Suggested Reading: James 4:1-17
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.—James 4:17
The Scriptures break sin down for us in pretty simple terms and plain language. Sin is often described as that which starts in the mind (our thoughts), continues to the speech (our words), and finally is put into action (our deeds). Such as what James describes in chapter one. The Apostle John wrote at length about sin so we would know and understand what it is, how it presents itself, where it comes from, how we should be aware and avoid as much as possible, but when we do sin, what we should do. Scripture also explains there are sins of omission and commission. Sins of commission are the things we do that are wrong, sins we commit, breaking God’s laws and commandments; things we do whether deliberately or undeliberate but are still sin. Sins of omission are the things we know are right but do not do them. This is the kind of sin James addresses here.
Sins of omission may not seem as bad as sins of commission, but they are. We do not get let off the sin-hook because we didn’t do something we should be doing. This is kind of like when your parent, or other wise people would tell you in response to something you were involved in that was not good. Scolding you and reminding you that just because someone else was doing it and you went along, you still knew better! Meaning there was/is no excuse for you not doing the right thing.
In Romans 5 Paul writes about the purpose of the law. He said until he knew the law, he had no idea what he was doing or feeling or planning or thinking was wrong, but once the law came and he became aware of his sinful thoughts, plans, and actions, then it became sin.
Someone who does not know the law of love or command of Jesus to forgive, may be able to say they did not know they were to love or forgive others, but once they know and become aware of the law of love and forgiving and choose not to love or forgive, they can no longer claim ignorance or innocence; withholding love or forgiveness becomes a sin. Innocence may be claimed in ignorance, but innocence cannot be maintained in knowledge.
We can relate to this on many levels. The more we read God’s word and discover the attitude, thoughts, and actions we are to have toward ourselves and others the more we cannot claim ignorance. We cannot do these things under our own power, but the grace of God is here with us to help us do the things that are not only good, but right. Such as showing kindness, mercy, and compassion, caring for and comforting those who are hurting, taking care of the poor, visiting the lonely or imprisoned, clothing those who are naked, sharing food with the hungry. Through God’s love and care for us we can submit to his will to bless and care for others.
We praise God for his outpouring of grace and forgiveness of every sin. Whether they be sinful of thoughts, words, or deeds; sins of commission or omission. But though the grace of God abounds—and he gives grace to the humble—we do not seek to sin more—as Paul says in Romans 6—in order to have more of God’s grace, but instead we seek to live and walk and operate in the will of God under the blessing of God, submitting to the will of God because we want to please God and we have a healthy, reverent fear of God. We need God’s grace to live correctly. To follow his commands and to keep us from every kind and type of sin: the sin of thought, words, and actions, and the sins of commission and omission and he is generous and loving to supply it. He will also give us grace to do what is right when the opportunity to do right arises.
Doing the right thing especially in an environment where not doing anything is an acceptable practice, takes a lot of guts and courage because it will make you stand out like a sore thumb and you may not always get a lot of support from others. But God will give you grace to perform it, grace to pursue it, grace to desire it. As James reminds us it is one thing to not do something when we don’t know the right thing to do and quite another to fail doing what is right when we do know. May the grace of God empower, strengthen, inspire, and fill us to do what is good and right to do. Let’s Pray,
God, it takes courage to live a life where we do what is right. We will not be able to avoid all sin and we will sin over and over during the course of our life on earth. How grateful we are that you are willing to forgive us for the sin we commit, knowingly or unknowingly. We do not sin lightly or take your love and forgiveness for granted; but realize how incredibly blessed we are. Help us to become even mor aware of the ways we are tempted to sin and keep us from falling into sin traps. Grant that we will be people who are humbly submitted to your will and always desire to follow your commands to love and care for others. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
Courageous Living: How will you respond to the knowledge of sins of omission and commission? How does what James wrote inspire you to live more courageously, doing what you know is right and in accordance with God’s word?