:


      See my last post to T. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow! Have a great day.

  19. Theophilus says:

    Matt, Jesus says straight up that the priests in the Temple “break the Sabbath” all the time (Matt. 12:5). There is no ambiguity there. The penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death (Numb. 15:32-36). So why weren’t the priests being stoned to death all the time? Because even though they break the Sabbath, they “are innocent” (Matt. 12:5).

    So you can break the law, even one of the 10 commandments, & still be innocent for doing so! Sometimes when you break the Sabbath, you were to be stoned. Other times, you could break the Sabbath & be found innocent. What is the difference?

    The commandment to love is the foremost commandment (Matt. 22:38). That means it comes before all other commandments, even the Ten Commandments. If Jesus had refused to heal the man with the withered hand that day, & told him to come back tomorrow, Jesus would have kept the Sabbath commandment at the expense of breaking a higher commandment, the commandment to love His neighbor (see James 4:17).

    There is a hierarchy of commandments. There is the greatest commandment, & there is the least commandment; there are the weightier matters of the law, & there are the less weightier matters of the law. There is a hierarchy in the commandments because some times they come into conflict with each other. Jesus expects us to understand this, & in such cases, to follow the higher law. In fact, Jesus is angry towards those who refuse to acknowledge this (Mark 3:5).

    As Hank pointed out, this is the exact thing Jesus taught about David eating the showbread (Matt. 12:3-4). But only the descendants of Aaron were allowed to eat it (Lev. 24:9). So what should the priest have done? “Sorry David, it is better for the Lord’s Anointed to starve to death than to break this small ceremonial law”? There was a real human need, & tending to that need trumped some tiny ceremonial law.

    So yes, we ought to keep all of the commandments, even the tiny ones. However, when there is a conflict between commandments, God expects us to keep the higher commandment at the expense of the lesser.

    • Matt Dabbs says:


      This seems like one of those posts were I am trying to address what you are saying but you are not really reciprocating. I really would like to hear your thoughts on the dozen or so questions I have asked so far that still lack answers. I just don’t like it when blog comments end up being me trying my best to address multiple points, raising my own questions, and then see those questions passed right over with a whole new torrent of thoughts tossed at me for me to address. I could list all the questions but you can see them just as easily.

      I do think you are making some valid points here and I am going to end up changing my thinking on a few things here, I am certain of that. So I appreciate all the work and thought you have put into these comments. It really has been productive. I just would like to see more of a dialog here than what it is turning into. Otherwise, it makes it difficult for me to keep addressing all your points without you doing the same with my questions. Thanks in advance!

  20. Theophilus says:

    I apologize for any confusion. I was intending to answer your questions with my posts. I’m not sure what the coding is for quotes here, & blog comment sections are a difficult format to have a back & forth conversation. I’ve been adding my replies at the bottom, rather than directly replying to a post, because it is easier (for me) to see new posts if they are placed at the bottom. Let me see if I can do better.

    “When did Jesus break the Sabbath commandment(s)?”

    Matt. 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-3:6, Luke 6:1-11, 13:10-17, 14:1-6, John 5:8-18, 9:13-16

    “Can you site two laws that contradict each other?”

    Thou shall not kill vs. the commandments to kill in certain circumstances.
    Do not do any work on the Sabbath vs. circumcising, Temple work, healing & helping the needy, etc. on a Sabbath day

    “John 19:11 – would you say Jesus said this because Judas was a Jew and should have known better and Pilate was a pagan Gentile and was just following orders of what one does with an insurrectionist?”

    The Jews received the stricter judgment, because they had more knowledge about God & His ways. But they had different guilt/actions, too. The Jewish leaders were plotting murder against Jesus out of sure jealousy & hatred. Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, because he realized Jesus didn’t deserve to die. Pilate only allowed Jesus’ execution under duress, when the Jews made a thinly veiled threat against him (John 19:12). Pilate was in the wrong, but the Jewish leaders were even more so.

    “So your definition of Jesus breaking the Sabbath was that Jesus really did break God’s Law? Obviously not because that would mean he sinned.”

    Jesus broke the Sabbath multiple times. Sometimes one had to break the Sabbath in order to keep, fulfill God’s Law (Rom. 13:9-10). You can break the Sabbath under some circumstances & still be innocent (Matt. 12:5).

    “Jesus was upholding the Sabbath as it was originally intended by God and that is why he DIDN’T break the law or the Sabbath. So if you go back to John 5, you are making my point for me…Jesus didn’t break the Sabbath as God intended and designed it. Jesus was moving the Sabbath to its original intention and not breaking the Law at all. So wouldn’t that completely dismantle your assertion that Jesus, ‘could break the Sabbath & still be without sin’ citing it as just a less important commandment?”

    The intention of the Sabbath, that is, the spirit of the Sabbath law, is different from the letter of the Sabbath law. Sometimes, in order to keep the spirit of the law, one had to break the actual letter of the law.

    Jesus & the Pharisees ultimately did agree on the Sabbath law. That is why Jesus could point out from their own actions that they essentially agreed with His interpretation & application of the Sabbath (Luke 13:15). They didn’t really disagree with Jesus as shown by their own actions. Rather, they acted as if they didn’t agree in order to have a pretense to condemn Jesus. That is why when Jesus pointed out their mutual agreement over the Sabbath, the Pharisees were humiliated (Luke 13:17). What Jesus was really exposing wasn’t the true understanding of the Sabbath law, but the blatant hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

    “Also, if the Sabbath commandment was less important (as you asserted above) then why in Deut were people to be killed for violating it? That sounds pretty serious to me.”

    The Sabbath commandment was serious, it was one of the Ten Commandments. But the Sabbath wasn’t the most important commandment. It was inferior to the commandment to love (Matt. 22:37-40).

    • mattdabbs says:

      I see what you and Hank are saying about all of this. I would still contend that Jesus was making a point more about himself than he was about the Sabbath in John 5. I will have to study Matthew 12 and parallel passages a bit more than I have previously. Thank you for helping me think through this. Thank you also for taking the time to lay out more of your thoughts in regard to some of my questions. I wasn’t asking you to do that in order to try to back you in a corner but because several of these really are questions I have about this and I am wanting to hear what you guys think. Jesus did say there was a “greatest commandment” but it was also the greatest because it summed up the rest so well.

      Theology is one thing when it is theoretical. It puts some meat on the bones when you start to think about it practically. If the bottom line is that any sin can result in death and eternal punishment, wouldn’t that basically put all sin on the same level, in the ultimate sense? The difference between death and salvation is forgiveness that comes by grace through faith. Someone who sins and does something serious (in our thinking) like murder but repents and is a Christian is still going to inherit eternal life. Someone who steals or lies but isn’t a Christian will not have eternal life. One sin was big and one sin was little, in our thinking. But the one who does the serious thing can live eternally with God and the one who sins in the small way won’t. The difference was their attitude and reaction toward what they did. Those who seek to change and do better, relying on the grace of God, have hope. Those who don’t, don’t. So in a practical sense, all sins end up on a level playing field because it isn’t “how serious” your sins are (aside from blasphemy of the Holy Spirit…that hasn’t come up in the talk here but certainly has a place in it as something more serious than others) but what you do with it/what you allow God to do with it.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Here is an interesting and insightful read on whether or not Jesus broke the Sabbath – Is Jesus Breaking the Sabbath?

      I thought you might find that interesting.

  21. Jerry Starling says:

    Sorry that I’m coming to this conversation late. Matt’s post today made me come looking for the discussion he was talking about.

    C.S. Lewis observed (I don’t remember where) that sins of the heart are more heinous than the sins committed in anger or lust. He said this because they have a more lasting impact on us and on our souls. Thus greed and malice can be worse than an outburst of anger, even if in that outburst we may have committed murder or slander. The one is an incident; the other is a way of life.

    When Jesus spoke about tithing mint vs. the weightier matters of the law, he named those weightier matters – and they are all attributes of the character of God Himself: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. When we “tick boxes,” as Matt said, instead of emulating the justice, mercy, and faithfulness of God, we have our priorities all wrong – and we are sliding away from God, because we simply choose not to follow Him and adopt His life as our life.

    Yes, there are hierarchies of sin. The worst sins are those that take us far from the heart of God.


    • mattdabbs says:

      I see what Lewis is saying but my question to him would have been, Where do outbursts of anger come from? Jesus says what comes out of a man makes him unclean. If we are angry and, even more immaturely, let it show through angry/violent outbursts, that says something about what’s on the inside. So ultimately it all comes from the heart. “The worst sins are those that take us far from the heart of God.” I agree but I don’t think it is murder will but anger won’t. Or greed will but anger won’t. Any sin can be a symptom of something deeper within our hearts. So to me, it isn’t which sin is it (so let’s categorize them into the really bad and just only bad) but what does any sin we commit really point to and what are we going to do about it? If we don’t care about this then it shows our hearts are hard (whether it was anger or greed). If we do care about it and make an effort to change our lives, hearts, etc…then it shows our hearts are soft enough for God to do something with.

      Is there any sin you can think of that doesn’t ultimately come back to the list in the original post?

      So why would anyone be saved if all sins go back to the list of those who do things that don’t lead to heaven? It points to what John wrote,

      “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7

      It is possible to walk in the light and yet commit sin because we have an attitude of faith and repentance that brings us to forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we can sin just because we can still walk in the light because that shows our hearts are not in the right place to try to manipulate God like that. Anyway, rambling here…but hope you see where I am going with this.

  22. Jerry Starling says:

    You are right that outbursts of any kind come from the heart. It is in the heart before it is in the act. What I understand C.S. Lewis to have meant is that the hidden sins of the heart are ultimately more pernicious than sin that occurs because of momentary weakness. The former are deeply embedded in us, are seldom recognized as sin, but very much put “self” on the throne of life. A person who gets drunk, for example, but recognizes it as sin and is striving to overcome his propensity to drink is nearer the kingdom than the person who is envious or proud or who carries malice within him – but does not recognize these for what they are. That is why Jesus could say to the Pharisees that the tax-collectors and “sinners” would enter the kingdom before they would.

    If there are hierarchies of commandments (e.g., love for God and man), then there are also hierarchies of sin. That is not to say that any sin is “acceptable” (except that “polite society” does consider many sins that way, but this is man’s judgment, not God’s). Even the lower hierarchy sins (such as rolling through a stop sign in violation of the law of the land) has an impact on the law of love – for it can breed a disregard for the safety and rights of others. Yet, is there not a more direct connection between, say malice, and love than between love and rolling through a stop sign while carefully checking for on-coming traffic?

    I wish I had checked for the comments after first scanning “the naughty list!” This is stimulating.

    Looking forward to seeing you at SGWS!


    • Jerry – I appreciated your first paragraph. Mind if I repost those thoughts?

    • mattdabbs says:

      But could Jesus point about the greatest commandment be that if you keep that commandment you are going to keep the rest because the commands to love God and neighbor sums up all the law and the prophets. I do see your points and I am not saying you are wrong on this one. The one thing in all this discussion no one brought up was blasphemy of the H.S. that is clearly worse than all the rest. So the Bible does teach there is a hierarchy of sins to some degree. I just think it is hard to distinguish sins that are just sins and those sins that come from the heart. They all seem like heart issues to me…or maybe my heart is just really bad and I am the only one who can trace my own issues to a heart that needs to be more Christ-like.

      • Jerry Starling says:

        I don’t think we’re really saying anything that is very much different. Yes, all sin is a heart issue. When lust is only in the heart, though, it is easier for us to dismiss it as sin than when it results in an overt action. I believe this may be one reason Christian men often sink into pornographic addiction. If they were physically having sex with a woman not their wife, they would more easily recognize that as sin. The unrecognized sin hidden from others because it is only in the heart is more insidious than the sin less hidden because it is overt action. Yet, as you say, all sin comes from the heart.

        It is more difficult for us to deal with sin that is in the heart, but not overt. Perhaps I should say, not yet overt.


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