James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (NKJV)
As Christ-following servants we live a higher standard of “doing good”. We are responsible for both proactively and reactively doing good.
For example, if you know of someone who is in need, you are to do good both reactively, and proactively; reactively by not taking from him what he does have, and proactively by giving to him what he doesn’t have, to the degree to which the Lord has given you. Or maybe you know someone who is really hurting spiritually or emotionally. You do good reactively by not doing something that will hurt them even more; and you do good proactively by reaching out to them and give them your time and love to help them through the hurt.
It’s important to understand the difference. Reactively doing good primarily means that you don’t do something bad. Proactively means that you do something good that you are not forced to do. A silly example, but one that illustrates the point, would be a helpless person stranded on the side of the highway. Reactively, you wouldn’t run them over and make things worse. This is doing the obvious good. Proactively, you would stop and offer help. This is good “that you know to do” but aren’t forced to do. If you were to simply avoid running them over, but not stop to help them, you’re not doing something you know to be good, and it would be sin. (don’t strain the analogy; I know it can be dangerous to stop for people nowadays).
When we pass up a chance to “do good”, it is not simply a matter of missed opportunity; it is sin. For the world, it is enough to say “I didn’t do anything wrong or bad”. For the Christian, we must be able to say, “I not only didn’t do bad, I also did what I knew was good”.
How do we know what it is to “do good”? The Holy Spirit leads our conscience and the Bible leads our will. God convicts us, directs us and prompts us to know when and how to do good. When we ignore or violate our Holy-Spirit-led conscience, then we have sinned. More directly, when the Bible reveals to us what is good (ie, feed the poor, protect the innocent, care for widows and orphans, etc.) and we simply do not do it, then that is sin.
Now, every person cannot do every good thing. However, that is not our problem. Our problem is simply doing the good that we have knowledge of and opportunity for. God calls us to do good as the opportunity arises throughout the day instead of ignoring it or passing it by as we hurry about our own agenda, our own desires and our own needs.
There are many opportunities to do good for others every single day whether it’s a kind word, a prayer, financial help, serving others or sharing the Gospel. If you know to do these things, to look for them, to pray for the opportunity, and you do not….. it is sin.
The Bible has many guidelines for us concerning doing good:
- Jesus is our example – John 10:32
- It glorifies God – Phil 1:11
- Only Christians do good works that are acceptable to God John 15:4-5
- We are to do them in Jesus Name – Col 3:17
- We were created to do good works – Eph 2:10
- We are to be rich in good works – 1Tim 6:18
- We should be ready for good works – 2Tim 2:21
- Holy women are demonstrated by their good deeds – 1Tim 2:10
- Ministers should be an example of good works – Titus 2:7
Look for the opportunity to “do good” today, and see if God doesn’t bless you for it.