The fourth chapter of Genesis shows just how low on the family tree sins like selfishness, jealousy and murder are. The fact that some pretty horrible stuff happens quite early in the story of mankind may cause some to find the stories irrelevant. Most people don’t consider themselves murderers. We all like to think there are certain things we are incapable of doing and I can understand why. Some sins bear much more visible consequences than others. While all acts of rebellion against God are equally disgusting to God, we tend to rate their severity by how much harm they do in the “real world.”
This built in measuring stick we all seem to use is just plain worthless. The first couple of chapters in Genesis prove as much. God told Adam and Eve not to eat a piece of fruit. They disobeyed this simple command and the consequences were severe! The first humans experienced instant shame and expulsion from paradise. They were forced to work a cursed earth, experience pain in childbirth and marital discord for the rest of their days. All for a piece of fruit? Well it isn’t quite that simple and that’s the point. Sin never is as simple as it seems. It may start small but it has a way of snowballing. Mountain avalanches occur when a lot of little things build tragic momentum. Many avalanches are prevented by a snow patrol’s careful investigation of seemingly inconsequential conditions.
Which brings us to Cain and Able in Genesis chapter 4. How did a little sibling rivalry turn into the first murder? How does a little snow become an avalanche? An old preacher once said, “Sin will take you further than you wanted to go and cost you far more than you wanted to pay.” Some people appreciate a religion that gives them a list of the really bad sins to avoid so they are free to casually commit the less consequential ones. Any such a list is the invention of men and not God. Those living with such lists might want to double check the Bible before facing God with a contrived system of self-justification. A simple reading of scripture demonstrates that all sin is equally damnable and equally forgivable through Christ’s sacrifice. Your sin is either bad enough to warrant the crucifixion of Jesus or it is not. If it is not, it is by definition unforgivable.
Psychology’s take on sin is also quite nuanced and unbiblical. The definitions of mental illness are subjective. That is to say, a person is only diagnosed with a problem if the issue at hand threatens emotional or physical harm to self or others. Of course, all problems that visibly harm self or others began as problems that appeared to do neither. At its best, Psychology is in the admirable but generally ineffective business of stopping avalanches once they start. Biblical based ministry seeks to prevent them by taking even the “small” sins seriously.