READ: James 2:14-26
It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (4:17).
In his book Hitler’s Cross, Pastor Erwin Lutzer shares these heart-wrenching words from a man who lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust: “We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A rail track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. . . . We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.”
This Christian man and other members of his church felt helpless to overcome the widespread evil occurring at the hands of the Nazis. They knew they ought to act, but did nothing (see Romans 12:21).
Reflecting on this story, and on my own life, reminded me of James 4:17, “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” And if we don’t know what to do, then we can seek God’s guidance through prayer, through Scripture and from trusted believers in Jesus (Proverbs 15:22; 2 Timothy 3:16; James 1:5). Once we know what we ought to do, we should then act. As James wrote, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (2:14).
Often I struggle with wondering if my efforts make any difference. No matter—I must do what I know I ought by faith (v.18). I can’t let evil, fear or worry over the effectiveness of my actions keep me from doing what I know is right. Even if I can’t save the world, I can do something by God’s guidance and power.
By Marlena Graves