What does the Bible say about sins of omission?

People sometimes speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission are those sinful actions that are proactively done. Lying or stealing are examples of sins of commission. A sin of omission is a sin that takes place because of not doing something that is right. Examples could include not praying, not standing up for what is right, or not sharing Christ with others.

James 4:17 is often used as a key verse regarding sins of omission: "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." This overarching theme provides the basis for the concept of a sin of omission.

In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus gives a clear example of a sin of omission in the account of the Good Samaritan. Two different men came upon an injured man who had been robbed and was laying alongside the road. Both men passed by without helping. A third man stopped and helped, proving himself as the one who did the right thing. The two men who did not help could be considered as those committing a sin of omission.

Matthew 25 offers another example regarding the sin of omission. Verses 44-45 note, "Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'" Here Jesus clearly indicates that our lack of action can be considered sinful.

First John 3:17-18 offers yet another example: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." John commanded those who follow Jesus to live in ways that show this love to others.

Matthew 5:16 offers an important reason why Christians are to act in ways that help others and not commit sins of omission: "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Such actions bring glory to God and point others to God who may not yet know Him. Galatians 6:9 adds, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

The apostle Paul was clear that we are not to be conformed to the world, but rather be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). This attitude and corresponding actions are vital in both avoiding sins of commission and sins of omission.

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