Knowing to Do Good – James 4:17

by Pastor John Fredericksen

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One night, I happened upon a head on collision between a compact car and a heavy, full-size pickup. This accident was on a two-lane highway at dusk, and the vehicles were in the middle of the road just around a curve. As I approached the compact car, one of the teens in great pain begged me for help. Resisting the urge to simply go home to rest after a tiring day, I called 911, directed traffic until authorities arrived, and tried to comfort those who were injured. Would it have been wrong for me to just drive home without rendering assistance?

A timeless principle is recorded through a simple statement in James 4:17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” The context does not imply any specific act. The Apostle James was recording a general standard Jewish believers needed to live by. However, there were previous teachings about sinful omissions for Jewish believers. God used the responsibility of the “watchman” to illustrate to Ezekiel that if he failed to warn Israel of divine judgment: “his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezekiel 33:6-9). The Savior rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees who strained over compliance to their traditions while omitting the “… the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). Christ taught that unsaved Jews who refuse to engage in acts of kindness to persecuted saints during the Tribulation will be denied entrance into the Millennial Kingdom. He explained, “…inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me” (Matthew 25:45). Similarly, the Apostle Paul taught: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Notice the instruction here remains general. Paul does not limit our ministry in helping others. Seizing opportunities to do good things needs to become a way of life for believers of all dispensations.

While the instruction from James about the sin of knowing to do good but doing it not was given to Israel, it is surely a principle applicable to us today. As I learned in the car wreck mentioned earlier, it would be easier to ignore the needs of others, but it would be wrong. Today, take action when you have the opportunity to do good.

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Start each day with short, devotional articles taken from the book Daily Transformation by Pastor John Fredericksen. As Pastor Fredericksen writes in the introduction:

"We welcome you, as you journey with us..., to not only learn information, but to benefit from examples of faith and failure, and seek to apply God’s Word to every day life. Together, let’s transition from only studying theories of doctrine, to applying God’s truths in a practical way every day. May God use these studies to help you find daily transformation."