Sins of omission

Numbers 32:23 “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

Sometimes when we hear some portion of a verse from the Bible, we can miss its entire meaning. An example is given in the verse above. Over the years the part of this verse that seems to have become well known is the latter part: “Be sure your sin will find you out.” We hear it as a warning that when we sin against God, we’re fooling no one but ourselves. It’s the thought that when we sin, even when that sin is in secret and we think no one will ever find out about it, that sin will boomerang on us and come back to haunt us. We never get away with anything. We will be found out. And that is indeed the case. As the Bible tells us elsewhere, whatever we sow we will reap, and if what we sow is sin, that sin will eventually bring destruction into our lives (Galatians 6:7).

However, the verse above has a broader context. You see, this verse is taken from a narrative about Israel’s coming conquest of the Promised Land. As the 12 tribes of Israel approached the Jordan River after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, we are told that the tribes of Reuben and Gad as well as half the tribe of Manasseh saw that the land just to the east of the Jordan was very favorable for raising livestock, of which these tribes had many. They asked Moses if this land could be their inheritance rather than the lands west of the Jordan which the other tribes were to receive. However, that land would be given to them only after much warfare, for it was the godless Canaanites who possessed the land at that time. To the request from the 2 ½ tribes Moses said, “Yes, this land can be yours, but only if you accompany the other tribes as they cross the Jordan to take possession of land for themselves.” But then he adds the words from the verse above, “Behold, if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

You see, the “sin” that “will find you out” in this case was the sin of omission rather than commission. In other words, it was the sin of doing nothing alongside the rest of God’s people after they had received God’s blessing for themselves. So, what does this say to us today? Well, it’s the same message. Once a person becomes a believer in Christ, once they have received all the blessings of the inheritance of eternal life, once they have become a member of the kingdom of God, they are not to just rest on their laurels and relish those blessings. No, there is much work to be done. We are not to be spectators in the kingdom of God. We are not to be people who go to church, enjoy the blessings of the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, enjoy the fellowship of the people of God, but then isolate ourselves from the battle for the advancement of the kingdom of God that continues outside the walls of the church. If that’s what our lives as Christians consists of and no more, it is a sin against God, and a sin that will find us out.

We are never to be spectators only in the work of the kingdom. We are to be active participants. We are to be using the gifts and blessings we have received to reach others both within and without the body of Christ. We are to be in the middle of the fight along with others in the kingdom, rather than those who revel in the blessings we’ve received and do nothing more. God’s command to preach the gospel to every creature, love our enemies, and serve one another are not commands we are simply to be the recipients of from others. Rather, we are to be vessels through which God works to reach others. As believers we can be tempted to become proud about those sinful things we don’t do, and blind to the things we should be doing but don’t.

May God help us to be people who are actively serving Him where He is at work in the world, rather than inactive and lazy recipients of the blessings of God but nothing more. May God help us to keep from the sins of omission, for these are sins that will find us out, particularly when we stand before the One we call our Master and give account of our lives in the end.

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