This article was written by Evangelist Wil Rice.
Numbers 15:30-31aa: But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD.
What do you think is the biggest sin you could commit today? What would be the biggest consequence you could suffer? Numbers 15 gives us an interesting story to answer that question. Verses 32-34 say, *And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day…and they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.* They wanted to make sure they knew what God*s mind was on this. Verse 35 says, *And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death.*
Does gathering sticks on the Sabbath sound like a big sin? Is there such a thing as a big or little sin? Many of us would say, *There*s no such thing as a big or little sin. Sin is sin.* There is truth to that, but I think the more important question is, *Does God draw a distinction between sins?* The answer is *yes.*
The distinction is not between big and small sins but between sins of ignorance and sins of presumptuousness. Verses 27-28 say, *And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering….and it shall be forgiven him.* God made provision for sin and ignorance. He doesn*t put a premium on ignorance, but He does make provision for it.
In contrast, verse 30 says, *But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously…that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD.* A presumptuous sin is rude or confident. The idea is, *with a high hand or a clenched fist raised before God.*
Do you think it is more likely that you would take sin trivially in a big area of your life or a little area of your life? Wouldn*t most of us be more likely to be careless about little sins? It is easier to be dismissive of God in things we consider little than in things we consider big, and hence the biggest sin we could commit is some sin that we take lightly. The judgment on such sins is great because the person has belittled or dismissed the Word of God. The question is not so much whether a sin is big or little as much as it is is it committed willfully or in ignorance.
Take the case of this man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. Was this a big sin? Someone says, *Well, it didn*t hurt anyone.* It sure hurt him. When we judge a sin by how it hurts other people, it is a pathetic form of humanism, judging sin merely by what man thinks of it or what it does to man. The whole point of Numbers 15 is that God has the right to call the shots.
It would be easy for someone to say, *It is better not to know. It is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.* Willful ignorance is not ignorance. God holds us accountable for what we know. We all sin, but God makes provision for ignorance while He puts a premium on our stewardship of the truth.
I would go a bit farther than brother Rice about our sins of ignorance. If we do not study the Bible, we are willfully disobeying the Lord and that disobedience will lead to a multitude of other sins. We will be causing our own sins of ignorance. One of God*s important purposes for giving us His Word is to keep believers from sin.