When I was younger, I used to love those hidden camera shows on TV. It was fascinating to see how people reacted to situations when they had no idea that anyone was watching! Depending on the situation, it seemed like there were three types of reactions:
- A person would do the right thing – like returning money or intervening when they thought something bad was happening.
- A person would do the wrong thing – like pocketing money or joining in when they thought something bad was happening.
- A person would notice something was happening, but ignore it or walk away.
When I think of sin, I usually think about the act of doing something wrong or evil, taking some sort of action we should not – in our deeds, in our thoughts, or in the things we say. The Bible includes countless examples of these types of sins, starting with Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit of the tree they were forbidden to eat from.
These types of sins are considered sins of commission; we commit them when we do the wrong thing. Today, our news channels and feeds are full of sins of commission – intentional unkindness, lying, stealing, cheating and violence against others. We can often identify these sins easily and need only to see them to know that they are wrong – like #2 above.
But sins of commission – doing the wrong thing – aren’t the only types of sins a person commits. A person can also commit sins of omission. Sins of omission occur when we fail to do something that is right – like the two men who passed the beaten and bloodied man on the side of the road before the Good Samaritan stopped to help.
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17 (NIV)
Sins of omission can look like #3 above. They can also look like:
- Avoiding prayer
- Not doing or standing up for what is right
- Failing to help others in need
- Not telling others about God
As you reflect on this list, it’s clear that others may not even know when we’ve committed a sin of omission. But we shouldn’t forget that just as in those old hidden camera shows, we have an opportunity and responsibility to choose our actions and do the right thing – even when no one is watching.
Questions For Reflection:
- How are you most inclined react when you see something wrong – #1, #2, or #3 above?
- When was the last time you had an opportunity to do the right thing, but chose not to?
Lord God, We are sinful by nature, but help us to do our best to live our lives without sin. And when we sin, as we inevitably will, remind us that we can come to you in confession and be made clean. In your name we pray, Amen.