Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
History and Context:
The epistle of James over history, has been one of the most controversial books in the Bible. Martin Luther, who led the reformation against the Catholic church, wanted to throw the book out. He had a strong revelation of salvation "by grace trhough faith and not by works", and he felt that James taught salvation by works. But to understand why James is not contradicting, but supporting Paul, one must understand the audience to which they wrote. When reading James you can understand that James wrote to a group of people who felt they could do anything they wanted because of grace. They said that because they had faith they didn't need works. James response was that the faith will eventually affect the works. This is why he writes, "show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds." James 2:18
James chapter four covers a lot of ground. He talks about wars, asking God for things, not asking out of greed, resisting the devil, drawing near to God, not judging others, and staying humble. The final topic, before this verse, is that we don't know what is happening tomorrow and should not boast about it. Then he writes, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." This is one of the clearest definitions of sin in the Bible. If you know something is good to do, and you don't do that, it is sin. This is also the opposite of what we normally think about when we think about sin. We normally think that not sinning means to make sure we don't do bad things. That's not what James wrote here. Not sinning requires a positive action. If you know it is good to give an encouraging word to your coworker, and don't that is sin. If you know it is good to give in the offering and you don't do it, then it is sin. If you know it is good to preach the Gospel to your neighbor and you don't do it, then it is sin. If you know it is good to read your Bible and do not do it, then it is sin. How often do we sin throughout the day?
The challenge is to take this definition and not to sin today. Don't focus on those actions that you have been struggling with that you know aren't good. Focus on what good opportunities show up for you today. Where is there an opportunity to do good? Be determined today to never miss those opportunities. Then look back over your day and see how much you accomplished for God!
Lord, help me to do good today. Help me to not miss an opportunity to do good.I want to go through this day focused on what I can o for you, not focused on what I am not supposed to do. Give me strength to do so! Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!