Category Archives: New Testament – James

James 4:17 – The Sin of Omission

17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.


Here James comes to the close of his argument against these merchants with a final sweeping blow given to his reading audience…

“If you know the right thing to do, but you don’t do it, then that means you are sinning!”

What? If we omit something from our lives we are sinning? Yes. If you omit the Gospel from your lives, guess what? You’re sinning.

Let’s have that sink in for a moment…

Now wait just a minute! Isn’t that a little harsh of James? The poor merchants have to plan for the future, don’t they? That’s part of their job. Are you saying that they have to say those words every time they talk about future plans or else they’re sinning?

Well… No!

Here are a couple things I am NOT saying…

(1) I don’t believe James is teaching us that we have to use this phrase in verse 15 every time we talk about the future. In other words, we don’t need to wear it out like a red headed step child.
(2) Saying the magic words won’t make any of us right before God. Without faith in Jesus, no one pleases God. So, don’t ever get the mentality that if you say the right words and do the right things that you can earn your way into heaven: That is legalism and legalism only results in damnation. (Gal. 2:16)

Now, here is what I’m saying…

To bring it together for us, James is telling us that the particular sin of omission occurs when we ignore God, plan to do something, find success in doing it, and then brag about having done it.

A couple of examples from the gospels will enlighten our minds… Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan: (Matthew 10:25-37)

The first two men were not sinning because they were walking along the road to get where they had planned to go. They sinned because they omitted the fact that there was a man lying there on the other side of the road beaten half to death and about to die.

Only the Samaritan did the good he knew to do.

Remember the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man: (Luke 16:19-31)

Jesus said that a poor man with sores all over his body only wanted to be fed by the crumbs off of the rich man’s table. But the rich man omitted the fact that Lazarus was even there and never helped him once. Jesus says that even the dogs cared more for Lazarus because they came and licked his sores.

Do you see the point Jesus is making here? If we know the good things we ought to do, but we don’t do them… these are NOT just little oopsies. They are BIG uh-ohs!

This applies particularly to those of us in the Church. The Church has the Gospel and most of its members have believed it to some degree. So, one of the greatest sins anyone in the Church can perform is the sin of not doing what we know is good and pleasing to the Lord Jesus.

In James’ day, the problem that these merchants had was not that their planning and working was evil. But that their attitude in planning and working was evil. They knew that they were supposed to acknowledge God and ask him for help and strength in everything that they planned to do.

But, as James points out, they were not doing that at all. They were omitting God from the picture and boasting in their own accomplishments.

So, for those of us who believe the Gospel… It is my challenge to you today to never omit God from your future plans, even the plans about tomorrow. I challenge you to believe that Jesus really is Lord and that He really is King of this universe, ruling and reigning at the right hand of God today at this very moment! This means that whatever He says goes! (1 Peter 3:22)

To close… as you read this today, I hope you will live your life with the attitude, “If it is God’s will, I will live and do this or that.” Don’t ever start to think you can make it with out Him. Don’t ever think that you can plan out all the details of your life, for even the next day, when none of us are guaranteed another breath without God willing that we breathe.

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,

James 4:16 – Don’t Be Evil!

16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.


So, now that we have seen the Gospel alternative to the merchants problems… what else needs to be said? Well, you can give two options for life, but unless you give the ultimate outcome for eah option, others will not know why it is that you are recommending one over the other(s). Therefore, James tells his readers exactly what the problem is with the way these merchants are acting. This is where we start to finally see the importance for why James would address this issue so strongly.

Question: How is it that these merchants are bragging? Answer: I, I, I, me, me, me! I will go into this town and sell MY stuff and I will make a lot of money!

I will go to this college and I will get a good degree and I will find me a good wife and I will have 1.5 children, a house with a white picked fence… and don’t forget… a walk in closet!

We human beings know how to boast and brag all over ourselves. But what does James remind us?… If the Gospel is true… then all that boasting and bragging about ourselves is EVIL. It’s evil!

In fact, this is all over the New Testament letters. Paul says that boasting is excluded because we are justified by God through faith and not by our own works. (Romans 3:27-28) He also says to the Ephesians that we were saved by grace through faith – not by works – so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9) The only boasting that we are permitted to do is boasting in the Lord and in our weaknesses so that God’s strength might be shown in us through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. (2 Cor. 10:17; 11:30)

So, in all reality, James’ alternative for the merchants is an alternative form of boasting. A form of boasting that isn’t evil!

Any what bosting is it? We are to boast in the Lord… “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” THIS is Gospel boasting and Gospel thinking. If Jesus really is Lord, then our lives must be centered on His will and His glory and our boasting must only be about us in relation to Him.

“I will live and do this or that, if He has written my story that way.” That is true Gospel boasting that honor Jesus Christ and gives glory to God, our Father.

So, to sum it all up what does James conclude? What have we said he was trying to do?

Our lives show each other the doctrines we believe. Therefore, if our lives are not in accordance with the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus, then that means our doctrine has to change.

Once again, that doesn’t always mean we need to change our intellectual answer about a specific Biblical teaching. But what that does mean is that if our lives are not in line with the doctrine of the Gospel, then we need to do one of two things…

We need to either… (1) Believe the sound doctrine that we have been taught by our ministers, or (2) we need to be taught some good, sound doctrine that we’ve never learned before and believe it with all that we are. If we will believe the Gospel, then we will be able to see the ways we act and speak begin to change in dramatic and Spirit lead ways.

Now, remember what I said briefly at the beginning. I believe that James was talking to merchants who were primarily members of the Church. That means that they knew the Gospel and they knew that Jesus is Lord.

That’s why James can briefly, but sternly, correctly their bad doctrine by altering how they speak about the work that they do. He meant to not only change what they said, but even more, change the way they thought.

And since they did know the Gospel and they did know that Jesus is Lord, but they weren’t living as though they believed it… what did that mean?

Well, James sums it up for all of us. He pulls all of in together for this final sweeping statement!

See my next post…

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,

James 4:15 – The Gospel Solution

15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”


We said last time that James gives the only good alternative to the merchants bad doctrine… The Gospel.

So, what is the Gospel? Well, in one sentence… Jesus is Lord!

That is what Christ’s Church confesses every day His followers gather together… either by song, or sermon, or by prayer or teaching.

So, if Jesus is Lord that means it’s up to Him whether we live or die! If Jesus is Lord, that means it’s up to Him whether or not we move, get a job, go to college, or finish high school. If Jesus is Lord, then that means it’s up to Him whether or not we take our next breath.

What does James say again? “If it is the Lord’s will… we will live and do this or that.” That’s the Gospel! If Jesus is Lord, then that means what He says goes. And that is GOOD NEWS because He is good and righteous and He is King of all the nations!

So, that’s the alternative James gives us, right? But what if we don’t take that alternative? What if we act like the merchants? James clarifies what it means to act like these merchants that plan to succeed in their goals without involving God…

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,

James 4:14 – Life is Vapor

14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.


So, how does James correct this bad doctrine? Where does he start?

This is where he starts… He wants to make sure that his readers know that life without God is nothing but vapor. In essence, apart from Christ, our lives are short and we quickly pass away. James is basically giving them a picture of what every human life is like. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 90:10, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”

I’m reminded of the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. This song is a perfect document for us to understand what James is saying here in verse 14. One verse says, “Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy.”

If we are going to act like atheists when we plan for the future and talk about the future, even if it is one day in advance, James wants us to know that our lives are meaningless and short and that all our words and money will not buy us one more second. We have no guarantee of tomorrow!

Why does he do this?… Because he means to humble us when he rhetorically asks, “What is your life?!”

So, if that’s all life is then why do we even try? Well, this is where the Kansas song fell short and where the Gospel comes into play. James doesn’t stop there with his rebuke of these merchants’ doctrine. Instead, James gives them a clear alternative in order to correct their doctrine…The Gospel.

More to come later…

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,

James 4:13 – The Boast

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”


Okay, so the merchants are laying out a business plan, right? What’s wrong with that? I mean, we all plan for the future. We all plan for school, the type of career we want to have after college, and what type of life we want to live. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that just something that we have to do since we don’t know the future?

Unfortunately there is a problem. What’s wrong with the way that I’m thinking? Or, more importantly, what was wrong with what the merchants planned to do in the city that they wanted to visit?

First, as creature we are very limited in our knowledge of what’s going to happen next, we find ourselves always planning to do things that are not for certain to us because we do not know what the future holds. That is James’ first response to these merchants.

Now, I’m sure they might readily admit that they don’t really know the future. But James wants them to realize that they are doing something when they speak the way they speak. They are thinking a certain way and it isn’t good.

So, what is the merchants’ problem? Read 1 Timothy 1:8-10

Just like Paul reminds Timothy, James is seeking to show his readers that some of them do not have sound doctrine. Even more, I want us to realize that these letters in the New Testament mean to tell us that life and doctrine are one. They are a not two separate things. If one is wrong, so is the other. If one is right, so is the other.

We can’t be people who say things like, “Oh, doctrine isn’t important, we just need to be good to each other and love each other.” Well, not only is that a doctrinal statement, but that person is telling us that our lives can somehow be honoring to God without the truth of God radically infecting our lives through power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I understand that plenty of people who are asked specific questions about God can spout off the right answer. But during the rest of their daily lives their speech and actions do not line up with their answer in any way. They might comprehend something that is true Biblically, but their heart and life have not been changed by it. This poses a serious problem.

Take one man I know… If I ask him things specifically about Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross, he can tell me that Jesus died for peoples sins. Okay, that’s all well and good, but the rest of the day I hear him saying Jesus this and Jesus that, and it’s not very reverent… if you catch my drift.

This person does not have sound doctrine. In a similar, though different situation, these merchants that James was speaking to did not have sound doctrine. Why? Because their actions were not in accordance with the Gospel they had been told.

For all intents and purposes these merchants were acting like ‘practical atheists’ in the way they spoke about what they were going to do with their lives. [A practical atheist is someone who lives their life as if their was no higher being or authority such as God] This is just as bad as the people that James was addressing before this passage who were slandering their neighbor. (James 4:11-12) But the merchants aren’t doing something against their neighbor here; they are doing something against God. They are failing to love God with all their mind, heart, soul and strength. They are forgetting that God created and sustains the universe by the word of His power. These merchants are acting like they didn’t know what Paul told the men of Athens – for “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

But, if we are Christians, as I believe these merchants were… then we are suppose to know this!

So, how does James correct this bad doctrine? Where does he start? Check back for the answer in the next post.

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,

James 4:13-17 – Verses

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4:13-17 – Intro

Now, before we talk about the passage, some things should be clear… Within the direct context of this portion of James, I think we have the best warrant to say that James transitions into primarily addressing people in the Church. He’s not talking to people ignorant about Christ or the ways of God.

James’ letter was written to Christians, but sometimes the groups or types of people he is talking about are not people in the Church. Thus, my conclusion about this specific passage is that these are a group of people in the Church who know the good they should do, but James has heard that they are doing something else.

Specifically, James refers to a group of merchants that will go from town to town and set up camp to make their living. Now obviously James had heard them say something in the past and is using what they said to get his point across. We read it in the first verse of this passage.

In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,