By Pastor Glenn Pease
We are tempted to do evil, but seldom think of the reality that we are also tempted to not do good.
It is possible to be doing nothing wrong, and still be living in sin, because of
what we are not doing.
This is the surprising truth that James hits us with in 4:17 where he says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
Doing nothing can be a worse sin than doing something that is bad.
This is because the omission of good is the commission of evil.
This text puts an end to any idea of sinless perfection, for it is not likely that anyone can live sinless for very long in the light of this verse.
We can avoid doing any evil, but this will not render us sinless, for their is good we ought to do that we are not doing, and this too is sin.
This text puts us all in the category of sinners.
A Sunday School teacher asked her class, "Does anyone here know what we mean by sins of omission?"
A small girl replied: "Aren't those the sins we should have committed, but didn't?"
Lets clarify this issue so nobody has that kind of understanding.
It is a sin to lie, but it is also a sin not to tell the truth when you should.
It is a sin to steal from another, but it is also a sin not to give to another when it is in your power to do so for their good.
3:27 says, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."
If you can do good and don't, it is a sin.
It is a sin to commit adultery, but it is also a sin to not meet the sexual needs of your mate which can lead to adultery.
In other words, the sin of omission can be the major cause for the sin of commission.
Because you did not see that a man had food and shelter for his family, he had to rob and steal for these provisions.
The doing of nothing on your part was a major cause for the doing of evil on his part.
Both are a part of the sin problem.
It is not just the one guilty of breaking a law, but those guilty of not meeting a need that leads to that sinful action who are a part of the total picture of evil.
Matthew Henry wrote, " Omissions are sins which will be brought into judgment, as well as commissions.
He that does not the good he knows should be done, as well as he who does the evil he knows should not be done, will be condemned."
Margaret E. Sangster
It isn't the thing you do dear,
It's the thing you leave undone
That gives you a bit of a heartache
At setting of the sun.
The tender word forgotten,
The letter you did not write,
The flowers you did not send, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts at night.
The stone you might have lifted
Out of a brother's way;
The bit of heartsome counsel
You were hurried too much to say;
The loving touch of the hand, dear,
The gentle, winning tone
Which you had no time nor thought for
With troubles of your own.
Those little acts of kindness
So easily out of mind,
Those chances to be angels
Which we poor mortals find-
They come in night and silence,
Each sad, reproachful wraith,
When hope is faint and flagging,
And a chill has fallen on faith.
For life is all to short, dear,
And sorrow is all too great,
To suffer our slow compassion
That tarries until too late;
And it isn't the thing you do, dear,
It's the thing you leave undone
Which gives you heartache
At the setting of the sun.
In 1744 Louis XV of France was sick and all the nation was weeping and in prayer for his recovery.
The people lived in hope that the young king would bring happier days to them, for they had lived under the heel of a cruel tyrant.
In 1774 after 30 years of his reign he was again lying ill, but there were no tears and no prayers for his recovery, because he had done nothing for the people to fulfill their hopes.
Doing nothing good makes you an evil king, even if you do nothing bad.
The Golden Rule is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
It is active and not passive.
It is not enough to not do wrong.
You must do right to be right with God.
James is the practical book, and he makes it clear that not doing good works is to be a worthless Christian.
If nothing good comes out of your faith, it is dead faith, and of no value to God or man.
Doing is essential to being a Christian.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan the priest and Levite did not do any evil act.
They did not go to the injured man and steal something the thieves had missed.
All they did is pass by on the other side and do nothings to help the man.
They broke no law of the Old Testament, but they did break the law of the New Testament, which is the law of love.
They did not love their neighbor as themselves, and this do nothing religion was condemned as evil, and this is the kind of faith that James is condemning as worthless and dead.
By doing nothing when they could have done good, they did evil, and were guilty of sin, and breaking the most important law of all, the law of love.
They were as guilty as the thieves, if not more guilty.
Sin is like the speed limit laws.
You can break the law by going over the legal limit, but you can also break it by going under the minimum limit.
You can be going too slow, and not reaching a level that is expected.
So it is in life.
You can be living below what is expected by doing nothing, or being too slow to do what is right and good, and by so doing be sinning.
Wickedness is going too fast, but negligence and indifference is going too slow.
Both are breaking the law, and both are sinning.
The old guy creeping along the interstate at 30 is just as dangerous as the teen flying along at 90.
You must stay within certain boundaries to avoid sinning.
Not doing good when you can is being below the minimum.
The priest and the Levite were not speeding and breaking the law by going too fast, but they were not going up to the minimum speed, and so were just as guilty as the thieves who were breaking the law at the upper end.
The Gospels do not tell us of Jesus going about avoiding evil.
He did that, but they tell us that he went about doing good.
It is the positive of what he did, and not the negative of what he avoided that is the focus of his life.
He would not have lived a perfect human life had he gone off to live in a cave somewhere and never once committed any sin.
Sinlessness is not found in not doing evil only, but in doing good.
The purpose of Jesus coming into the world was not to see if he could avoid doing what was out of God's will, but to fulfill God's will and do all the good he could, and in the end atone for the sins of the world that all might have the chance to experience God's ultimate good in eternity.
Jesus avoided the worst sin of all by not committing the sin of omission and leaving undone the great good he, and he alone, could do.
He said on the cross, "It is finished."
Nothing was left undone that needed to be done for our salvation to be possible.
Jesus is our example, not only in that he avoided doing what was bad, but in that he always did what was good.
The nine who never came back to Jesus to thank him for curing them of leprosy did not do evil, but they failed to do something that was so right and good.
The five foolish virgins did not do evil, but they failed to do what was right and fill their lamps with oil.