James 4:17 NKJV
Galatians 6:7 NKJV
Psalm 100:4-5, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:8-9, Mark 10:18, and James 1:17
If there ever was a verse to tell us being a mature believer carries more weight, this would be it.
In James 4:17 we read, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
In my mind it seems like some would argue, “I didn’t know”. However, I am reminded (daily) that nothing is hidden from God (Luke 8:17).
I don’t know about you, but my personal reasons for doing what is good and right we’re not so deep rooted in scripture. At my house growing up, the expectation was pretty clear. I don’t ever remember my dad not punishing me for something I did that was bad. All the way down the line, he was consistent. So, from a young age, I chose to do what I was supposed to do. I did not like being punished. I did not like it when my dad was unhappy with me.
In a way I learned we do reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and there will be payback for our choices. I like the translation of Galatians 6:7 in the NLT, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”
You might notice that I equated ‘good with right’ when I was young. Still today, people often use those two words in the same sentence. However, there is a difference. When James wrote James 4:17 he clearly differentiated the two because he did not choose to talk about doing what was right.
So, what is the difference?
According to dictionary.com the noun ‘good’ is defined as something that is morally correct or is a benefit to something or someone. The adjective is defined as something desirable or approved of. The Biblical definition of good says it’s modeled by God. One example is: God is good (Psalm 100:4-5, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:8-9, Mark 10:18, and James 1:17).
We can also delineate goodness in scripture as something God does for us because He is good. “Although we might discuss God's goodness in some abstract philosophical sense, in Scripture his goodness appears most clearly in his dealings with people. He is not only good in general, but he is good to us” (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/good-goodness/).
Often, scripture uses the word good to show us God’s goodness on earth and His goodness for us.
The definition for right in dictionary.com says it’s morally good, honorable, or justified. It’s also defined as being true or as a fact.
In scripture it can mean correct (Mark 5:15). It is sometimes equated with righteousness.
According to Merriam-Webster it’s defined as “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/righteous). According to that definition righteousness is God’s law and being free from sin.
God is described as good, He DOES good deeds, and He IS righteous.
In James 4:17 James is using the word GOOD as being synonymous with an honorable Godly choice we might make. However, in my opinion James adds some ‘punch’ to it. He says when we know what is good and we choose not to do it, we sin.
Certainly, if we see an elderly person who falls and we pretend we didn’t see it, we sin because we chose not to help her.
That’s kind of a difficult way to think about it.
I mean, sure you want to help, but what if you’re late for work or you see several other people going to help her so you walk on.
In my mind the distinction is found in what God would have us do in any given situation. If I see the person fall and I know God wants me to help even though I’ll be late for work, I need to respond. Looking at it from that angle, that would mean even though I’m late for work, God has that covered.
Because of God’s goodness, we are called to do good in the world. Sometimes that means our day will be disrupted and thrown off track. In that case, once again, when we choose to respond we are acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
We become God’s messenger.
It seems like James is saying if we don’t respond to God’s call we missed an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
We missed the mark.
And yes, missing the mark means God called us and gave us an opportunity and we ignored it.
Basically that means we are given opportunities along the way and we need to be mindful of those along the way. We need to watch where God is at work and join Him there.
When you do, God WILL call it good!
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: consider God’s goodness
Think of a time when you did something good. Just being cognizant of our opportunities for doing good will make us aware of the goodness of God. Did God give you the opportunity? How did you know God was telling you to do something good?
In God, Deborah