The Sin of Not Doing

The Sin of Not Doing
James 4:17

There are various ways of categorizing sins.  We could think in terms of moral sins, and attitudinal sins and maybe even social sins. 

But I want to suggest a way to think of sin that might help you as you evaluate your life.  First of all, there are sins of commission.  Those are pretty easy to put our finger on.  Those are the things we shouldn’t do, the Bible is clear, and yet we commit those sins. 

Then there are sins of disposition.  Our attitude and temperament is all messed up.  That includes things like being unkind, and losing our temper or being angry or bitter. The list might include our pride or being rebellious.  And because of our disposition, we sin. 

Then there is another category.  Sins of commission, sins of disposition, and then sins of omission.

These are the things we should do, but don’t do.  And that seems to be the focus of James 4:17.

You can't do two things at the same time.  You can't do the things you ought to do and the things you ought not to do at the same time.  You can't do the things you ought not to do and do the things that you ought to do at the same time.  So even though they are often overlooked, perhaps the largest area of concern for a Christian is the area of sins of omission. 
Think about it this way.  If you were to make a list of the things you don’t do, it might be a very impressive list.  You could maybe put down that you don’t drink or gamble; maybe you don’t lose your temper or curse.  And you might be tempted to come away from that feeling pretty good about yourself. 

But for many Christians, while they are at flat zero in the things they don’t do as far as bad things are concerned, the list of good things they do is also a big zero. 

So I think we should be extremely concerned about the sins of omission, the sin of not doing. Why?  Because this verse says "Therefore, to him that knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, it is sin."

By the way, this verse walks hand in hand with what we are learning from John the Baptist.  Salvation always expresses itself in what it does. 

In fact, this is one of the sins that is dealt with in the passages that have to do with the judgment of God.  In chapter Matthew 25, the Bible talks about the nations being brought before Him, the sheep nations and the goat nations.  As they stand before the Lord, before the throne of Glory, the Lord said to a group of people there, "I was a stranger and you didn't take me in.  I was hungry and you didn't feed me.  I was thirsty and you didn't give me to drink.  I was naked and you didn't clothe me.  I was in prison and you didn't visit me."  They said, "Lord, when did we see you in all of those conditions?"  He said, "When you did not do it until the least of these my brethren, you did not do it unto me." 

What the passage is talking about is not so much the things that people do, but the things that people ought to have done and didn’t do.  These are the sins of omission. "Therefore, to him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin."

Think with me a little bit about it.  I want to make several statements about the sin of not doing.  The first thing I want to talk about is that the sin of not doing is a

I. Deceptive Sin.

By that I mean, you don't see it as easily as you do other sins.

You will notice that verse 17 begins with the word "therefore."  It is pointing us back to what has previously been said.

You will recall that in the verses just prior to this statement we're told about the picture of the merchant man who was getting ready to go on a business venture.  It tells us all of the things he does.  It tells us the when.  He said, "Today or tomorrow."  It tells us the where.  He said, "We'll go into such a city."  It tells us the what.  He said, "We'll buy and sell and we will get gain." 

It tells us all of the things that he is doing, and yet the defect in this passage of scripture, the deceptive element, here is not that what he was doing was necessarily wrong but what he was not doing. 

What he was not doing was he was not consulting God.  He was not taking God into the matter.  He was not seeking the will of God in his life. 
That's hard to recognize, isn't it?  It's a deceptive sin this sin of not doing.

But when you study the Bible you will find that there are several settings where Jesus condemns this very deceptive sin. 

One time when Jesus was on His way into Jerusalem, the Bible says that there was a fig tree.  When they got closer there were no figs on the tree.  It was only leaves.  The only destructive miracle that Jesus ever performed so far as we know, the Bible says that He cursed the fig tree and that the fig tree withered and died.  Why?  Because the fig tree didn't do what the fig tree is designed to do.

Then do you remember the parable Jesus told about the talents.  He said that there were three people.  One of them was given five talents.  One was given two talents and one was given one talent.  The man with the five talents went and invested it and gave five other talents.  Jesus said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

The one with the two talents went and invested those two talents; and Jesus said to him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

But the one with the one talent, the Bible says that he took that talent and he hid it.  He didn't do anything with it; and Jesus said to him, "Thou wicked and slothful servant.  Why didn't you at least take that one talent and invest it in the bank and get some kind of interest?" 

That is the sin of not doing what you ought to do.

Then there is another parable Jesus told about a Samaritan.  We call him the Good Samaritan.  Rather than “good” we should call him the “faithful” or “obedient” Samaritan. 

Why?  Because of the three who had opportunity to help the man who had been robbed and beaten, only one did what he should have done.  They other two committed the sin of omission; not doing what they should have done as men of God. 

It's a deceptive sin.  It's not easy to detect, especially if you are prone to evaluate yourself and others by what you or they “do” and “don’t do”. 

For a lot of people that’s all there is to their faith.  They have a list of things that you ought not to do, and if you don't do all of those different things, if I don't commit those particular sins, then I'm a good Christian.  "I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do.  Our team won a Bible." 

Yet, here is a category in the Bible which is very deceptive.  It is easy to overlook it.  You may not detect it.  But the Bible says, "To him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin."  It's a deceptive sin.

There is a second thing I want to say about this sin of not doing.  I want to say to you that it is a

II. It Is a Destructive Sin.

The sin of not doing can be a very, very destructive sin.  It can cause a great deal of damage not doing what you ought to be doing. 

In the Old Testament we are told the account of King David who had brought the kingdom to the zenith of its glory.  He had brought the kingdom to its golden years and the Bible says that there was a time when kings went forth to battle, and yet David tarried in Jerusalem.  Instead of on the battle field, he was in the bed.  You will recall what happened.  He got involved in a very, very bad relationship with Bathsheba.  It can be a very destructive thing. 

It can be destructive in a family, the sin of not doing.  "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."  This sin of not doing can destroy relationships in a family.  It is not always the things that people do in a marriage that cause the problem.  It may be the things that they do not do. You have to cultivate a marriage.  You have to work at a marriage.  You have to develop that love in a relationship.

As parents you ought to develop that love relationship with your children and you children ought to tell your parents how much you love them and how grateful you are for them.  The sin of not doing can be a destructive sin in a family. 

It can also be a destructive sin in a church, the sin of not doing.  There is an Old Testament verse that we use sometimes, and I don't guess it's wrong to use it in the way we use it, but it's not really the intention of it. 

Numbers 32:23 says, "And be sure your sin will find you out."  We use that sometimes to talk to sinners and say, "You are going to get caught in your sin." 
But let me read the whole verse.  God says, "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out."

Let me give you the context of that statement.  This statement is made from the Lord through Moses to the tribe of Gad and Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh. 

If you recall your Old Testament, you will know that the situation there is those two and a half tribes decided that they wanted to stay over on the other side of Jordan instead of going on over to the Promised Land.  They are like a lot of Christians I know.  Instead of getting over in the land of victory, they like it over there on the other side of Jordan where the cattle are well cared for and where the material things are what they want them to be. 

That way they don’t have to be too involved, just show up if they want to and not really carry any of the weight of winning the victory. 

So Moses confronted them about it.  Basically, the long and the short of the story is that they agreed that they would go on over into battle.  You see, it is no time to be resting when your brothers and sisters are fighting.  He said to them in this verse, "If you will not do so," in other words, "If you don't go over there in battle, "be sure your sin will find you out."  What's the sin?  Not doing what you ought to do.  The sin of not doing.

That's what happens in a church.  There are a lot of people who want the victories of a church, but they don't want to go through the battles to have those victories in a church. 
There are a lot of people who want the church to prosper, but they don't want to do what you have to do in order to make a church prosper.  They are not willing to serve.  They don't want to do anything. They don't want to take any position of leadership or any position of service in the fellowship. 

They want people to be saved, but they're not willing to invite anybody and try to get them to the services.  They want the church to have financially what it needs to have, but they are not willing to give in order for it to be able to do the things it needs to do.  They want the church to be a spiritual powerhouse, and yet they are not willing to pray and pay the price spiritually for the church to be what it ought to be.  The sin of not doing can destroy the effectiveness of a church.

I heard about a guy who got fired from his job. He said to the boss, "Why did you fire me?  I didn't do anything."  The boss said, "That is exactly why you got fired."  Not doing anything is destructive.  It can destroy a church.

It can destroy a personal life.  It can destroy the effectiveness of you as a Christian.  Not that you are doing overt sin, not that you are doing a lot of things that you ought not to do, but you are just failing to do the things you ought to do in order to help you grow as a Christian.

I'm going to tell you something. There are certain things that you are going to have to do as a Christian, and if you don't do those then you are not going to succeed in the Christian life.
We are living in a day when God's people need all of the spiritual resources available to them or they are not going to make it. You are not going to survive. 

I don't know about you, but I couldn't make it if I didn't get in God's Word every day and begin my day reading God's Word.  I couldn't make it if I didn't get down on my knees and pray every day and talk to Jesus every day.  It's a battlefield out there.  We're not in a playground.  We're in a battleground.  You're not going to make it.

I ran across this and I want to read it to you.  It makes a lot of sense.  "Every day in Africa, every morning a gazelle wakes up and that gazelle knows that if he can't outrun the fastest lion, he's going to die.  Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up and that lion knows that if he can't outrun the slowest gazelle he's going to starve.  So whether you are a lion or whether you are a gazelle, you wake up running." 

That is exactly the way it is with the Christian life. Every day of your life you had better wake up and you had better take advantage of the spiritual disciplines which God has made available to you to have victory for you in the Christian life. The sin of not doing is a destructive sin in the life of a believer.

I want to tell you something else.  The sin of not doing is a destructive sin in the life of a lost person.  Somebody listens to my voice tonight and you're lost. You've never been saved.  You say, "What kind of sin will send you to hell? Will murder send you to hell?"  Murder won't send you to hell.  "Will lying send you to hell?"  No.  Lying won't send you to hell. 
"Will adultery send you to hell?"  No.  Adultery won't send you to hell.  What is it that will send you to hell?  The sin of not doing will send you to hell.

Look at John, chapter 3, and I want you to see what Jesus says about this.  I'm not saying that you ought to commit the sins that I have just mentioned, but I'm just saying that that's not what keeps you out of heaven.  In verse 18 it says, "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

In verse 36 it says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."  Do you see what he's saying there?  It's not what you do. It's what you don't do.

I ran across a tract a number of years ago and on the outside of the track it said, "What do you have to do to go to heaven?"  It said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."  Then at the bottom it said, "What do you have to do to go to hell?"  It said, "Open the tract."  When you opened it up, it was blank.  You don't have to do anything to go to hell.  All you have to do is fail to do what you know you ought to do.  "Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

There is not a person under the sound of my voice who is lost in sin who could stand before a Holy God if they died in their sins tonight and say, "God, you are unjust.  I'm not going to heaven and I'm going to hell unjustly.  You haven't been fair with me." 
You know tonight that if you will repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that He will forgive you of your sins and He'll take you to heaven when you die.  But if you fail to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the sin of not doing is the destructive sin in your life.  "Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

The first thing I said to you is that this sin of not doing is a deceptive sin.  It's very difficult to catch sometimes. Secondly, I've said to you that it is a destructive sin.  To fail to do can be a very, very damaging sin. But the third thing I want to say to you is that it is a very

III. It Is a Defective Sin.

When you don't do what you ought to do, then you have left some things out in your life. You make your life defective.

Notice what he says in James 4, verse 15.  "For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."  What he's saying is the will of God is that which makes your life complete.  The will of God is that which makes your life well rounded.  There is something defective about a life that does not do the will of God.  The sin of not doing.

The sin of not praying for someone, how defective that is.  Do you pray for other people?  They say that there are between 5 and 6 billion people in the world.  You can't pray for everybody. You can't pray for all those billions of people, but you can pray for somebody. 
Do you pray for the members of your family?  It's defective not to pray for the members of your family. 

Do you pray for your church and do you pray for your Christian brothers and sisters?  Do you pray for lost people?  Do you have some people on your heart?  It is a defective sin not to pray.

Samuel said, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you."  It is a sin of not doing not to pray for somebody.

There is the sin of not giving.  You may not be able to give everything, but you can give something.  Somebody said, "If I had a million dollars I'd give a whole lot to the Lord."

I don't know whether you would or not.  "If I had a million dollars I would give a whole lot of it to the Lord." I'm not sure you would.  What are you doing with what you've got right now?  If you won't give the Lord something out of what you are making right now, what makes you think you'd give the Lord more if you had more?  Sometimes the more people get the more selfish they become.  You can give something.

I think about the widow and her mites. She couldn't give everything but she gave something and she gave everything she had and when she did the Lord commended her for what she had done. Her life was not defective.  Her life was complete because she gave what she could give. You can give something.

What about witnessing?  You can't witness to everybody.  There's not enough time.  There are not enough days in the week.  You don't have enough strength to witness to everybody.

We've got a whole city here in Ardmore.  You can't witness to everybody who needs to know about Jesus here in Ardmore.  I will tell you what you can do. You can witness to somebody.  You can tell somebody about the Lord.

There's somebody you can talk to about Jesus that nobody else can talk to.  Think about it for a moment.  There is somebody right now on your mind.  God's laid somebody on your heart right now who needs Jesus.  Have you talked to them about the Lord?  The sin of not doing.  The failure to tell people about Jesus the way we ought to tell them about Jesus.

Look at verse 15 again.  "For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." It is the will of God that we do certain things, and to him who know to do right, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin. 

Listen:  There is only one way to get rid of the sin of not doing, and it’s not rocket science.  The cure is to start doing what God wants you to do.

Let’s pray.

 

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