James instructs us in James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” The context of this passage is boasting about tomorrow. James 4:13-16 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James teaches us that to boast in our arrogance about what we will do in the future is evil. Instead, we should appreciate that the Lord is in control of our lives and if it is His will, we will live and do what we have planned. Therefore, if we know that boasting about what we will do in the future is wrong, but we boast anyway, it is sin.
Consider what Jesus said in Luke 12:47-48 “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” We are the servants of our master Jesus. When we understand His teachings given to us in the Bible and we do not prepare ourselves or do according to His will, we will receive a greater punishment over one who is ignorant of what he should do.
When we know to do good but we don’t do it, we are guilty of what is called the sin of omission; we omit doing what God wants us to do. This can apply to many areas in our lives. We can see our brother with a need and omit helping him. 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” We know we should encourage one another and assemble, but instead we can forsake the assembly. Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” We know we should study the Bible and pray but we let other things in life crowd out these activities. We know that we should love our neighbor as ourselves but we don’t. These are just a few examples.
Why might someone willingly omit doing what God wants them to do? It could be because they are lazy. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, different amounts of money (talents) were given to the servants of the master. The one who had received one talent did nothing with the money. He was called wicked and lazy because he was an unprofitable servant. Or someone might omit doing what they know that God wants them to do because they are rebellious and selfish. What God asks them to do is contrary to what they want to do, so they choose their desires over God’s will. Purposely not doing His will or doing contrary to His will shows that we do not love Him. Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
But perhaps omitting to do God’s will is a matter of faith. People may say that they have faith and know God, but their works show otherwise. Titus 1:16 “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” James says faith without works is dead. James 2:14-18 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” When we knowingly don’t do the will of God, perhaps we don’t really believe. Maybe we don’t really believe He is in heaven and knows everything that we do. Maybe we don’t really believe that Jesus is going to come back someday and we don’t really believe that there will be a judgement day. If we really believe, we will show our faith with our works.
I encourage you to strengthen your faith and desire to do what is fully pleasing to God. Colossians 1:9-11 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” Hebrews 6:10-12 “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Through faith and patience you will inherit the promises.