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Are You Committing a Sin of Omission? Definition, Signs, and Examples

Are You Committing a Sin of Omission? Definition, Signs, and Examples

Sometimes not saying something you ought to say constitutes a lie. But a sin of omission goes far beyond withholding information that a person deserves to know. A sin of omission can come in the form of failing to do what we have been called to do or say.

In other words, if Scripture commands us to share the Gospel with someone, and we deliberately don’t when presented with the opportunity, we commit a sin of omission.

After all, to omit means to leave out. If we leave out our duty to follow what Scripture says, we commit a sin.

But how do we know we’ve done a sin of omission? What is the true difference between a sin of omission and commission, and is either worse than the other one? Can we, under some circumstances lie and not sin in the process? And what are some definitive ways we can avoid this sin? We’ll discuss these points and more. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Sin of Omission?

First, we have to define our terms. After all, a sin of omission goes beyond merely refusing to tell the truth in a situation. For instance, maybe we accidentally hit someone’s car in a parking lot. If we don’t leave a note on their windshield with our contact information, informing them that we had hit their car, we commit a sin of omission. Because we lied by withholding the information that the person, who owns the injured car, ought to and has a right to know.

But this sin goes beyond this. Omission is not doing something or failing to do something that the Bible teaches us to do.  The sin of omission is a failure of duty to the Word of God.

In other words, we, as Christians read through the Scriptures to learn the basic principles of living a sanctified lifestyle. When we knowingly disobey the Bible by refusing to do what we have been called to do, we sin.

Romans 6:1-2 says, What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” As Christians, we have a duty to put away the former ways of our sinful lifestyles. 

What Is the Difference between Sins of Omission and Commission?

Some of us may have heard the term “sins of commission” and may wonder about the differences between omission and commission. A sin of commission involves us doing something we know to run deliberately contrary to what Scripture commands.

For example, maybe we know that stealing is wrong, but we clock into work during hours we don’t work or take extra-long breaks, stealing from our company for hours we didn’t actually complete. Sins of commission are a bit more active, in a sense. They involve us actively disobeying the Bible.

A sin of omission, on the other hand, has a more passive nature. It means we know the right thing to do in a situation and ignore the prodding of the Holy Spirit to do said task. For instance, as used in an example above, perhaps we have encountered someone with whom we have a religious conversation. When they ask us to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), and we balk and change the subject, we ignore our duty to share the Gospel to all nations.

In either case, sin is sin, whether omitted or committed. Sins of commission and omission are equally bad and ought to be avoided. Often as humans, we can weigh certain sins over one another. We may consider gossip as a lesser offense than manslaughter. After all, our court systems believe the same thing. But sin is sin. All sin separates us from God. Therefore, whether intentional or not, when we sin, we need to turn from that sin and seek God.

To best search ourselves and determine whether we’ve committed a sin of omission, let’s explore some guidelines for how to know if we’ve omitted. Know that this list doesn’t cover all the ways to determine this, but it offers a primer criterion.

3 Ways to Know If You’re Committing a Sin of Omission

The first way to know if you’ve committed a sin of omission happens when you receive a prodding from the Holy Spirit, and you choose to ignore it.

Perhaps this nudge comes in the way of the Holy Spirit urging you to talk to a stranger or to forgive a family member who has hurt you dearly. If you disregard this Holy Spirit poke, you’ve likely committed a sin of omission. Christians can often make excuses for why they couldn't follow the advice of the Holy Spirit. But if you're creating an excuse you've probably committed this type of sin. Analyze whenever you justify the reasons why you couldn't do the right thing in the moment. This can help you to search your heart.

Secondly, if you’ve read Scripture and know it commands you to do something in a certain situation, and you choose not to act based on what you’ve read, you knowingly sin. For instance, maybe you know you’ve read that Christians ought not to engage in gossip (2 Corinthians 12:20), but when a friend from church starts to gossip, and you passively allow it to continue, you sin. Remember, Adam committed the first sin of passivity. He watched Eve eat the fruit from the forbidden tree and did absolutely nothing (Genesis 3).

Consider the story of the Good Samaritan. When a man is beaten half to death on the side of a road, two religious leaders pass by on the other side and do not help him. They knew they had a duty to aid the poor man, but because they ignored him and this commandment, they committed a sin of omission.

Finally, we may unknowingly commit sins of omission if we don’t regularly engage with Scripture. If we don’t know what we ought to do, to say, or to act, we may, unbeknownst to us, commit this sin.

Of course, some of the best ways to remedy this final option is to pursue the renewing of our minds and regularly engaging with the Word of God. If we only hear the words of Scripture in church, we miss out on ways we can, to the lack of our knowledge, disobey it.

Why Should We Know about Sins of Omission?

A sin of omission has a more insidious nature. It sneaks. Most often, we can commit one without even knowing we’ve don’t anything wrong. The more we know about the sinister characteristics of sin, the more we can pursue a sanctified life in Christ.

We ought to understand our enemy to best defeat him.

How we do so is by analyzing our thoughts, words, and deeds. Do they align with what Scripture commands? Even if we don’t actively disobey the word of God, are there ways in which we allow passivity to infiltrate our lives? If they don’t align with Scripture, we need to turn back to what the Bible says and ask God to renew our hearts and minds.

©GettyImages/Ricardo Alves

Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.

This article is part of our larger resource library of Christian practices and disciplines important to the Christian faith. From speaking in tongues to tithing & baptism, we want to provide easy to read and understand articles that answer your questions about Christian living.

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