Bibles and books in a church PUBLIC DOMAIN

Last week, I was a guest lecturer in a class on Leadership Ethics. We looked at many verses in Proverbs that relate to ethical business and leadership practices. One of those verses is Proverbs 18:9, which states, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” The students correctly saw the truth in this verse: Someone who does not do something that is within their power to do is related to someone who would destroy what someone else has done. In either case, the good thing doesn’t exist due to neglect or vandalism.

If you had a book that you wrote on your computer, but did not back it up, and I took your computer and threw it down a flight of stairs, that would be a criminal act, and your book would probably be lost. You would think I am not a very nice person. But if you had a book “in your heart,” but did not write it, would you think you are not a very nice person? Probably not. Yet the Proverb’s verse is clear: You would be in the same category as the one who threw your computer down the stairs.

Our class discussion drifted into a concept in Catholic theology called “sins of omission.” Here is what Wikipedia has to say about that concept:

In Catholic teaching an omission is a failure to do something one can and ought to do. If this happens deliberately and freely, it is considered a sin. The degree of guilt incurred by an omission is measured, like that attaching to sins of commission, by the dignity of the virtue and the magnitude of the precept to which the omission is opposed, as well as the amount of deliberation.

The definition went on to say this:

A person may be guilty of a sin of omission if he fails to do something which he is able to do and which he ought to do because he has put himself into a state or situation whereby he is unable to complete the action. For example, if a person chooses to become inebriated and is therefore unable to perform a necessary task, that person is responsible for that failure, even though that person is physically unable to perform the task because he or she knowingly put themselves into a state (drunkenness) where accomplishing the task was impossible.

This last point is an interesting one, for if you create or collude with a “crazy” situation in your life that prevents you from doing the good you are capable of doing, then you would be guilty of this “sin.” “Oh, I just could not think of going to school until my mortgage is paid off,” but you could sell the house, and live smaller while you go to school. “I would write but I have no space that I can call my own.” You could rent a small office unit where you would have the peace and quiet you need.

“Oh, I have to help out with my niece, nephew, grandchildren, neighbor’s dog, or church’s conference, and could not possibly do any more right now.” Perhaps you need to say “no” to one thing so you can say “yes” to something else. “This election or economy or holiday season has me stressed, and I just can’t think straight.” You answer how you should respond to that last one.


I am not suggesting that you have contrived your current life circumstances so you won’t have to do what you are called to do. I am suggesting, however, it’s possible that some of the dysfunction holding you back is your defense mechanism to keep you from being accountable for your assigned work. In other words, you are hiding behind the mess, throwing up your hands and declaring, “I am not responsible! I can’t possible do it right now.” That may be true, but then again, it may not.

I don’t want to be guilty of a sin of omission, so I am always looking for ways to do what is in my heart to do. I will allow God to shut those ideas down, and not allow them to die because of my lack of action. What about you? Are you ready to take sins of omission (sins related to what you don’t do) as seriously as sins of commission (sins that stem from what you do)? If you are, then it’s time to examine your life, reduce or eliminate the crazy-makers, and step to the plate and take your turn.

Have a blessed week!