What is the Worst Sin?

Large stone Decalogue monument in front of a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Cultural Research
“What do you tell young Canelas to never do?” I asked a group of Canela leaders.
In our translation work we had come to the Ten Commandments and needed to know what Canelas considered sin.

Their discussion was loud but not long, then the chief said,

  1. You must never hit or fight physically with another Canela. It’s okay to fight against other tribes but not with each other.
  2. You must never bring shame to yourself and your family by being careless when you steal or have sex with someone who is not your spouse. It’s better not to do these things at all but letting other find out you did them is worse.
  3. You must never be stingy with what you have, especially with your food. You might cause others to steal from you.

Since Canelas have always been a minority society trying to survive in a hostile environment, peaceful relationships within Canela society are essential. No wonder, then, this anti-fighting prohibition is at the top of the list.

Anger in Church
I thought of this Canela list some years ago when I learned of a church leader who on several occasions was extremely angry with another leader. He expressed his anger violently and publicly and each time held it over a period of weeks.

Jesus said. “If you are angry with your brother, you have already murdered him in your heart.”

Yet no one took the leader aside to talk with him. There was no discipline. These temper tantrums were ignored and left to “go away”. They upset many people who had witnessed the outbursts and the tantrums never did “go away.”

“Moral Lapse” in Church
In that same church, however, it was discovered that another leader frequently visited pornography websites. Jesus said something about this too. “If a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

This time the denomination’s supervisor was called. The leader was disciplined, put on probation, required to take counseling, and assigned an accountability partner.

Obviously that church ranked the Lust-equals-Adultery sin as worse than the Anger-equals-Murder sin treating it as rather benign and not worth the bother.

Since this happened in a North American church, it may simply be reflecting our culture. We never equate anger with murder. But our society shines a bright spotlight on sins of a sexual nature, not only on pastors addicted to pornography, but on bosses using sexist language and sexist behaviour toward those under their authority.

The Opinion of Jesus
To Jesus the worst sin was not loving God with all our heart, soul and mind. And the next worst sin was not loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)

As followers of Jesus our motive for all we do must be love, first for God then for others. How can we love God and others when we rage at them in fury? How can we love others when we fill our minds with selfish lust?

So What?
The Canelas are concerned about fighting each other within the tribe.
Our society condemns sexist behaviour of men towards women.

But Jesus’ standards are far higher and broader,
“Love God and love people.”
That covers everything.