How often have you begun sharing the gospel with someone and when talking about sin had the person interrupt you and say something like, “I’m not a bad person…I mean, I’m not a murderer or anything…”
By inference, the person is suggesting that he has an ability to stand before God self-justified because of his fulfillment of God’s law. He may acknowledge lack of perfection, but he will also likely assert sufficient obedience to be right before God.
His error is he has trivialized the significance of his sin and he has overlooked the effect of even one violation of the law of God. As James 2 notes, he is not alone; many have attempted to minimize sin’s significance. But that attempt is always vanity and folly.
There were those in the early church who were “playing favorites” among those who came to worship (v. 9). They were showing partiality to those who were wealthy and were not caring for those who had need (vv. 2-7). Though aware that Jesus had commanded that they were to love their neighbors as themselves (v. 8), they were only “loving” the neighbors that they thought it “beneficial” to love. It seems from what James says that they were even willing to acknowledge that this was sin, attempting to minimize its significance by saying something like, “It’s just a little bit of favoritism — it’s not like I’m a murderer. I’m okay with God…”
To these self-justifiers, James says,
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:9–10; NASB)
In other words, the act of even one sin convicts you as a law-breaker; you are not okay and you will face the condemnation of God. James is not saying that if one sin is committed that the sinner stands guilty of every sin against God. And James is not saying that every sin is equal. Obviously the damaging ripples of some sins are greater than others and the heinousness of some sins is greater than others. But James is saying that the law of God is unified, and if even one sin is committed, the entire law is violated. Just as a baseball that errantly goes through a kitchen window breaks the entire window, so even one sin breaks the entire law of God.
So one sin — every sin and any sin — is damning. And that’s the problem of trivializing sin. So when you preach the gospel to others and when you preach the gospel to yourself today, don’t overlook any sin as trivial and insignificant; instead, declare the truth that Christ has died to atone for that sin and to set you free from that sin.