So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 ESV
One of the most practical books of the New Testament is the book of James. In it, James stressed the importance of having our faith tested to build more faith. Indeed, the trying of our faith produces steadfastness, and James emphasizes that the one who remains steadfast will receive the crown of life. Hence, it is important not only to HEAR the word, but it is vital that we DO the word. James stressed that we cannot show partiality to people (the rich as opposed to the poor), and we show our faith by our works in aiding and helping others. Our faith causes to watch our tongue and seeks the wisdom from above. We cannot be worldly, letting the standards and thoughts of the world inform our thoughts and actions. We cannot boast that we will live another day; indeed, we must always remember that our life is a vapor. Hence, we must avail ourselves of the opportunities EVERY DAY to bring glory and honor to God.
How often do we know to do things, but fail to do them? How often do we make excuses for our failings and shortcomings in the matters of omission? It is a responsibility of all Christians to allow the word of God to influence our lives, and it is our responsibility to do them. We do not have the right to pick and choose which commands we obey and which we choose to ignore.
It is a mistake to think that sins of omission are not as serious as the sins of commission. Sins of omission may be worse than sins of commission, as some sins of commission may be committed in the heat of passion, maybe once in a lifetime. But sins of omission can be repeated time and again.
We would not think of blaspheming God. Yet God also commands that we love him with heart, mind, soul, and strength. How can we know that we really love God except through obedience to what he tells us to do? The same authority that forbids stealing, or adultery, or even murder, also commands us to “do good unto all men.” (Galatians 6:10). If I have an opportunity to help someone and fail to do so, I am as guilty as if I stole from someone, or if I killed someone.
Often the sins of omission precede the sins of commission. When we fail to pray or study Scripture; when we fail to heed the warnings God has clearly given us, or fail to do what he commands because of our failings, we sin.
There are many passages in the Bible that shows us that the sins of omission are as bad as, if not worse than, the sins of commission.
In Luke 13:6-9 “And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” The tree had leaves, which suggested that it had fruit. Yet it had none. Jesus cursed the tree. This is the only miracle in which we find Jesus cursing something; and it was prophetic as well of the Jewish nation. They had not obeyed the Lord as commanded. Examining the Old Testament we see that God condemned their failings to care for the poor amongst them; they failed to release debtors sold into slavery every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1ff; 31:10). But the lesson is for the church as well.
In Matthew 25:14-30 we read the parable of the talents. We have heard this sermon preached numerous times and know that the five-talent man doubled his talents, as did the two-talent man. We know that the two-talent man was commended as the five-talent man as well. The one talent man returned what he was given. He had not lost it, nor had he wasted it. He did nothing with it! The sin of the one-talent man is uselessness. He did nothing.
In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The main point was that the rich man had abundant opportunities to help Lazarus but did not. The roles were reversed after death, and we emphasize that part of the story. Jesus’ lesson was to teach that if they and we have opportunities to help someone, we should. All the money the rich man had was useless once he was dead. He could have used some of his wealth to help a man that had nothing. The sin — uselessness!
In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us a description of what judgment will look like. There will be a separation of the sheep from the goats, and the sheep will inherit the “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:31). What separated the sheep from the goats? “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the RIGHTEOUS will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come unto you? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say unto you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40). Jesus condemned those who did not do anything to help others. The difference was using what the King had given to help others. Do we? Do we share the greatest gift — the gospel with those who need it?
We live in a world that neither sees not acknowledges the needs of others. We do not look for opportunities to help – we are busy trying to make ends meet for our family. Those who have helped see what needed to be done, and used what God had given them to help others.
What are some lessons from all these passages?
- 1.We are not required to help those we cannot see, or even those around the world. But we need to help those we can see that are in need and see to their needs. Nearness creates obligation. Then to help others in the congregation, my neighbors . . . When I see with the eyes of Jesus, I will see those that are in need, and I will sin if I do not. It is the sin of omission.
- 2.Knowledge aggravates sin! We cannot rid our responsibilities by closing our eyes. In Titus 3:1 Paul told Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, TO BE READY FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.”
- 3.Some things we can do are open to all! How? We can make sure that we don’t get in the way of anyone that wants to work. Sometimes we are more discouraging than encouraging. Encourage every good work! We can be a steady influence for those that are doing right. We can all talk to someone, sometime about the gospel, and they will be more willing to listen when we show care and concern for them. We need to realize that “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.” (James Truslow Adams).
On the day of judgment we will all have to give account for what we have done, and what we have failed to do.
May God use us to his glory!
Taken from a Sermon by Franklin Camp, Old Truth in New Robes, volume 1 Birmingham Alabama, Roberts and Sons cd 1970 p 139-141