Jas 4:16-17 “But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
In the verses immediately preceding this lesson, we have been instructed in the fallacy of claiming that we will do anything in our own strength. As God’s people, we should always bear testimony that we live according to His will. However, we are sometimes guilty of willful disobedience to the instruction we have been given in scripture. We are instructed here that such willful disobedience is no small matter.
The implication here is that taking the attitude that we are going to do anything today or tomorrow without acknowledging that our plans are in His hands is boasting. Our trust is in ourselves and the pride of what we intend to accomplish. The thing we hope to accomplish might be, in and of itself, good. Maybe we are going to start an orphanage or build a place for worship. Perhaps we intend to help a neighbor in distress. These are good things, but if we are going to glory in them and be puffed up, our attitude is not godly. We have failed to recognize that it is not our will but God’s that has made these things possible.
When we become arrogant about our accomplishments, our rejoicing in them is evil. The evil comes in that we grieve the Holy Spirit of God. God may still be pleased to allow the work to go forward. He may be pleased to use our efforts to aid His children. However, we will not receive the blessing in it that would be ours if we give God the glory rather than rejoicing in what we perceive as our own strength. This ties directly to Jesus’ teaching concerning giving alms.
Jesus taught us not to do our alms before men (Mat 6:1-2). We make ourselves hypocrites when we do good for the purpose of having men recognize us instead of giving God glory. If we want the joy of pleasing God, we should do our good in secret. We will then have a meaningful satisfaction in the labor; we will have the acknowledgement of God in our hearts that we have honored Him.
As the children of God in whom He has revealed His Son, we know to do good. We know to shine our light so that men see our works and glorify God our Father. There are consequences in knowing to do good and failing to do so. We know to behave virtuously (do good) but, because of pride, fail to do so. Our pride causes us to want the credit: we want the accolades of men. To be motivated by such a desire is sin, and we become transgressors even as we do what appears to be good. We have offended God in failing to acknowledge that any good we do is according to His will and nothing we should boast of.
May we, according to God’s will, put away boasting in our works and give Him the glory for all good things!