Aggravations of Sin – Part 2
Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Psalm 51:4NKJV
Question 151 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?” The second part of the answer says, “Sins receive their aggravations, 2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.” Last time we saw how who the sinner is can affect the gravity of the offense. Today we consider how those against whom sin is committed can do the same.
The worst kind of sin is that which is committed immediately against God. When Ananias & Sapphira lied about their financial offering to the church, Peter declared that they had not lied to men but to God, and we know that God struck them dead for such brazenness. So also when people today directly criticize, mock, or slander God, it is a greater sin than when they do the same towards their fellow man. In the Scripture above David is sometimes mistakenly thought to be minimizing his sin, since he only acknowledges sin against God and not those transgressions which were against Uriah, Bathsheba, his wives, or anyone else. But on the contrary David is not minimizing his sin or failing to fully confess it, he is doing the exact opposite. By stressing that all of his sin was against God and God alone, David is maximizing his sin and guilt. In effect he is saying, “When I committed adultery against my wives, it was really against You, God. And when I had Uriah murdered, I was really doing that to You, O Lord.” Sins directly against God are so heinous because of who God is and all the good that He has done for us. Thus, as Christians we need to be especially mindful not to sin against the grace we have received in Christ by presuming upon God to forgive us. Likewise to be convicted of something by the Holy Spirit and to not respond accordingly is to sin directly against God.
However, even among our fellow man our sins can be greater depending upon against whom we commit them. Thus, to wrongly pick a fight with my buddy on the playground is bad. To do the same against my own mother or grandmother is terrible! Unfortunately, we all can recall several recent and infamous examples in our nation where children have risen up and murdered their parents or parents have cruelly killed their small children. These instances are all the more wicked and awful precisely because of the close relationships involved. To treat an enemy or a stranger with malice and violence is wrong, but what kind of evil is it that would strike the very ones who gave you life, or would crush your own flesh and blood offspring who look to you to supply their every need? Familial love is so important not merely because we owe those closest to us the most love, but also because it is the love that is most needful and beneficial for our own lives and wellbeing in this world. Like a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, so is the man who does evil to his own family, he strikes at his own life, and God will judge him all the more severely for so doing.
Finally, those sins against people from whom we have received the most blessings, or to whom we owe the greatest charity, are correspondingly more wicked than others. Even apart from the fact that sinning against Christ was a sin directly against God, Judas’ close relationship to Him as a man made his betrayal all the more evil. So Scripture prophesied of his treachery, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me,” (Ps. 41:9). Likewise, Jesus sternly warned about sinning against the weak, especially against those “little ones” who believe in Him. God gives some more strength in order to help those with less, and so to use that gift of God to prey upon those without it is a great evil in God’s sight. May our good God cause us to rightly esteem those to whom we owe the most respect, love, and mercy, that we would be quick and zealous to give it to them.