The verse that I’m reading these past few days says pretty much the same thing about what I don’t do. This too is in black and white terms.
In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil. (James 4:17, The Message)Unsure that I liked the translator’s substitution for the last word, I looked it up in a Greek dictionary. The results are a surprise. It shows what I suspected — that God’s definition of sin is even picker than mine.
Strong’s Greek Dictionary says that this word means: 1a to be without a share in. 1b to miss the mark. 1c to err, be mistaken. 1d to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor, to do or go wrong. 1e to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin. 2 that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act. 3 collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many.
Regarding the first definition, I tried to find out what it means “to be without a share in” as it relates to sin. The only clue I found is that this word implies being a social outcast because the sinner wandered from God. This makes sense, but most Christians who fall into sin usually stop going to church before the church stops welcoming them, so I cannot easily relate to that idea.
This idea of being without a share connotes to me as being without a share in the Holy Spirit. Righteous behavior happens because of the Spirit’s work. I cannot do anything to please God apart from Him and sin happens whenever He is not in control of my life. In that sense, I have no share in Him and when that happens, what I do is sinful and evil.
Missing the mark is easier to understand. In the old days during archery competitions, when an arrow fell short of the target, the crowds hollered, “Sinner, sinner.” This is a great word picture for the Bible verse that says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Of course this is true when I sin. What I’ve done isn’t like God at all. It misses the target. If I know to do good, just as God knows to do good, but I do not do it, then I fall short of being like Him. I am a sinner.
The next definition is about making mistakes. If I err or am mistaken, this can be through ignorance, but this verse from James is not about ignorant mistakes. It says, “If you know. . . .” Therefore, the error is a choice based on knowing right from wrong. To not follow through with what I know — is sin.
The rest of the definition of sin gives me no out. If I know the will of God and do not do it, it is sin. If I know the attitude of Jesus Christ and do not have that attitude, it is sin. Deeper still, if I know what motivates God and am not motivated and driven by that same thinking, that too is sin.
The bottom line is that sin is much worse and much more prevalent than most of us think it is. After reading this verse for several days, I’ll be glad to move on to another Bible passage — and that attitude is likely sin too.