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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

February 10, 2017

Are there "trivial sins"?

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

To answer this question, we need to look at "trivial offenses" as they are called ("Kavaliersdelikt" in German). A trivial offense is doing something that is actually against the law, but the person doing it does it anyway out of convenience or a personal sense of justice. Examples would be traffic violations, not paying your fare on public transportation and ignoring a copyright on a small scale by copying texts written by others.

What is considered to be a "trivial offense" is subject to societal interpretation and changing times, as evidence by income tax evasion in Germany. For years it was almost a national sport not to declare some personal income when filing your taxes. After all, who doesn't want to pay as little as possible in income tax? But "tax evader" CDs from Switzerland obtained by German tax authorities and stricter tax legislation and enforcement have had quite an effect. The number of people turning themselves in for tax evasion jumped to record levels after the "tax evader" CDs were reported in the press. The list of prominent people who had evaded taxes got longer and longer – people who should have set a right example for others. So tax evasion is no longer a "trivial offense" in Germany.

Tax evasion was never a "trivial offense" for Christians, nor were other supposedly trivial violations. Christians take the apostle Peter's exhortation seriously: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors" (1 Peter 2:13-14). That's why Christians follow Paul's admonition in Romans 13, verse 7: "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."

The principle also applies to the law of God. We should decide according to our own judgment what part of the royal law of love we will obey and what part we will not obey. The apostle James warns us about doing so: "Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Unfortunately that's the attitude many people have when it comes to the fourth commandment. They don't have a problem with the other nine commandments, but the Sabbath commandment is a thorn in their side. "That can't be that important in our modern world," they say.

Those called today will be kings and priests in the world tomorrow (Revelation 5:10). Priests are to know and teach the law of God (Hosea 4:6).

Can you picture someone who routinely did not pay his fare on public transportation being made responsible for payment systems for public transportation (if we have that!) in the world tomorrow? Or the unrepentant tax evader being made responsible for administering tithing income? Hardly. And you can also hardly picture someone being a king and priest in the world tomorrow who considers disobeying some aspect of God's law today to be a "trivial offense".

"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" is our Savior's attitude (Luke 16:10). Our attitude should be the same. That's why our answer to the question asked at the beginning must be: No, there aren't any "trivial sins"!

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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