“If you know to do good and don’t do it, it’s sin.”
But wait a minute. Can we back up and see what the context is for this verse? James wrote an intensely practical little book that might be subtitled A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. I doubt he was writing about the believers in the Information Age, assigning sin to those who found out daily, hourly, about needs around the globe. He was not saying, “Scroll on and feel guilty because you aren’t fixing the world, you selfish losers.”
His book is full of ordinary works and graces that are a result of a heart that loves Jesus. I picked out some of them. Skim this list and see what you think…
- Chapter 1: Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
- Get rid of all filth in your lives.
- Humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts and
- Do what it says.
- Control your tongue.
- Care for widows and orphans in their distress.
- Refuse to let the world corrupt you.
- Chapter 2: Honor the poor.
- Do not favor some people over others.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Show mercy to others.
- Share your food and clothing.
- Chapter 3: Control your tongue. (Again.)
- Live an honorable life, doing good works.
- Do good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
- Be pure, peace loving, gentle, willing to yield to others, full of mercy and goodness.
- Chapter 4: Humble yourself.
- Come close to God; wash your hands; purify your hearts.
- Don’t speak evil against each other.
And then there it is, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” The last chapter concludes with a few more good works.
- Chapter 5: Don’t oppress your employees while you live in luxury.
- Be patient.
- Don’t grumble about each other.
- Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.
- Restore wandering believers to the truth.
James was talking about LOCAL, right at your door, in your neighborhood, in your church goodness. He was talking about being full of faith that spills out in kind ways. It doesn’t matter where you are geographically, this applies. You do not need to be in an exotic location, a war zone, or a “mission field” to have things you ought to do that will change the world.
Jesus said these things too: Give a cup of cold water. Be a good neighbor. Do good to those who hate you. Give to the needy (secretly). Lay up treasures in heaven. I’m starting to see where James got his big ideas.
These are life works. They aren’t easy or posh and they require laying down our lives for others. Maybe you are called to do something really huge and earth-shaking and you know it. Maybe you are called to lay down your phone and read a story to your child and you know it. For sure you are called to open your heart and hear what it is that Jesus wants you to do today.
And by the way, it was so nice to hear from you folks last week. Thank you for taking time to do some introductions. 😊😊😊