On August 5, 1886, Charles Spurgeon preached the sermon, “The Great Sin of Doing Nothing” (it is in volume 32, sermon no. 1916). In that sermon he speaks of the one attends service on Sunday, who drinks up the good of the Church and yet gives no service in return. However, in considering his rebuke, pay attention to the manner in which he defines the work to be done:
“But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” — Numbers 32:23.
Alas, the tribe of Reuben is not dead, and the tribe of Gad has not passed away! Many who are of the household of faith are equally indisposed to exertion, equally fond of ease. Hear them say, “Thank God we are safe! We have passed from death unto life. We have named the name of Christ; we are washed in his precious blood, and therefore we are secure.” Then, with a strange inconsistency, they permit the evil of the flesh to crave carnal ease, and they cry, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Spiritual self-indulgence is a monstrous evil; yet we see it all around. On Sunday these loafers must be well fed. They look out for such sermons as will feed their souls. The thought does not occur to these people that there is something else to be done besides feeding. Soul-saving is pushed into the background. The crowds are perishing at their gates; the multitudes with their sins defile the air; the age is getting worse and worse, and man, by a process of evolution, is evolving a devil; and yet these people want pleasant things preached to them. They eat the fat and drink the sweet, and they crowd to the feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined — spiritual festivals are their delight: sermons, conferences, Bible-readings, and so forth, are sought after, but regular service in ordinary ways is neglected. Not a hand’s turn will they do. They gird on no armor, they grasp no sword, they wield no sling, they throw no stone. No, they have gotten their possession; they know they have, and they sit down in carnal security, satisfied to do nothing. They neither work for life, nor from life: they are arrant sluggards, as lazy as they are long. Nowhere are they at home except where they can enjoy themselves, and take things easy. They love their beds, but the Lord’s fields they will neither plough nor reap. This is the sin pointed out in the text — “If ye do not go forth to the battles of the Lord, and contend for the Lord God and for his people, ye do sin against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” The sin of doing nothing is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves most of the others. The sin of sitting still while your brethren go forth to war breaks both tables of the law, and has in it a huge idolatry of self, which neither allows love to God or man. Horrible idleness! God save us from it!
This sin may be viewed under another aspect, as selfishness and unbrotherliness. Gad and Reuben ask to have their inheritance at once, and to make themselves comfortable in Bashan, on this side Jordan. What about Judah, Levi, Simeon, Benjamin, and all the rest of the tribes? How are they to get their inheritance? They do not care, but it is evident that Bashan is suitable for themselves with their multitude of cattle. Some of them reply, “You see, they must look to themselves, as the proverb hath it, ’Every man for himself, and God for us all.’” Did I not hear some one in the company say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I know that gentleman. I heard his voice years ago. His name is Cain, and I have this to say to him: it is true that he is not his brother’s keeper, but he is his brother’s killer. Every man is either the keeper of his brother, or the destroyer of his brother. Soul-murder can be wrought without an act or even a will; it can be, and is constantly, accomplished by neglect. Yonder perishing heathen — does not the Lord enquire, “Who slew all these?” The millions of this city unevangelized — who is guilty of their blood? Are not idle Christians starving the multitude by refusing to hand out the bread of life? Is not this a grievous sin?