Monthly Archives: January 2012

Prayer works for us too.

Jas 5:16-18   Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  (17)  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  (18)  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

If I am correct about my suggestion in the last post, then James’ use of Elijah here should encourage the activity of prayer and petitions and supplications to God. Elijah, who we know that God heard, who was taken up from this earth and did not die, was a man like us. We think of great men of faith and think “Oh for their faith” We shake our heads and feel we will not live up to their example.

So we elevate the prophets and do not just underplay their weaknesses but forget about them altogether. Elijah had his grand moments and no one can doubt that his contest on Mt. Carmel was a true mountain top experience. God answered his prayer at almost moment he began to pray and the whole nation could see that God, was indeed God. Then Elijah, upon receiving a death-threat from Jezebel, ran! So much for the great man of faith!

Do not let us not judge Elijah harshly, let us remember, he was a man like we are: Prone to the Mt. Everest top highs and the death valley lows.  This should encourage us to follow more closely after his example of prayer, in which he was successful.  The only one to not sin, Jesus , also took on our nature too and in his distress, he prayed. (Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.)  In his example, we see the power of prayer for sure, but I think James uses Elijah because he was not sinless, yet he was heard.

James wants us to pray also. He also wants us to know that pray works. More than just our prayers, but also the prayers of others on our behalf.

The prayer of the righteous man has great power, James says. I would presume that James is considering that the one asking for the prayers is deep in the struggles of his own sin, trying to be righteous and needing the help of those who are. He confesses his need, humbles himself before God and those who are spiritual (Gal 6:1-2) lift up prayers for him, as well, I would suppose, for themselves so that they are not tempted too.

In all of this, I see the need for community. Not in a casual, see you for an hour on Sunday type of community, but a community were we get to know each other well enough to feel comfortable with confessing our sins. Those who do not feel as if they need the fellowship of believers (“I can worship God where I like”) forget the admonition to ‘not forsake the assembling of (our)selves together” (Heb 10:25) But those who quote 10:25, need to quote 10:24 also and balance it out. Verse 24 says we need to know one another well enough to encourage us to do good works.

There is much in the Bible on Prayer, we need to learn as the disciples did, how to pray. (Luke 11:1)

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Pray when you are sick.

Jas 5:14-16   Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  (15)  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  (16)  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

In looking at this passage, there are basically two ways you can look at this. Well, three if you simply want to say that both options are under consideration. The first is to think of this as a physical healing and from a physical sickness. The second is a spiritual healing from a spiritual sickness. It obvious that we are to pray for the sick and we know that God does intervene from time to time (In His time) to heal people in ways that we are amazed at. 

We know even in the Scriptures that sickness is not always taken away. Paul suffered the thorn in the flesh and God did not heal him. Paul had faith.  One of the things about Biblical interpretation is that the easiest answer is most likely the right one. Unless the context clearly says it is spiritual or physical we are left drawing conclusions from what is said. 

 There are some difficulties either way. Still, I will suggest that this is a spiritual illness and what may be most likely under consideration is some of the ‘illnesses’ that James has been rebuking them for. One cannot assume that the whole church was the way James was describing it but certainly enough of them were that James wanted to put a stop to it. What would/should a person do who sees himself in the descriptions that James is bring out? This is scripture from an inspired man, a leader and elder at Jerusalem. As the audience listens to it, some of them (the humble ones) would be thinking “Ouch, you are stepping on my toes. I need to fix that.” Some might even be having a David moment: “Thou are the man” and responding “I have sinned”. Such humbleness would lead to many actions of repentance but one would certainly be the confessing of that sin.

Who better to confess it to than the Elders. Spiritually mature men who can help others (Gal 6:1-2) and asking for them to pray for their infirmities of the soul.

Think for a moment! If you begin to realize you are greedy and covetous, or envious and boastful, do you think such a flaw in character can or will disappear in a night and a day? Each person is different. Even Abraham told the same lie about Sarah on two different occasions and Isaac did the same thing with Rebekah (but that was a full lie since she was not even a 1/2 sister).  Common sense and our own experience recognizes that some sins keep coming back (or do we keep going back?) and one of the best ways I know of to remove the power of a temptation is to tell someone else you are suffering with that issue.

Pornography, sexual activities before marriage, adultery within marriage, covetousness, greed, jealousy, thoughts that make you ashamed, etc, etc. When another knows, there is help, there can be accountability but there can also be prayers that will help you fight and protect you against the temptations. The promise is that God will heal you, raise you up and that your sins will be forgiven you. The forgiveness of sins is of great comfort but the being healed of any of the maladies I mentioned in this paragraph or many that I did not mention, is a load of the mind and spirit. It will help you to be more productive in the Kingdom of God.

 

Pray in suffering

The next few posts, Lord willing will deal with prayer. James has a few things to say and I think it is worth taking some time to look at all of these verses together and spread it out.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (Jas 5:13-18)

 

The first thing that is worth noting is that James recommends prayer when you are suffering. I am reminded of his opening verses where he advises us to meet our trials  with an attitude of joy and if we lack wisdom (presumably, the wisdom of how to deal with our trials) we are to ask God who gives generously to all. The sufferer might need more assistance in how to deal with his sufferings in a wise way. Job, of course, seems to have already had that figured out. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  (Job 2:10) but not everyone does.

The assumption is that praying while you suffer will be of assistance to you. If you are praying for wisdom, James says God will give it. Perhaps though you just need encouragement to keep going. Luke 22:40-46 talk about Jesus and his disciples at a difficult time. Jesus is said to be in agony. (sounds like suffering to me) The disciples are sorrowful and wind up falling asleep because of it (which may be a result of suffering too as I am sure they were affected by the Savior’s mood). The action of Jesus and advice to the disciples supports the idea that prayer helps. “Pray that you don’t fall into temptation” he said.

Paul expresses confidence in the power of prayer when he asks for prayers from the Ephesians.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

I know that sometimes we have a tendency to ask for prayers and are not sure if anyone really will (or perhaps we don’t really expect someone to) and sometimes we say “I will pray for you” and then do not. But I don’t think Paul’s words were “just words”. He really wanted their prayers.

It might be worth it to note what he asked for: Prayers that he might preach the Gospel as he should! What?! Paul, the preacher to the Gentiles, traveler on 3 missionary journeys, author of many epistles, appointer of elders, trainer of preachers, establisher of congregations…..THAT Paul wants prayers to speak boldly?

If he needs prayers, it is a 100% certainty that I do.

Let the prayers go forth and let them go strong. Those who suffer, pray and pray for wisdom, patience and know that God will hear your prayer. We all should pray not just for those who suffer but for those who preach the word too.

More on prayer in another post.

Tell me Yes, Tell me no but tell me straight up.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (Jas 5:12)

People have a tendency to swear and boast when they are expressing the seriousness and intention which they have in accomplishing some object.  “I swear i will do this or that”, ” I swear on my mother’s grave that what I am saying is the truth”, or perhaps:

Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”  (Mat 26:33)

Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. (Mat 26:74)

No one would no better the advice James gives than Peter would but we all fall into the trap of promising more than we can deliver.

I know that some use this passage as a reason not to take the oath to tell the truth in court. I don’t think the context here supports that use of it. In fact, the Yes, Yes and No, No might be more akin to what you promise to do anyway. There should be know need to promise to tell the truth if you always tell the truth. Of course, people don’t so if they are caught in a lie, perjury charges result.

God doesn’t need to result to perjury charges, we have all bitten off more than we can chew or let our eyes fill our plate with more than our stomach can handle. We have assured people of things that we had no intention of fulfilling and also have assured people of things we had not ability to guarantee we would fulfill.

When a bank lends you money to buy a house, the house stands good for the money owed. You promise in effect to pay the note or return the house. Most of our ‘swearing’ doesn’t even offer a tangible collateral and so we put ourselves in jeopardy by promising what we cannot promise. James refered to this in chapter 4 by saying that we should say “If the Lord wills, we will both live and…” fulfill this promise or that one.

When you promise something and do not fulfill it, it is a mar on your character and God’s. We should be slow to speak and that would include slow to promise but when you promise something be humble about it. If you cannot do a certain something with reasonable certitude then don’t take it on. When you do take it on, don’t give false hopes as to its finish. It is always important to verify both the expectations that another person has and your ability to promise to do something. If you promise, then do it. Don’t had oaths and lofty words to your speech, just say “yes” or “no”

Be steadfast in your sufferings

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:10-11)

To shore up the idea that we should suffer patiently through the trials that come upon us, James appeals to the “Prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord”.  He makes a statement that is full of meaning. I think it is the key to the point he is making: “we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.”

Think about the best example of faith that you will. Those who remained steadfast, we consider blessed. Almost all of them did, Solomon perhaps being a notable exception to the rule.  Sometimes, we have a tendency to elevate them to much and think their faith was so great, and that they never made a mistake. Yet we forget the sins that some of them committed. Abraham lied, David murdered, Noah got drunk.  On the other hand, we sometimes tend to minimize their sufferings: “But my troubles are worse than theirs”, “no one has ever suffered like I have”.

Of course, of all the prophets that he could bring up, he brings up Job. A man who suffered a lot of emmotional and physical pain and yet, he did remain steadfast. It seems that his confidence truly was in the Lord and not his possessions, riches, or family. It may be difficult to understand the full effect of  the sufferings of Job but, we can all imagine some aspect of them. The Hebrew writer says that his audience had not yet resisted to the point of death and of course, we could talk about the suffering of Jesus but, don’t get me started.

We need to realize that while we may honor these men for being so steadfast, they had real problems. They may not be like ours but they were real problems. When we say “they weren’t like us” we take away the value of their example. Yet they are a great example to us and for us. (Romans 15:4)

James wants his audience to remember that God is a God of mercy and compassion. While we may (and often do) suffer in this life for the cause of sin or because of others sins (those rich ones who were oppressing them), God is a righteous God who will take everything into account.

Paul’s sentiments however, express very well the attitude that Christians are being asked to adopt:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  (Rom 8:15-18)

Grumblers, the Judge is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
(Jas 5:9)

If there is one thing the Lord doesn’t like, it is a grumbler. I suppose that after so many years with Israel in the desert that He just has had enough of grumbling and complaining and murmuring.  But what are the alternatives to grumbling? He just got through telling brethren to be patient in the midst of oppression and now they are not allowed to grumble either?

Grumbling is roughly akin to gossip; most of the times, it is just under your breath. However, a lot of times it is a grumbling that is shared with someone else and that is going to (98% of the time) turn into Gossip with the first word. If you have a problem with someone, especially a brother, the truly Godlike course of action is to go and talk to that brother.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
(Lev 19:17)

The above passage is from the OT and parallels nicely with what Jesus said in Matthew 18 about confronting your brother who offends you. The reason is simple: Few wake up thinking “How can I make Steven’s life miserable?” or even if  not miserable, just kinda mess him around. However, most of us act as if the particular offense we are complaining about was a deliberate action and premeditated.

I am not saying that no one ever creates problems in your life with deliberateness but most of the time, the offenses are unintentional because they failed to look from your perspective. If they had, the offender might have taken a different path or, if not possible, at least be more understanding in actions; perhaps share more information as to ‘why’ or just plain be nicer about how they did it.

Among brothers in the Lord, we are first of all brothers. But we are all sinners, guilty of offending and causing grumbling too. If we confront our brother and share what has happened, it can be fixed and if it isn’t fixed (because he is unwilling to), then at least you know where you stand and you don’t’ have to murmur about it. In fact, if it gets that far,  the whole congregation will know, if you do what Matthew 18 says to do.

Failure to do this places us in a position to be judged just as we are placing ourselves in the position of judging. Keep in mind God is the judge. He can discern hearts, we cannot. This is why we need to talk with our brother so that they can reveal their heart. Since God is the judge, we simply need to do the best we can to keep peace among our brethren. Murmuring will not keep peace, it will destroy it.

Lessons from Esau

When we read the Biblical account of Esau selling his birthright in Gen 25, we see a lesson that we should all learn. The Hebrew writer brings it out in Hebrews 12:15-16:

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

The emphasis is, of course, on the idea that we should not be unholy (or profane in other versions) like Esau was, yet, I still can sense an astonishment as the writer add the last 4 words: For…A…Single…Meal! Imagine that. I mean, he should’ve at least asked for a camel or two at the same time or maybe a years worth of food but one single meal? He would be hungry in another few hours and then, he would still need food and not have the birthright either.

Of course, if the birthright were equal to a dollar bill or a shirt, it might be easier to see why Esau made the trade but as you read through the scriptures, the value of the birthright was huge. From other scriptures that occur later, we can see that the birthright would have likely given him a ‘double portion’ (Dt  21:15-17) or maybe the right to rule (2 chronicles 21:3). At least, the first-born was considered the strength of a man (gen 49:3) and certain honor should be bestowed on the firstborn (even though there were examples of the blessing going to the younger. (Gen 48:13-20)

God placed a value on the firstborn when he redeemed them by calling Levi to be his own people. (Number 3:12) In this chapter we see the firstborn exchanged for a Levite and when the Levites ran out, 5 shekels per firstborn in order to redeem the firstborn because

“All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.” (Exo 34:19-20)

Christ is said to be the firstborn, not because He was created but because He is in the position of being preeminent. We Christians, are redeemed by his blood and receive the blessings of the first-born, we, like Israel were redeemed and now are the priests of God. (I peter 2:9)

The question is “what do we count as being of highest value”? Please, don’t anyone say your ‘dog’ or ‘car’. Some might think of spouse or children but the real answer is our soul. As intangible as the birthright, it is even more valuable. Once exchanged for another thing, we are unable to buy it back. (Emphasize “WE” because Christ did die to redeem us but we are unable to)

In Mt 16:21-26 Matthew record something that has value in this lesson. In two parts we see these words:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  (Mat 16:21-23)

Peter was offering an exchange to the Lord: Don’t die, you can live. Don’t go through with your mission. Of course Peter, who didn’t understand the implication of his words was probably shocked when Jesus said “Get behind me Satan!” but Jesus is pointing out here an important fact. There is a mind that is set on the things of God and there is a mind  that is set on the things of man. Which one is yours?

Then Jesus offers us an exchange:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Mat 16:24-26)

If you could have a lifetime of a mind set on the things of God or a lifetime of a mind set on the things of man, which would you choose? With a mind set on man’s things, you might gain the whole wide world. (A pretty big task, but it could happen) Would you be able to exchange it for your soul? Jesus’ words  imply “NO!” and if not for the world, what about for less than that, say a ‘pot of porridge’?

While we could focus on the past (when we first made this exchange for our fist sin), let’s not do that. If we are in Christ, all things are new. (if we aren’t in Christ that is another thing). So let’s look at two other points.

Let us not develop the mindset of Esau and profane, or make common, the redemptive price of Christ’s blood by ‘deliberately sinning” because that just outrages the Spirit. (Heb 10:26-29) You don’t want to make an enemy of God and don’t think it can’t be done. (James 4:4).

Additionally, we should think about those we know who have sold their souls for a mess of porridge. Or the people around us at lunch on Sunday. No, don’t stand up on your table and try to evangelize but do get to know people and ask about their soul and be ready to preach the Gospel.

The sermon should get posted later but will be delayed due to a trip.

Being Patient

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (Jas 5:7-8)

These words would be good advice for the ones that are being oppressed. James has talked about those that are oppressing people, thinking they can get away with it. They don’t resist because they can’t.

When God came down to see the suffering of Israel he said to Moses that He had “heard the cry” of His people and sent Moses to deliver Israel. We sometimes don’t realize how the suffering that we go through helps to build our character. James started out the book saying that we should count it all joy when we meet trials.  Israel surely fit this category. However, so did the people (the poor people) that James was writing to. The Lord hears your cry.

It is often the case that we think of ways to avenge injustices; in today’s society fighting against the rich or “da man” is not a new activity. But, if I understand the scriptures correctly, our envy of the rich people will not help us in the least in our service toward God. Contentment, even in (especially in) poverty is what we should be able to achieve should God bring that economic status our way. Improve yourself if you can, but fighting (and especially in the courts) over someone who is oppressing you should be a very carefully considered action.

James is telling his audience to be patient. Almost as if to say, “the Lord will repay” and we need to wait for the Lord to bring about his plans in their own due time. In their patience they are to do one thing: Establish their hearts. Once again, turning back toward the responsibility that an individual has to mind their own business, James says ‘establish’ your hearts. Build it up, secure the foundation, and make it a fortress in service to God. Whatever comes your way, you will press on and not faint. The good news is: The Lord is at hand.

Much has been written about what James had in mind when he said, the Lord is at hand. Did he mean the second coming, did he means Jerusalem’s end (70 a.d.), did he mean their own death and going to be with the Lord, or did he simply mean that the Lord was always near to them? Except for the 2nd coming (Which will happen but no one knows when. I figure 3025 a.d. to be a good year and if I am wrong, well I will be in good company. 🙂 ) any of these could have been his meaning and yet, the Lord is still near to us today in the later two ways.

We should never forget that our journey and any sufferings or pleasures in it are fleeting, though for the moment they may feel as if they will last forever. Be patient. Endure. The Lord is at hand. He will protect your soul, if not your life, and the soul is more precious. Think like that.

Be patient

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  (Jas 5:7)

 

The idea of being patient is one that many times we do not want to embrace. Especially in today’s society, we are a group of people that is very impatient. We are the age of people who stands in front of the microwave and yell “HURRY UP!”. We are the ones who stand in long lines or camp out 4 days early for the newest Ipad or Iphone. Indeed, patience is not a characteristic that our age is known by.

This post will be short and ask for you input. I have normally thought of this verse and verse 8 as words written to the ones who are being oppressed. Yet, it may be that James, after chastising these rich, is saying to them: The cure for all of these issues (from 4:13 to here) is Patience.

You don’t need to spend your time seeking after riches and traveling around with grand plans that don’t include God. You don’t have to fall into the mentality that “it is every man for himself” and fail to pay what is right, you don’t have to defraud people to line your pockets with gold.

God had been waiting years for His Son to come, He waited while the prophets preached and He is waiting while the Gospel is going forth. He is not impatient. All will be ok.  If you wish to shortcut the laws of God to gain what you want, it won’t work in the first place and, in addition to that, you no longer have the character of God in your lives because God is patient.

So you may be a little less rich when life is over, you will have treasures in Heaven. So you have to wait to buy a new car every 6 years instead every 2, your car can’t go with you to Heaven. The Lord is coming back and so we wait for that. As we live our lives in this world, we should be, if we have food and clothing, content people.

Question: Lord willing we will have another post on this using my other thought that it applies to those who are suffering, but does this presentation of it applying to the rich work also?

 

Beware the trap of ill gotten gain

 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (Jas 5:4-6)

The fact is, you can’t hide anything from God. When you read that the wages these rich people withheld from the workers was crying out, you should be reminded of God’s conversation with Cain.  “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me” or perhaps you are reminded of the voices of the souls under the altar crying out for vengeance (Rev 6). The point is vengeance is the the Lord’s, He will repay.

We have a defender and a righteous judge. He is not going to be fooled by accounting tricks and strange justifications for your actions. Jesus told the Pharisees that their practice of Corban was in violation of God’s command to honor their father and mother. (Mt 15)  (Corban was a way to defraud their parents of what was owed them.) James tells his audience that their fraud (by whatever means it was happening) is in violation of God’s justice. Again, it isn’t the riches that James is condemning but the attitudes of the rich, the way they obtained it and how they are using it.

Living on earth in luxury and self-indulgence may bring to mind the story of Lazarus and the rich man. When the man woke up dead in Hades, he was reminded how he had such a grand life style in his life and Lazarus had nothing. We have to keep in mind that it is not how much you have but what you do with it that makes the difference. If only he had shown mercy to Lazarus.

Fattening your hearts is not a good thing, and these men did it while others were suffering. Then he says that they condemned and murdered the righteous person and he does not resist. How can they? They are poor. If the rich drag you to court, all the power is on their side. When Jezebel had Naboth killed for his vineyard, the power was in the government. Do not think for a moment you are getting out judgement, God is not mocked.

(side note: you may be struck with the similarity of this and those who are accused of what is called “corporate greed”. No such issue is in James’ mind. The world will be the world. Corporate Greed, to the extent it exists, is the way those in the world will run things. These were Christians in the Lord’s church, they are expected to run their business–even should they be the CEO–in a way consistent with the Faith.  However, I not be surprised or spend effort protesting a non Christian who does not live by the same morality Christ asks of  me.)

While James does not condemn riches, this passage begs the question of how can we avoid being like that. I think that we need to learn to be content with what we have. Perhaps even using those gains and increases in our income as a means to first serve God and then use for ourselves. No commandment can be pointed to as a statement of ‘this much’ or ‘that much’. The NT teaching is “As you have prospered” from I cor 16 and “cheerfully” from 2 cor 9.  Wisdom says though you need a deliberate action in the desire to serve God.

Decide what you will give. Don’t swear  a plan before God because you cannot control the future: If the Lord will, I will both live and give this or that.

One brother said that his custom was to increase his weekly giving by $10 at the beginning of the year. He said he never lacked. Another suggestion is to live at or around the middle-income level regardless of your income and use the vast majority of the rest to serve God. Most people focus on 10% but I think a strong case could be made for a Christian striving to give more.   Willing giving is more important than what you give.

If you have an abundance of money, you might not put all the money in the collection plate, you might hold some back yourself to help others personally. This is an example of  “visiting”  the poor.

Let James’s words sink in and live in such a way that if James were writing to us, we would not get this type of condemnation.

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