The Sin of Doing Nothing

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It’s easy to watch things happen or to wish something would happen or not happen but to sit and watch or wish and do nothing is sin. What? The Bible is clear about the sin of doing nothing.

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

That seems very clear. You can’t miss it. If you are aware of the right thing to do and you fail to do it – it is sin. You have missed the mark.

An example can be taken in Jesus’ teaching on personal relationships. If we learn of someone having a problem with us because we have offended them or if we have a problem with someone else offending us, then we have the responsibility in either case to go to that person for the purpose of reconciliation.

Matthew 5:23–24 (ESV) — 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 18:15–17 (ESV) — 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In either case, if we do nothing, we sin.

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

Another example is in the area of showing mercy to someone in need.

James 2:14–17 (ESV) — 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

To have the ability to help but to just turn away is sin. Granted there are many deceivers who play on the emotions of people, so we are to rely upon the Lord for wisdom in such cases and realize the principle of doing good to all but especially the household of faith, which is one reason the Lord established the work of the deacons in the church.

Galatians 6:10 (ESV) — 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

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

We are commanded to speak up, exactly, to speak the truth but to do so in love.

Ephesians 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

As you might suspect, we tend to not speak at all when we know that we should, or we blurt out something that is far from being “in love.” This is not a modern-day problem as we see below that the prophet Jeremiah faced it in his day.

Jeremiah 9:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. 6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord.

When we know we should speak up and don’t then it is sin. When we know we should speak in love and don’t it is sin.

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

There are many other areas where God leads us to make a difference, but we find excuse, procrastinate, or simply revolt by not doing what we know we should do or could do. Hence to do nothing is sin.

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

The bottom line is that we know much of what we should do but just don’t do it so that is sin. It really comes back to our not being willing to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He calls us to a life of self-denial and dedicated following and learning of Him. That is His simple instruction.

Luke 9:23 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

When we pull out any excuse, it’s really saying that “I do not want to do what you call me to do.” Hence, it’s rebellion and that is sin.

Think about these words and the next time you have opportunity to speak up, do something for someone else, or simply deny yourself for the sake of a close walk in following the Lord Jesus Christ – DO IT. To do nothing is sin.


Bob Brubaker

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