“For 7 cents, now you’re making someone a felon for the rest of his life,” Anthony Stewart’s lawyer exclaimed after the sentencing was passed. Anthony, a 15-year-old, was going to be facing 2-6 years in juvenile detention for stealing a whopping 7 cents. Stewart’s lawyer pleaded for the judge to treat her client as a youthful offender so he wouldn’t have this felony hanging over his head the rest of his life. The judge was not willing to make such a compromise.
Like Anthony Stewart’s lawyer, this sentencing seemed to make several people upset. However, here is the full story. Anthony Stewart and his friend took BB guns that looked like real pistols for the sole purpose of robbery. These two young men later came upon a 73-year-old man. They knocked him to the ground and Anthony proceeded to punch the old man in the face. Then they stole every solitary cent the man had on him, a staggering 7 cents. While some might be upset with Anthony’s punishment over such an insignificant amount, an important question must be asked. What if the old man had been carrying three thousand dollars or more? There is no doubt that the young teen boys would have taken all of it. The felony has nothing to do with the amount the boys stole. It has to do with the crime itself and their malicious intent.
This story reminds me of a very common mindset in our culture. Christians and non-Christians alike are constantly trying to justify sins by labeling them as “little” and “insignificant.” We talk about “little white lies,” “small mistakes,” and tag certain failings as “no big deal.” The problem is, Scripture makes no such distinction. The Bible condemns all lying (Colossians 3:9; Leviticus 19:11; Jeremiah 9:3; etc), all stealing (Exodus 20:15; Leviticus 19:11; Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9; etc), and all sins (Isaiah 59:1-3; 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23; etc).
While we may label some sin as a “small” and “trivial,” the Lord doesn’t. The consequences of sin can be significantly different, but all sins can separate us from the Lord, even the “little” ones. Let’s not get caught up in the flawed mindset about “little sins.” All sins are serious. All sins need to be addressed in our lives.