Summary: This is number nine in a series walking through the book of James. The focus of this message is "Sins of Ommission", and not doing good to those around us when we know we should.
We are nearing the end of our study through the book of James. As I encouraged you with Philippians, take some time over the next few days or weeks to read through the entire book in one setting. It will probably only take you 15 to 20 minutes. Sit down, and watch the flow of the things we have been studying and learning together unfold as you read this letter.
Today’s passage from the book of James is one of those where you gain great assistance in your understanding of it by looking for that magic word I have so often pointed you towards. Turn with me to James 4:13, and take out your message outline with something to write with.
Now, before I read you this passage let me ask you to do something. A dangerous something. As they come to your mind, on the blanks on your message outline, list out every sin you can think of. I know this won’t be a pretty list, but take 30 seconds, and as they come to mind, list out every sin you can think of. Ready? Go!
Okay. Set that aside for a moment, and let’s look at James 4:13 (read through verse 17). Now, let’s see who has been paying attention over the past few months of 2005. When looking at a passage like this, and trying to determine what the writer is saying to us, what word can give us a real good clue? (Therefore.)
Right. Therefore points us to the conclusion of the thought. The reason for the writing. The meaning to the passage. It is James saying, “Based on this stuff I have just been telling you. . .therefore. . .” So what is the therefore James gives us in this passage? Verse 17 (read).
The heart of what James is getting at in these few verses is what I would refer to as the forgotten sin. You see we remember all the obvious sins. Just check your lists. Many of them probably contain adultery, murder, stealing, idolatry.
Then to that list, we have through the years managed to add all kinds of others. You may have some of them on your list. They are things that were probably just wise ways to live, but sure seemed to carry more punch when we labeled them sins. Smoking, drinking, using certain swear words. Any of those on your list? Could probably make an indirect argument for them as sins, but won’t necessarily find them listed directly as a sin in the Bible.
If you were raised in a church tradition like I was the list got even longer, and eventually included such things as dancing, rock music, body piercing, tattoos, going to movies, women wearing pants, and even a thing called mixed bathing. . .somehow derived from co-ed swimming. Again, pretty tough to find listed as a sin in the word of God.
But through the decades we have managed to make the list of sins longer and longer, and yet there is still a forgotten sin, and it is the sin of forgetting. Or as we like to refer to it in more theological terms, the sin of omission. Not those wrong things we do, sins of commission, but those things we don’t do, that we know we should.
Now, I’m guessing that most of you are going to be a lot more uncomfortable with these sins, sins of omission, than you are with many of the others.
“Pastor, you want to label murder a sin, I’m on board with you there.” But what about failing to pray with that neighbor going through a hard time? “Pastor, you want to label sleeping around, and shacking up together a sin, you’ve got my vote.” But what about walking by the homeless man without a word of encouragement, or offer for assistance? “Pastor, you want to label stealing things from my neighbor’s garage a sin, I’m right there with you. In fact, I wish they would return my stuff or God is going to get them.” But what about not sharing the gospel with that co-worker when you felt the Spirit’s nudging?
Most of us will not be very comfortable with the labeling of omissions, things we knew we should have done. . .things we know we ought to be doing. . .things we know God has called us to do. . .labeling those things as sin. But they are.
It’s a whole lot easier to teach people to “Just say no” than it is to help them understand what they need to say “yes” to. Consequently, over the years much of preaching, and a whole lot of what the Church is known for in our culture, has been what we are against rather than what we are for. The church has often been guilty of being so concerned about moral purity that we have ignored the command of Christ to get our hands dirty helping others. Avoiding sin doesn’t just mean learning how to say no, it also means learning when to say yes.