On Sins of Omission

By Zachary Collier

This is something that I wrote 3 years ago that I’d like to return to, with further insight:

The difference between being who God wants us to be and who we are now is not about what we are doing wrong; it’s about what we are not doing.

Since the creation of the earth, our natural, selfish tendencies have led to heinous crimes and calamities. These crimes are referred to as sins of commission – things we do that negatively effect the world around us. They are conscious mental and physical exertions that we commit to, and once done they cannot be undone. Murder, lying, stealing, cheating, uncontrolled sexual appetites, etc. Most sins of commission begin as small, rationalized acts. We suppose that no one will know, that a little bit won’t hurt, or that it is a one time thing. The thing about sins of commission, however, is this: as you commit to them gradually, day in and day out they demand furthered personal commitment. Soon those demands become commands, and you are unable to resist the urge to lash out negatively at everyone and everything around you. That is the story of Gollum form The Lord of the Rings. That is the story of Walter White from today’s Breaking Bad. That is the story of Satan in Paradise Lost.

Often we check this list of sins of commission, run them over in our minds a few times, compare them to our current state and find that we are not guilty of them and think that is enough. We are good people. We are clean. We are just.

Yet how many times are we called by a family member to help in the yard or the kitchen and let out a heave of frustration and irritation as they pull us away from the computer? How many times do we see a crying stranger sitting alone and pass by, saying nothing, believing that it is none of our business, especially since we have somewhere to be? How many times does a name of a friend or acquaintance enter into conversation amongst our peers as the subject of ridicule and a pity laugh escapes our lips and we let the jeering and biting remarks fester until they become too hilarious for us not to enjoy? What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?

How many times do we wake up too late, sit around the house, watch a whole season of our favorite TV show on Netflix, eat a box of Cheeze-Its and go to bed thinking, “Man. Today sucked! I can’t wait until tomorrow when I have something to do” when your little brother was in the drive way, shooting hoops by himself after being rejected by his best friends?

These, my friends, are sins of omission.

These are moments where we could have, and should have, acted for the benefit of the world around us, and yet we were content to stand as an idle witness. Or even worse, we were content to sit and be unobservant.

Do you believe in the parting of the Red Sea, the battle of Jericho, David and Goliath, or the Resurrection of a Messiah?  All of these events that the majority of the Judao-Christian world believes so strongly in would not have happened had action not been taken. How can we expect miracles like these in our day when we, the non-miracle for someone else yesterday, were on Facebook for six hours?

Moses could have remained a plump prince in Pharaoh’s court, surrounded by the learned, clothed in fine linens with the softest pillows on which to lay his head. Instead, he chose to lead a slave rebellion against the pharaoh, one of the most powerful leaders in the ancient world, and free the Egyptian labor force. He traded meat for manna and slept in a wilderness bed.

The Jews had been wandering in the wilderness for forty years. After discovering the promised land inhabited by another people, Joshua could have easily marched eastward and found an equally suitable land to settle in.

David was just a kid. He was not drafted for military service. In fact, they didn’t want him. He was a shepherd. Not fighting Goliath was not a sin. He could have stayed in the fields and lived a normal, sinless life and not be punished by God.

But look at what was accomplished through their bold, righteous, God-inspired actions. Look at how many generations, even to this day, were affected by their decision to go above and beyond what they were asked to do. Their actions have become key examples that we look to for evidence of the existence of God.

Now, let’s look at an inverse example.

pilate

Imagine how different things would have gone if Pontius Pilate had intervened on the day of Christ’s trial. Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the matter and let the people decide what to do with Christ. He chose not to be an active participant. He did not kill Him. He did not put the nails in His hands and feet and lift Him onto the cross, did he? Literally, no. But how many people did Pilate sway from committing the murder of an innocent being? None. How many people found salvation? None. How many Roman gentiles were convinced of the divinity of this Jew? None. Has the light of history been kind to Pilate’s profile? No. Instead of being a righteous Roman governor who gave everything to stop a riotous mob from sacrificing our Lord, he was the apathetic, lazy man who did nothing to intervene and instead let a martyrdom take place contrary to the established laws of the legal system. Many times he gave a meager effort, but when confronted with true sacrifice in the face of great opposition, he took the easy route. He let someone else handle it. Look how many generations have been affected by his actions.

Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and His atoning sacrifice is the only thing that can bring us salvation. No amount of our own action or work can merit exaltation. Right?

Right. But that does not give us the right to be listless, lazy, apathetic, uncharitable, uninspired, or self-serving.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)

Choosing to sit around idly lulls us into a sense of false security. Sure, we are not committing sin, but we are not perpetuating good, either. When we are sitting around idly, we are not letting our “light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Rather, we are putting our candle under a bushel. We are not bringing people to Christ. We are not providing reasons for them to believe on Him and find salvation.

There is an entire chapter (chapter 2) on the importance of works in the Epistle of James:

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham abelieved God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Yes, faith is the only thing required to obtain salvation. But doing the things God has told us to do, “makes our faith perfect,” like Abraham, and gives us more faith. When faith is required to obtain salvation, why not get more of it?

That which does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.

Every single one of us can become an instrument in the hand of God. We can bring to pass great things in this world among these our brothers and sisters. We can heal the sick, comfort the weary, mourn with the mourning. The beauty of it all is that every time we do so, we spread faith, hope, charity, comfort, peace, and joy, and the faith of both the giver and the receiver is strengthened.

So for those of you that believe that being charitable and going out of your way to do things for people is not required, you are wrong. You are selling yourself short. You are not becoming what God has asked you to become, and you are not bringing anyone to Christ.

Don’t agree with me?

What if the apostles had kept fishing?

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