Aug. 13, 2020

What Does James 4:17 Mean?

What Does James 4:17 Mean?

James 4:17 (NIV): "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them."

In the past two months, we have been digging deeper and understanding more of the book of James verse-by-verse. 

If you haven't been able to join us for the entire study, I encourage you to take the time and listen to past episodes. I think you will be surprised at what you miss if you don't know the history and culture surrounding the individual verses. 

Today, we quickly recap what we've learned in the letter of James up to this point in order to help us understand the deeper meaning of James 4:17.


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Hey, welcome to the Simple Truth. I’m Julie Carruth. 

Wow, we have come so far in the last two months in our study of the book of James. If you have joined us in this incredible journey, I want to first thank you and also congratulate you for making the conscious choice to put God’s Word first in your life. Choosing God is the best decision you’ll ever make. 

Today’s verse is the last verse in James Chapter 4, and it seems to basically sum up everything we have learned up to this point in his letter. James’ entire letter encourages us to put our faith into action. If you’ve missed any of the episodes, I enoucrage you to go back and listen. There’s a lot of wisdom that James teaches us to live by.  But, here’s just a quick recap of what we’ve learned over the past 55 episodes: 

Rejoice in the midst of trials because God is preparing us for something so much greater 

Ask God for wisdom when you want to know what to do and he will gladly tell you 

Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger 

Do what God’s Word says to do

Control your tongue 

Do not show favoritism

 Love you neighbor as yourself

Faith without works is dead 

Seek God’s Wisdom, not worldly wisdom. 

Humble yourself before God 

Resist the devil and he will flee

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  

Don’t speak evil against others

Don’t make plans without including God 

Wow, we’ve covered a lot, huh? And all of this brings us to James 4:17 (the last verse of James chapter 4) which says, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them."


You see, it’s so easy for us to study God’s Word without making any changes to our lives. I’ll be the first to admit that it feels good to tickle your ear with truths from the Bible, but then walk away and do nothing. 

But James tells us when we know what we are supposed to do, as we just quickly ran through, but we willfully choose NOT to do it, we make the arrogant decision that our ways are better than God’s ways. 

So, your Simple Truth for today: We tend to think that doing something wrong is a sin. But the failure to DO what’s right is also a sin.  

Hey, be sure to join us next time as we move into the last chapter of James. Subscribe at and we’ll be waiting for you every morning inside your inbox. Each email will contain the day’s lesson but it will also recap what you’ve learned in the previous episodes so you can always understand the big picture in the book of James. 

I’m Julie Carruth, and I’ll see you again soon.