THE SIN OF OMISSION
James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Whatever plans you have for today, tomorrow, or the rest of your life, must be qualified by the statement, If the Lord will. This is the teaching of James in verses 13 through 15 that precede the lesson text. Any success that comes through your plans is achieved because God allowed you the time, and gave you the ability, to attain it. To leave God out of your plans is to act presumptuously, that is, to take all things for granted, and to overstep the bounds of your control. Such acts show overconfidence, arrogance and a boastful attitude. This attitude James addresses in verse 16 by saying, But now ye rejoice in your boastings; all such rejoicing is evil. Making plans that do not include God, is boastful; it is sinful.
It is to this specific sin that James applies the Godly principle found in our lesson text. To those to whom this letter was addressed, as well as us today, James says that it is good, indeed, it is required, that all Christians are to include God's will in all their plans. To disregard, and omit, God from our plans is sinful. From this specific example, the same principle would then apply to all other matters of life. From this teaching, we can say that the omission of doing that which is good is sinful; to the same degree that commission of evil deeds is a transgression. Both show disobedience to the will of God.
If the sin of omission can occur when this particular commandment is not obeyed, can it occur in other biblical directives? Consider what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:9. But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. Similarly, Paul wrote to the Romans, Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love (Rom. 12:10a). Whether the reference is made to brotherly love for fellow Christians, or for fellow human beings throughout the world, is not relevant to the principal taught in these verses.
The apostle John quotes Jesus as saying, A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye have love one to another (John 13:34). In his epistle, John emphasizes this teaching: For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11). John follows up with an example of how the commandment of brotherly love may result in the sin of omission. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him (1 John 3:17)? "This world's good" represents the physical blessings God has given us while here on earth. We benefit from them in this world because they provide for our physical needs. The remainder of this text tells us of our obligation to use a portion of these blessings, as compassionate gifts of love, for our fellow human beings that are in need. Whenever able to do so, the sin of omission is laid to our charge when we neglect to search for, recognize, and fill the needs of our neighbor - our fellow human beings.
When we have opportunity to do so, but fail to fill the needs of our fellow man, sin is committed, not only to that person that is in need, but it is also committed against God. Consider the teaching found in Matthew 25:34-46. Jesus Christ, as noted in verse 31 as the Son of man, is referred to in these verses as the King. In verses 35 through 40, we find a righteous Christian demonstrating the proper love for their fellow man through acts of charity, and being commended by Jesus the King. However, in verses 41 through 46, we find a person found guilty of the sin of omission. This person had numerous opportunities to demonstrate Christian love to those in need. Those he met that were hungry, he failed to give food; to the thirsty, he did not give a drink; the stranger was not given hospitality; he gave not clothing to the naked; and he failed to visit the sick and those in prison. In that he failed to show charity to those in need, this person failed to demonstrate his love for God and for His Son, Jesus Christ. The reward for the obedient is life eternal; for the person guilty of the sin of omission, there awaits everlasting punishment (Vs. 46).
Having the ability, opportunity, and knowledge to do good works imposes on us the obligation for us to do so. The failure to satisfy, or fill this obligation is a sin of omission, punishable to the same degree as the sentence to be imposed for the commission of evil works.