If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4, verse 17.
James is saying that, if we know we should do something but don’t then we’re sinning. That’s just peachy.
You see, I know of a million things that I should do and I haven’t. My list could be endless. I should tithe more. I should help my neighbor cut down his tree that has been dead since that October storm. I should volunteer to help more with the Salvation Army. I should stop complaining about things at church. I should let go of my regrets and grudges. Should I feel guilty for not doing these things (and add another ‘should’ to my list)?
Maybe something else, too. Perhaps what James is telling us is that, if there’s something right we know we should do and yet we choose to not do it, then we’re falling into sin. Yes, maybe that one thing snowballs into a list of one hundred others; that’s possible. That isn’t the point. Don’t you think that, usually, at the nub of multiple wrongs is some central wrong, some key thing that we need to address? Get to what’s causing the hurt and other things start coming into perspective, sort of like how a tiny splinter can cause a large infection.
The only way to fix it is to take it to Jesus. As much as all those ‘shoulds,’ not truly getting to the root of a sin and then taking it to the Savior can be the worst sin of all for us. Perhaps those pangs of guilt are telling me ‘there’s something underneath all this.’ It could be that God is speaking through the conscience He gave to me, telling me ‘Look at this first and then let’s deal with the other stuff after.’
Years ago, I was struggling, at spiritual rock bottom after affairs, arguments, anger, and all hell on earth. I asked my pastor “how do you truly lay down all your sins at the cross?” He didn’t give me the answer I was looking for; he didn’t provide me with some gimmick. Instead, he simply said “you do. Trust Jesus.” And that was what he should have told me…so he did. Over time, I learned to re-train my brain, learning how to change thoughts if the old ways, the old sins, came up. I had confessed the sins, now I needed to let God take them away. That required effort, and it still does because I mess up daily with new things. The only way to live past them is to first take them to the Lord. After that, all I really should do falls into perspective.
Lord, forgive me now for all I should do but haven’t, and all I have done but shouldn’t.