The Dilemma of the Sin of Omission

The Dilemma of the Sin of Omission October 9, 2018

We all know that sin is bad.  It’s difficult to keep from bad sin, but sin is also refusing to do good, or the sin of omission.

What is a common problem in our day that makes us vulnerable?

This is part of a preaching series.[1]  However, on a personal note, my wife and I are both involved in this particular post.

The picture is from a contemplative moment after my last chapel as a graduate student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.  I was – and am – in a process of discerning.

The Renovare Conference is one that my wife was looking forward to for months.  Spiritual formation materials are all that she listens to in her spare time.  She is seeking wisdom about the next step as well.

So I’m sharing a glimpse of our current aspirations, as we listen to the voice of our Father.  May you find yourself tuning into His leading as well.

I’m just going to snatch one verse out of James.  The book of James is almost considered Wisdom Literature, like Proverbs.  So there are times when I feel like it’s okay to pull one verse out and share it.

Sin of Omission

Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (James 4.17, New Revised Standard Version)

i. The Sin

It’s a sin to keep from living and doing right.

It’s “the right thing” or the poetic King James Version says the “good.”  Good literally means beauty, excellence, honorable, etc.

To keep from doing right or good is called the sin of omission.  It means “I have sinned because I am keeping from doing good.  I omit it.  I delete it.”

God downloads excellent ideas into my spirit (serving, giving, etc.).

At the altars over the years, I have prayed with people who say, “I feel like I need to do this but I don’t know if it’s of God.”

I ask, “Is it a good thing to do?”

They say, “Yes it is.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  There’s no hidden motive.”

So I ask, “Do you think the Devil gives you those kinds of ideas?”

Do it!  Be obedient not only to refrain from doing evil, but be obedient to step into what God has for you.  Otherwise you’re omitting, deleting, second-guessing the excellent ideas that God gives to you.  You’re failing to do good.

We all know that sin is bad.  It’s difficult to keep from bad sin, but sin is also refusing to do good.

ii. The Dilemma

The dilemma of the sin of omission is that we refuse to step into all that God has for us.

If that’s not encouraging enough, it gets worse!

There’s a major issue in society today, even in Traverse City.

Crystal and I recently attended a Renovare conference in Petoskey.  Richard Foster spoke, who wrote Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.  It’s a modern day classic, now in the 40th year of print.

When I was studying therapeutic approaches, scholars were studying these spiritual growth principles empirically (for instance, how solitude and forgiveness can be used in the therapeutic setting).

In the 1st edition of Celebration of Discipline, the first line reads, “Superficiality is the curse of our age.”  Superficiality is being fake or unreal.  Superficiality is the opposite of authenticity.  This generation despises superficiality and craves authenticity.[2]

Richard Foster said something interesting.  If he were to rewrite his book now, he would start with the sentence . . .

iii. “Distraction is a great danger today”

We can talk about everyone’s distractions.  I have mine.  You have yours, etc.  We need to place them at the foot of the Cross.

Just consider 1 question, about your entire household and everyone in it.  It’s about careers and education in your house – every career or school, because school is usually full-time.

Are you in a household with only a single income (1 job) or only 1 person in school?

Do you have 2?  Is there only 1 career and 1 in school?  Or are there 2 careers?  Or 2 attending school?

Do you have a combination of 3 (careers/jobs)?

What about 4? or 5? or 6 or more?

I was shocked when I asked this simple question, at the amount of outside commitments each family had.  I would guess this is not uncommon, not even for you.

Do you see how distracted we are?

The danger of distraction, even good distraction, is that it can keep us from doing the good that God intends.


[1] Jared V. Ingle, “The Dilemma of the Sin of Omission” (sermon, Harbor Light Christian Center, Traverse City, MI, August 12, 2018).

Paradox of Sin in 1 John

If We’re Not Bad, We’re Good . . . Right?

[2] Richard Foster and Nathan Foster, “Celebrating 40 Years of Celebration of Discipline” (presentation, Renovare: One-Night Gatherings + Conferences, Petoskey, MI, July 15, 2018).


Celebration of Discipline, Anniversary Edition

Richard Foster’s Study Guide for Individuals and Groups

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