The Sin of "Not Doing" (Damned for Doing Nothing?)

Its an interesting thing when you engage people who have much…
                                     …in discussions about people who have nothing.

There is a wide range of responses: Some people are drawn to tears when you tell the stories of the people you have met and the circumstances they are living in. Others ask how they can help.

But sadly, most respond in the strangest ways. Many are apathetic. Some are defensive. Some will list reasons why they can’t personally make a difference, and explain how the problem is too big. Often they will explain that people are poor in America too, and that their church is involved in missionary aid. Others will just change the subject.

I think that years of exposure to images and stories of poverty has resulted in our need to create subconscious defense mechanisms around ourselves to cope with the idea of half the world starving to death while we eat out and drink wine.

The luxuries and comfort of our American lives can’t really be reconciled with the idea of people living in mud huts and eating baked mud cookies simply to fill the pain in their stomachs. It’s too much to process. Or we would have to drastically amend our lifestyles – and we know that’s not an option…So we find ways to push the offensive thought aside, and go on with our lives.

I believe that the church in America is in an extremely perilous position. I have come to believe that Jesus was not bluffing when He said that it was difficult for rich men to enter the kingdom of heaven. And I believe that our response (or lack thereof) to the FACT that a child dies of hunger every 3 seconds in sub-Saharan Africa …will be something we will be held accountable for one day before our King.

As I was reading a very familiar passage this week (the Parable of the Talents), it dawned on me that I may have missed something pretty crucial over the years relating to how God views our obligation to respond to his command to love others.

Repayment in Full – Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth???
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the Talents, a story of a master who leaves town (Jesus) and entrusts his servants (us) with varying degrees of money and resources to invest on his behalf in his absence. When he returns he finds that some have faithfully invested what he had entrusted to them, while one had not….I know you have read it before, but please read it again for a finer point.
Note: This version of the text substitutes the words “bag of gold” for the original Greek “talent”. One talent was the equivalent of 20 years of a day laborers wage, so I think this is fitting and actually gives the passage better context.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.

Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’   “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’   “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’   “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’   
Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’   
His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.   ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now, apart from the obvious lesson of the parable: that God expects us to invest our lives for his kingdom and will expect from us an accounting of what he has given us, I realized another (less obvious) reality from this passage.
As the master returns, notice, that the “lazy, wicked servant” had not lost any of his master’s money. He repaid all of it to his master when he returned. Now, if he had squandered it, spent it on prostitutes, or gambled it away, we would expect the master to be angry with the servant for having lost his investment (capital).
But this servant actually was able to return all of his master’s capital, and yet was still met with a blistering response. It would appear that the master was not angry at what the servant had done WRONG with the investment, but what he had NOT DONE RIGHT with it. This “failure to do what is right” was a sin in God’s eyes, so large that it was worthy of the servant being thrown into the darkness (hell) where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

** It is interesting to note that this text (The Parable of the Taents) falls just before the passage where God separates the sheep from the goats – again, for NOT providing for the needs of “the least of these”) **

The Great Omission

It is abundantly clear, as those who claim to follow Christ and submit ourselves to an almighty God, that he expects certain things of us. We call “missing the mark” on what God expects of us “Sin”. But, as I think that this parable points out, we may need to rework our understanding of just what constitutes sin in God’s eyes.

 – Sins of Commission
There are things he expects us not to do. If we know that something is wrong, and yet choose to do it anyway, we commit a SIN OF COMMISSION. There are obvious ones that God clearly communicated to us in no uncertain terms. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, obey your parents, don’t worship “gods” made from wood, metal or paper, etc.

These are all things that we know we should not do…so much so, that those who would deny that the author of these laws exists-still follow them (at least some of them)

There are others, like don’t cuss, don’t cheat on your spouse, and even less tangible ones like don’t covet other peoples stuff, or look at porn. These also are sins of commission, or doing something wrong.

 – Sins of Omission
But God makes it clear throughout the scriptures (as is so clearly portrayed in the parable of the talents) that this is not the only type of sin that we should be concerned with.

Not only are we called apart to avoid doing what is wrong (sins of commission), but as his followers we are called also to DO WHAT IS RIGHT. And if our Lord and Creator tells us to do something that is good or right, and we don’t do it, then we have sinned as well. A Sin of Omission then, is to NOT DO what is RIGHT.

The Gospel of Sin Management
As the church works to follow its king, and seeks to worship and serve him, I am afraid that we have found ourselves so caught up in avoiding the things that we ought not do, that we have completely forgotten and forsaken what it is that we were called to do.

We are fearful of sins of commission, and feversihly work to do bad things less by managing the sin in our lives and in the lives of others. Christians (and the church) have become defined by what they “don’t do” as opposed to the good that they should be doing.

As we frequent our church services and bible studies, and as we work to raise up our children in “Christian Households” – homeschooling them to protect them from the dangers of the secular world, and as we follow Jesus by avoiding the bad things that the world has for us to do….
  • We daily walk by our less fortunate brothers and sisters around the world without offering them help
    • See Jesus’ response to The Rich Man who walks by Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31
  • We pray for the world to know Jesus and be saved but offer them no help in their horrific predicament
    • See how James describes a faith that doesn’t offer acts of love as demonstration of its sincerity in James 2:14-17
  • We save up for ourselves, have “emergency funds” and retirement accounts and IRA’s but don’t recognize the emergency that is 30,000 children dying of hunger – every day!
    • See what Jesus said of the man who stored up things for himself (Luke 12:18-20)
  • We work hard to increase our incomes to afford our American Dream homes and cars and families and lives, but ignore the plight of those who can’t afford to eat even one meal a day
    • “if any of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but does not have pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” – 1 John 3:17
As best as I can tell, the church has taken what our master has given us and hidden it under a rock. We aren’t running around spending what he has given us on prostitutes or gambling it away…in fact we are quite diligent with our savings and conservative lifestyles. In other words, we will be able to return to the master his Talent (bag of Gold)….no more, no less. We lived a safe Christian life, didn’t cuss, studied the bible, and tithed and even occasionally shared the gospel (or at least invited them to church)…..but never once stepped out of the boat onto the water. 
And at the end of the day, when our master returns, and holds us to account for what he has entrusted to us – the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity – I fear we may come short of his “mark” by way of omission.

Its not what we are doing, but what we aren’t doing that leads me to question how the love of God could be in us. 

Admonition, not Condemnation
I trust that you will hear the heart in my message.
I aim not to condemn the church, which is my brothers and sisters. But I believe that it is imperative that we take a long hard look in the scriptures (and in the mirror) and come to terms with the fact that our King is a king who expects more of us than to simply claim him through a prayer, and work to decrease the amount of sin in our lives.

I believe that we can rise up and be His hands and feet to a hurting world, a world that doesn’t know him, and has not seen his love.

Let us rise up and engage the world in His love, with what he has entrusted to us, and do the good works that we were created in Christ Jesus and which God prepared in advance for us to do.  – Ephesians 2:8-9

PS: I have included this video sermon by Francis Chan that I strongly encourage you to watch at some point. Its about 35 minutes long, but worth every minute of your time to hear him address the luke-warm American church of our day.

One Comment on “The Sin of "Not Doing" (Damned for Doing Nothing?)

  1. “Does God want you to be rich?” Chan quotes out of Time magazine. Reminiscent of the interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son from the version of the Bible that encourages people, in its study notes, to ask God for their rightful material inheritance now. And finally, Chan telling his congregation he lies awake at night full of fear, because that they know they are lukewarm, though they have been in the church most of their lives. And finally, would anyone, would I (shudder) be willing to give up even loved ones, family, would I be willing to become an orphan, or the revers–losing my own adult children–in order to be on fire for God? The answer lies in the reality of seeing orphans on fire for God. Singing and dancing in worship, praising God in ways that make me sigh that Puritans settled in America, creating a lukewarm form of very careful and cautious worship. I am agreeing with Francis Chan's message because what has become evident to me seems to blind others.


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