—James 4:16-17 KJV
16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
I don’t know about you but I hear it quite often. “We are going to Disneyland next week on vacation!” “I have a huge appointment for a job interview tomorrow!” “In Jesus name I am not going to be sick tomorrow – I’m going to be well and healed!” These words are all based on whether we have tomorrow or not. As my last post said, we cannot count on tomorrow. So all these statements are what James is calling evil. They are boasts on what we are claiming for a day we do not even have for sure yet. It is hard for me to understand why James calls these evil, but here is how I see what James is saying.
We have the attitude that if we make plans, God has to honor them. My prayers need to be tempered with God’ grace, as do my utterances about my future plans. I have learned through reading several different authors that the best way to pray is to ask God to give me strength to make it through any sickness that He’s allowed in my life. I should ask God to give me wisdom as I face the appointment that I have tomorrow. AI should ask God for traveling mercy for any place I am planning to go tomorrow. I can never assume that any of these things will actually happen. Because I don’t know if God’s going to give me tomorrow.
I believe James call evil because it is assuming God is going to do something. There are many people who assume that if they ask something of God it is theirs. The name it claim it crowd think that they can ask anything and it will be done for them. After all, Jesus did say if you ask anything in my name I will do it. But I’ve come to understand that asking in His name means asking according to His will and His word. His will is not always known to us. There are some who would say that the Bible certainly tells us His will and I would agree. And the Bible says that we were healed by Jesus on the cross – I agree with that also. But there is nothing that says God has to do it today or tomorrow. There’s nothing that gives a timetable of when God has to act. So when we assume that we can tell God what to do just because we pray, that is what James calls evil. Because it is suppossing that we have some kind of authority over God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Then James says something that can knock us all back. He says that if we know that we should do something good and we don’t do it, that we sin. Most of us think that it takes an action to sin. We have to commit adultery. steal, lie, gossip, murder or someone else against God’s moral law. That is what we consider sin. We see sin as an action that is actually carried out against ourselves or against God or against our fellow human beings. But James takes it a step further.
When we see someone or something that we can do for someone else that would help them in some way and we don’t do it James calls that sin. I believe what he says is true. I believe that God places things in front of us on a regular basis for us to accomplish. Then He whispers in our ear what He wants to us to accomplish. And the fact that it was brought to our attention tells me that we heard that whisper. When we don’t do it it is simple disobedience. And disobedience is sin. If we don’t know about the situation and we don’t do it then we are not held responsible.
It is like the watchman on the wall in Ezekiel 33. Ezekiel tells us that if somebody knows that trouble is coming and they warn the people, then any blood shed will not be on the watchman’s hand. But if they do not warn the people then the blood will be on their hands. Once again they have been made aware of a situation and they have done what they can to help people understand how the situation is going to affect them. They were obedient to what God asked them to do.
So how do I know if God is asking me to do something? It really is very simple. If it has been brought to my attention that someone is in need of either a physical blessing, or just someone to sit with them and talk, or maybe even a correction that needs to be given to them, and we do not do it then we have missed an opportunity to bless them and that is sin to us. God brings things to our attention on a regular basis. He does this to see if we’re listening and obeying. He gives us opportunity day in and day out to be a blessing to others. Let’s not miss those opportunities.
This verse is not here to place any condemnation on anybody. It is here to make us aware of God’s expectation in our lives. I’m glad James brings this up because it ties in so well with his teaching on the necessity of works in our lives. If it was only grace that saved us this verse would be irrelevant. Works are what shows people our faith and those works need to be done as we further our salvation experience. Remember – we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling? This is how we do that. By taking every opportunity to bless those around us.
Get out there and do all the good you can today because you don’t know if you have tomorrow. As one of my favorite author says “Don’t insult today by looking for a better tomorrow.”