What Does James 4:17 Mean?

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 4:17(NASB)

Verse of the Day

The Word of God is not only our plumb-line for truth but also should be our handbook for life and living. All Scripture has been written for our learning, but the New Testament epistles give specific guidance and instruction on living the Christian life in this Church dispensation.

God has given us all we need for life and godliness, and we have been given the holy Scriptures which provide clear teaching on how to walk in spirit and truth and why we should abide in Christ and He in us.

We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead us in the way we should go, Who has promised to lead and guide in all things... and we have Christ's assurance that His grace is sufficient for every eventuality we may face – for when we are weak in our own abilities, we have His precious promise that His strength will enable us to stand fast in the evil day.

The instructions earlier in the epistle of James, cover a wide range of topics that enable the believer to live a life that is honouring to the Lord. It helps us to deal with trials and temptations in a godly manner. It warns of the futility of doubting God's Word and reminds us of the beautiful fruit that comes from a spirit of patience and grace.

He warns against conceiving sin in our heart and the devastation that can be caused by an unguarded tongue. He exposes the dangers of allowing partiality to influence our judgement about other people, and teaches on faith and works, justification and sanctification, and the dangers of an unstable mind. And James also teaches about the effects of true and false wisdom – the cause of covetousness and its righteous cure.

And here in this verse, the apostle simply explains to his readers the consequences of knowing what is godly and honourable in the sight of the Lord, and yet refusing to carry it out... therefore, he warns, to the one who knows the right thing to do yet does not do it, to him it is sin.

The man or woman who has become a child of God by faith, may not be under the law of Moses, but we are most certainly under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and James teaches that to know what is good but to do what is evil – whether in thought, word, or deed, dishonours the Lord Who bought us with His precious blood and blemishes our testimony for Christ.

As children of God, our motive and attitude should be to live for Christ every moment of the day – to present our lives as a living sacrifice to Him, to trust His Word and walk in utter dependence on Him, moment by moment, and for His greater glory.

Living the Christian life as God intended and instructed, should be the main aim of the Christian, and failure to do so is identified by James as a sin which should be confessed to the Lord and addressed in our life if we are to remain in holy fellowship with the Father and grow in grace, to His honour and glory.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for this truth in the book of James that when I know what is righteous and yet do not do it, I am committing a sin in Your eyes. Forgive me for the times when I have known that something is evil but done it anyway, when I have avoided doing what is right, or when I have turned a blind eye to some need or necessity. I pray that from this day forward, I would not only know what is right but be ready and willing to carry it out, through Your sufficient strength and for Your greater glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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