The Difference Between Sins of Commission and Omission
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Vetting means to conduct a thorough examination of someone’s background, behavior, and performance to determine his or her worthiness and suitability for a job. It is extreme scrutiny leaving no stone unturned.
In our focus text, David conducts the highest form of vetting by involving God. “Who can discern their own errors?”
God sees us as no one else. Nothing is hidden. He knows our innermost thoughts, secrets, and failures. He even knows our hidden faults; sins we have failed to recognize in ourselves.
There are two categories for sin: omission and commission.
Sins of commission are deliberate and willful acts of disobedience.
Sins of commission are easily understood. David addresses them in verse 13 as willful sins. Nothing hidden there. Deliberate violations of God’s commands.
Our community has a social media website, like Facebook. Most of the posts are complaints about neighbors who speed or drive recklessly on our streets. But there are also concerns about unkempt lawns, the color of mulch, fading stain on shutters and doors, and boats parked in the driveway. All are covered by city ordinances or Homeowners Association bylaws.
Sins of omission are knowing the right thing to do, but refusing to do it.
Some neighbors believe they own their homes which gives them the right to do whatever they please. If they want to park on the lawn or the street, or paint their houses hot pink, they have the right to do so. That would be an illustration of sins of omission. They know the right thing to do, but refuse to do it.
James explains sins of omission this way: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:17)
Back to the speeders. In a spiritual sense, their conduct would be considered sins of commission. Willful acts of disobedience.
The difference between sins of commission and omission is action and failure to take action.
Yes, I know. When you think about it there’s little difference. The difference comes down to action and failure to act. Burning down a neighbor’s house is a willful act – commission. Think of it as committing a crime by willfully breaking the law. Not helping your neighbor whose house has burned is a sin of omission. You didn’t do the right thing you knew to do.
So, what do you think? Which of the two types of sins are you most likely to commit?
I suspect there’s more omission going on than commission. We do pretty well on the big 10 (Commandments) but falter on the numerous Biblical directives on thinking godly thoughts, responding to the needs of others, or treating our fellow man with love, respect, and kindness.
That’s why I love David’s prayer in Psalm 19. He covers all the bases. Sins of the will and sins of neglect. “May they not rule over me.” He acknowledges he can’t do it on his own. Only by the help of the Lord can he keep sin out of his life.
The good news is that the Lord forgives sins of commission and omission.
I thank God every day for forgiving my sins. What a precious gift He has given us. But we shouldn’t take His grace and mercy for granted. Out of gratitude we should desire to live unblemished lives in the righteousness, godliness, and holiness the Lord deserves. Like David, may we be “blameless and innocent of great transgression.”
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Extent of the Lord’s Forgiveness
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.