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Are other people bigger sinners than you?

Repentance from sin plus faith in Christ equals a new life.
Repentance from sin plus faith in Christ equals a new life. | Pixabay

Imagine driving down the road and seeing a large number between 1 and 100 on the windshield of every car. The driver who is the "biggest sinner" has #1 on the windshield, and the driver who is the "smallest sinner" has #100, with everyone else somewhere in between.

What number do you think would be on your windshield? In other words, where do you rank yourself among sinners? Are you a bigger sinner than most, or a smaller sinner?

If you are perhaps reluctant to rank yourself, that is a good sign. After all, "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else" (Galatians 6:3-4). In other words, celebrate the good things Christ produces in your life, without comparing it to what someone else is doing. 

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The Apostle Paul wrote, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). The focus should never be on us, but only on Christ and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so "that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1).

Comparing ourselves to others tends to produce arrogance and self-righteousness. The Bible declares, "To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech" (Proverbs 8:13). The Pharisees were experts at entertaining evil thoughts, and they often condemned others for their sins and struggles. 

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee who "prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like all other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get" (Luke 18:11-12).

The Pharisee was far too proud of himself to recognize his own sins. He assumed he was better than everyone else, when in fact he was the biggest sinner of the bunch. And not only did he have the darkest heart, but he also assumed that his fasting and tithing made him righteous in God's eyes. He was so busy judging others that he didn't even recognize his own sinfulness and self-righteousness. Sadly, when you judge others, you are actually condemning yourself.

The Bible states, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:1-5).

Many people misunderstand what it means to "judge" someone. Perhaps you have been falsely accused of judging others simply because you identify certain behavior as sinful. But that is not what "judging" actually means. Those who do not know the Lord often attempt to define good and evil, while ignoring God's boundary lines that delineate right from wrong. God's descriptions of good and evil do not depend upon man's personal preferences or opinions. 

You and I judge others whenever we look down on people and view them as "bigger sinners." Jesus said, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).

The Bible tells us how God wants us to view others. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). So, do you consider others better than yourself, or do you consider yourself better than others? That is to say, are you less of a sinner than others? If so, then meditate upon this Scripture passage for a few minutes: "Whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10).

Each one of us has fallen far short of God's perfect standard. But if you are born again, you no longer want to pursue sin. Instead, you want to live for Christ. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8). 

Evangelist Billy Graham said, "Pride comes in looking at ourselves; meekness comes through looking at God." How much time do you spend every day looking at yourself and comparing yourself to others, and how much time do you spend every day listening to God in His Word and talking to the Lord in prayer? If you currently think other people are bigger sinners, you can experience a change of heart by confessing your sin of pride to the Lord and turning away from it. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).

Each one of us is prone to assume that other people are bigger sinners. Thankfully, the Lord not only forgives our pride when we repent of it, but the Holy Spirit also helps us "fix our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) and on the cross instead of comparing ourselves to others. You see, we are all equal at the foot of the cross.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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