THE MOST DANGEROUS SIN
T. Pierce Brown
I recently read about a woman who left her baby in the shade of a tree for a few minutes while she was busy doing something else. When she returned a short while later, she found that the shade had moved. The hot sun shining in her baby’s eyes left it blind for life. She loved her baby, but both she and the baby will pay for that few minutes of neglect for the rest of their lives.
When I read that I thought of a near tragedy in my life because of neglect. My brother and I had just bought a .22 rifle. Since rifle shells cost too much to waste them in useless shooting (15 cents a box), I enjoyed pointing it at knots on trees and pulling the trigger. My brother sat on a stump, and I aimed at his temple and started to pull the trigger, when I suddenly thought of advice I had read. “Do not point a gun at any living thing unless you want to kill it.” So I pointed at a knot and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit it dead center. I had forgotten that I had put a shell in the chamber after I thought I was through playing. I neglected to check. Fires, wrecks, death and all sorts of bad situations occur because of neglect.
What does that have to do with sin? Is neglect a sin? It is not always a sin to neglect something, but it sometimes is. James4:17says, “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.” When neglect is a sin, we need to know that it a most dangerous one. There are five reasons for this.
First, it is especially deceptive. There are two ways it is deceptive. One may be doing it — that is, neglecting something he should do, yet not be aware of it. When a person lies, murders, or steals he usually is conscious of it. But thousands of persons neglect and reject Christ without realizing what they are doing. When Felix waited for a “more convenient season,” (Acts 24:25), he may have rationalized. “I wonder what is best for me to do.” He knew, and thousands of other know what is best. It is always best to obey the Lord. Many have said, “I am not really rejecting. I am just considering the values.” They are really rejecting because they already know, but neglect to do.
Another way neglect is deceptive is that even when we are aware that we are doing it, it does not seem so bad. Each of us has our own list of sins, classified as big, little, or “not that bad.” Usually, the big sins are the ones another person does, but in almost all cases, the sin of neglect is one of the least, in our minds. This is not God’s classification. Even if it were, and this were the “least” sin one could commit, it is still big enough to cause one to be lost.
There are thousands connected with the Lord’s church who are sure that to neglect baptism is a great sin, and would keep a person out of the kingdom of heaven. Yet, they can neglect the assembly of the saints and think of it as trivial. The same Lord who said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” had the Hebrew author say, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” He followed that with, “If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:26). Others are sure that if one neglects the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week it is a sin, but they can neglect to give as they have been prospered, and think that is not too bad. I have heard elders or preachers say, “I know I am not giving as I should, but—.” It does not matter what comes after the “but,” when a person says, “I know I should” concerning a thing God commanded and does it not, to him it is sin. Any sin of which we do not repent will cause us to be lost. So neglecting God’s will in any area is a sin, but is very deceptive because we may not realize we are doing it, or if we do realize we are doing it, may think it is not very bad.
Another reason it is so dangerous is because it requires no effort. To rob or lie, or almost any other sin requires some effort. Sometimes there are those who do not commit some particular sin because it is difficult to do. A large part of our problem stems from the fact that we have not really been taught the necessity of a disciplined life. We were told that a disciple was a learner, when the Bible definition is that he is a disciplined follower. Even when our preachers have told us that we should do certain things, sometimes by the actions of the leaders we learn a different lesson. It has been made to appear that since the Christian life is the happiest and best life, it is about the easiest kind of life. A person can be baptized, come to at least one assembly fairly regularly and he is never really impressed that his life is not satisfactory. No person ever checks on whether his giving is scriptural. He does not ever need to come to any special class on personal evangelism or even regular Bible study. If the preacher, elders, or any member visits him after he has been absent for 6 months, stealing the time, money and influence that belongs to God all they say, if even that much, is, “John, we miss you.”
In the Bible, from the Great Commission through the Christian life, the emphasis is on a disciplined life. This has nothing to do with the perversions of the Crossroads orBostonphilosophy, but does relate to the statement of Jesus, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark8:34).
The third thing that makes neglect one of the most dangerous sins is that it is at the root of most other sins. A properly cultivated field will be free from noxious weeds. A neglected one will usually have briars, bushes and weeds of all kinds. Benjamin Franklin may have said, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” but the idea is from the Bible. There is nothing that aids as much in preventing immorality and sin of all kinds as being involved in doing our Christian duty. Paul suggested something of this thought when he said in 1 Timothy 5:13 about the young widows, “They learn to be idle — tattlers and busybodies –.” David’s adultery and murder may have been the direct consequence of wandering around on the roof, neglecting his duties.
The fourth thing that makes neglect a most dangerous sin is that it is directly opposed to the spirit and purpose of the gospel. Confucius may have had a fairly good philosophy when he taught, “Do not do unto others what you do not want them to do unto you.” Yet, Christianity is not a negative religion of neglecting to do bad things. It is a positive religion of doing good. Jesus said, “Love your enemies; pray for them that persecute you and despitefully use you” (Matthew6:44). John said, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John3:18).
The fifth thing that makes neglect one of the most dangerous sins is that it will cause us to be lost forever. When we neglect to obey the Lord, whether it is the initial act of obedience by which we become children of God, or any other subsequent willing neglect of what we know he wants, our souls are in jeopardy.