The Sin of Doing Nothing

I remember one occasion when I was a youngster, and my mother was about to scold me for some wrongdoing, when I butted in, “But, I didn’t do anything!”  My mother, not deterred in the slightest, exclaimed, “Exactly!  And, that’s why you’re in trouble!”  I had transgressed my parents’ law, not by doing something wrong, but by failing to do that which I was supposed to have done earlier.  Thus, I learned (the hard way) about the sin of doing nothing.

This lesson is taught in Scripture in the book of Judges.  In chapter 4, Israel had fought and defeated the Canaanites, under the leadership of Deborah and Barak.  Chapter 5 records Deborah and Barak’s victory song after their conquest.  It is to verse 23 that our attention is now directed:  “Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.”  The inhabitants of Meroz were cursed, not because they had done any particular action that was wrong, but because they had failed to do that which they should have done—help their brethren in the fight against the Canaanites.  Thus, Meroz learned the hard way about the sin of doing nothing.  It is not enough simply to refrain from doing wrong, but God’s children must also be careful to do that which they are expected to do.

The New Testament also teaches against the sin of doing nothing.  James writes, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (4:17).  As the old saying goes, “With greater knowledge comes greater responsibility.”  There are many evil things from which the Christian is commanded to abstain, since they “war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11), but there are also many good things in which Christians are commanded to be fruitful (2 Pet. 1:8).  It is written of the Lord that He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38, emp. added).  It is the Lord who asks, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46, emp. added).  And, in Jesus’ illustration of the wise and foolish men, the only difference between those two men was that one heard only, while the other heard and did what he ought to have done.

What about us?  Are we ever guilty of the sin of doing nothing?  Undoubtedly, each of us, at some point or another, fail to do the things we ought to do and, thus, find ourselves guilty of this sin.  In fact, the sin of doing nothing (or, the sin of omission, as it is sometimes called) is probably one of the most difficult sins to avoid.  One may purge his life of all ungodly manners and habits and, yet, still not be a faithful child of God if he fails to do the things God would have him to do.  For the remainder of this article, we will notice a few examples of the sin of doing nothing, in the hopes of avoiding such in our own lives and helping us to be better servants of God.

First, we commit the sin of doing nothing when we fail to obey the Gospel plan of salvation.  All have sinned (Rom.3:23), and sin separates one from God (Isa. 59:1-2).  Thus, every one of an age and mindset to know right from wrong is in need of salvation.  Taking the whole of New Testament teaching (anything can be taught from Scripture using a single verse or a few verses out of context), the plan of salvation is simple.  Jesus says we must believe He is God’s Son (Jn. 8:24), we must repent of sins (Acts 17:30), we must confess Christ’s name as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and we must be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).  If we leave out even one of these steps, then we have committed the sin of omission by failing to do that which is commanded in God’s Word.  Likewise, if one is just a “good ‘ole Joe” and lives a “good” life, he still stands guilty of the sin of doing nothing until he obeys the Gospel plan of salvation to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ.

Second, we commit the sin of doing nothing as Christians when we fail to take the Gospel to the world.  Just before leaving this earth, Christ gave His disciples their marching orders to preach the Gospel to all the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16), and these marching orders apply equally to the church in our day.  No matter how well we keep ourselves from worldliness and other such sins, if we are not taking the Gospel to the lost, brethren, then we are committing the sin of doing nothing!  Jesus said of Himself that He had come “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  He came not only to save, but He sought out the lost.  Are we better than our Master, that we should sit in our comfortable buildings and not put forth any effort to teach lost souls (Matt. 10:24)?  Certainly not!  Further, our upcoming gospel meeting presents a wonderful opportunity to help friends and/or family who need to get right with God.  Will we do nothing, or will we take the wonderful invitation of the King, proclaiming, “All things are ready…come” (Matt. 22:4)?

Third, we commit the sin of doing nothing when we fail to do good to others.  Again, the Scriptures teach this concept throughout.  James said, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27).  The word “and” in this passage is, as most of us already know, a conjunction that means “together with or along with” (American Heritage Dictionary).  Thus, James says we have to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, but we must also help others, and one is equally as important as the other.  Why were those on the left hand lost in Matthew 25:31-46?  It was not that they had committed some awful act(s), but that they had failed to do the things they should have done.  What a vivid warning against the sin of doing nothing!

Curse ye Meroz…” (Jgs. 5:23).  That is strong language, but it teaches a strong lesson about the sin of doing nothing.  No one wants to be in the group of those cursed by the Lord on the day of judgment (Matt. 25:41).  Yet, that is where we will find ourselves if we leave this life guilty of the sin of doing nothing.  We ought always to strive not only to refrain from wrong, but also to do that which is right in God’s sight.

[Article written by Chad Dollahite, taken from Bremen Church of Christ (Bremen, GA) bulletin]

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