Summary: The great sin in our lives is not the sin of commission. It’s not the darkness; it’s the failure to let in the light.
I want to talk to you today on this subject, the sin of omission. Now, most of us think of sin as something that we do wrong. That is, we have a list of things that are wrong and we say, “Well, we better not do them.” Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t watch X-rated movies, don’t drink liquor, don’t do this, and don’t do that. And, we have a dirty dozen. We have an idea that if we don’t do those things, then we’re all right. But, I want you to notice what God’s Word says here in James chapter 4 and verse 17. James chapter 4 and verse 17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). The sin of failing to do what we ought to do. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Now, there are all kinds of sins, there are moral sins of the flesh, temperamental sins of the disposition, ethical sins of conduct, spiritual sins of pride, social sins of bigotry and prejudice, but the greatest sin, the sin of all sins, believe it or not, is none of these, but it is the sin of omission. Very frankly, all of these other sins come about because of the sin of omission. Because you see, the sin of omission is failing to do what you ought to do. No man can do two things at one time, and any man who is doing what he ought to do cannot do what he ought not to do. Isn’t that right? And so, all of these other sins of things that we ought not to do, happen because we’re not doing what we ought to do. And, the Bible says, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Very clearly, with emphasis, I want to tell you, it’s a greater sin to fail to do what you ought to do than to do what you ought not to do, because if you’re doing what you ought to do, you can’t be doing what you ought not to do. “To him that knoweth…” I can’t say that again, but it’s true. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
What is the sin of omission? Well, let’s back up and get the context for this passage of Scripture that we’re reading here, in James chapter four he begins in verse 13: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil”—and remember what we’ve told you, whenever you see a therefore, see what it’s there for. It refers back to what he’s already said—“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:13–17).
Now, let me say three things about the sin of omission. Right? First of all, I want to say that it is a deceiving sin, a deceiving sin. You know, you see the sins of commission are easily seen, but the sin of omission is not as easily seen. To illustrate it, James gives us an illustration of a boastful businessman. He was a first century, wheeler- dealer, but he’s got a lot of brothers that live in the twentieth century. I have an idea that it’s right around January, or at least whatever the first of the year was for this man, so long ago. And, he’s making his business plans for the coming year. I want you to see him now as he begins to think like so many of you have done, these early days, these opening days of this New Year. First of all, he plans the period of time. Look at him, and he says in verse 13: “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow, we will go into such and such a city, and continue there a year.” That is, he says, “Tomorrow, the next day, I’m going to begin my years work.” I see him with his calendar now, and he’s putting marks on his calendar. He says, “Well, let’s see, today or tomorrow I’ll do so and so. How long? Well, it’ll take about a year to get this project done.”