“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17 NKJV).
This summer and fall Nepal has been struggling to obtain essential goods, such as food, petroleum supplies (gasoline, diesel, and propane) and other necessities. Certain ethnic groups in the southern plains, near the Indian border, have protested the newly approved constitution by staging sit-ins at border crossing points. Nepal officials charge the Indian government with aiding the protestors by closing the border to trucks carrying needed supplies.
India’s response has essentially followed the “Who, me?” and “It’s not my business” patterns. They have denied any official closures, even though no traffic is moving between the two countries. They have shown complete indifference to all official requests from Nepal.
I am reminded of Cain’s response to God’s question concerning the location of his brother Abel. “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Cain sought to avoid accountability by claiming that Abel was his own person and Cain had no responsibility for him. Note that God did not accept that reasoning.
A great number of people in the world today assume the same position. There are billions of starving people? Let them go to work, or let their governments provide for them. They do not belong to us so it is not our problem. There are other billions who have never heard the gospel? Let someone else go preach to them; I have all I can do here at home.
That makes a certain kind of logical sense, until one begins to study the Bible and until we recognize the principle of the “brotherhood of mankind.” A wise man stated, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing.”
The fact is that we each have a stake in what happens to others. The current situation in Syria and Iraq is a case in point. Why should Americans be concerned with a war between neighbors on the other side of the world? The answer is obvious and simple. If terrorists triumph there, they will be strengthened and they will expand their goals. Sooner or later they will bring their war to us.
That may be part of the reason behind James’ pronouncement that whoever knows to do good and refuses the opportunity is sinning. There is a desperate struggle going on between good and evil. All believers are and must be soldiers in that conflict. If we refuse to serve and to fight, we are aiding and abetting the enemy. The title to this article could be posed as a question. The answer is “nothing.” Satan needs good people to ignore evil and do nothing to contest it. If we do that we concede him the victory.
Resisting sin and encouraging good are the duties of every Christian. Every needy person is our business. Every lost soul needs our help. Let us have the attitude of the apostle Paul: “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel” (Romans 1:14-15). And again, “Yes, woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Photo: 11th-century ivory relief from Salerno, Italy (now in the Louvre).