Do the Right Thing

17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17).

There are two main ways to think about sin. One is to think about sin as things we do. These are called sins of commission. We talk about “committing” a sin. You can hear the connection here with the word “commission”. To commit a sin is to do a sin of commission. For example, if you smack someone you would be committing the sin of disrespect. If you steal from someone you would be committing the sin of theft. If you talk behind someone’s back you would be committing the sin of gossip. These are all sins that we do. This is how we usually think about sin.
But in our verse for today, James is talking about a different kind of sin. He is talking about sin as things we don’t do. It’s what we call sins of omission. If you “omit” something, do you know what that means? It means that it is missing, or that it is left out. If you omit some details in a story, it means that some details were missing. A sin of omission would be to fail to do something that we know we should do. We omit the good we are supposed to do from our lives.
If your your neighbor is suffering from a disease and we never offer to help them out by making a meal, or driving them to the doctors office, or cleaning up their yard, that would be a sin of omission. We failed to do something that we know the Lord wants us to do, namely, help those who are suffering.
James is calling his people (and us) to be mindful of what God’s will is and seek to do it to the best of our ability. When we fail, we return to the cross, repent, and start all over again in the freedom of grace.

Read Proverbs 3:27

  • What does this verse teach about sins of omission?
  • What is one thing in your life that you are tempted to omit? What sins of omission do you commit?

Our Father, you have been so faithful to reveal your will to us. Help us to love it. Help us to press into it. Help it to be always at the forefront of our minds. May we not neglect those around with tangible needs we could easily meet. Help us to remember how you came to us in the midst of our suffering and met our every need in your life, death, and resurrection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.