Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17)

YEARS AGO, my Sunday school teacher posed a question. A half century later, I still remember the point at issue: “If you were walking along the beach and saw a man drowning, crying for help, and you heedlessly continued your beach stroll, would you be guilty of murder?” That I continue to be haunted by his question indicates the importance of the query.

In the light of civil law, I probably would not be found guilty. However, according to what James writes, I would be as guilty of murder as if I had picked up a revolver and shot the man between the eyes.

Jesus draws parallels in His parables. In the story of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are viewed as being bad men. It is not that they intentionally did the traveler physical harm; they simply felt that there was something more important to do. Doing nothing is wicked when there is good that remains undone.

In His description of the last judgment, Jesus says that separation is not based on those who do good verses those who do evil. Separation is implemented on the basis of doing good verses failing to do good.

I would be humiliated to stand before God and disclose: “Lord, I really didn’t do any good. But, then, I never really hurt anybody, either.”

Today, do an act of goodness for someone or some cause. 

Drexel Rankin is a retired ordained minister who served in Indiana, Alabama, and Kentucky. He and his wife, Patty, live in Louisville, Kentucky.

© 2018 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.