Category Archives: Comments on James

An autopsy of sin.

A repost with minor edits: enjoy!

With all the of the CSI programs on TV today, not to mention the old medical shows like Quincy M.E., it seems that people have an interest in autopsies. An Autopsy is the procedure performed on the body after death to see what killed it. (So I suppose my title should really be something like “An Autopsy of a spiritually dead person”) Today’s post is going to look back and see what kills us, spiritually speaking, from James’ book.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas 1:13-16)

Who Tempts us?

First, off it is important to note that he instructs us not to blame God for the temptations you are going through. Not only is He not tempted, he does not tempt anyone. Flip Wilson, a comic from way back was famous for his phrase “The Devil made me do it!”  James is going to show that the devil doesn’t MAKE you do anything. From early on in our life we learn to blame others. Even Adam tried to blame both God and his wife in one shot: “The woman YOU gave me….” is why I ate. We will look everywhere and at everyone else that  we can except at ourselves.

It is true that Satan tempts us but James is going to show us the limits on his ability to tempt us. It not true that God tempts us and Paul says that God protects us from being tempted above what we can handle. In other words, he reins Satan in so that he is not able to overpower us.  (I cor 10:13)

What is a temptation?

James says that each of us is tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires. The word ‘desire’ is an appropriate word here. The meaning in this context is ‘illicit desires’ which is why some versions use the word “lusts”. At its core, a lust is a desire but it passes beyond the boundaries that God has set. An example is our desire for food. It is a perfectly normal desire to feed ourselves and satisfy our desire for food, but when turned into lust, it results in gluttony. Our natural sexual desires when taken in to the category of lusts results in fornication. Basically ‘desire’ is fine when kept within the boundaries God has established.

Temptation is the enticement to take a desire beyond its boundaries. So to be tempted means you must have some desire to begin with.  It would be useless to tempt me with liver. I do not like it, can’t stand it and so if I were guarding the ACME liver factory, there would be no temptation, to take any home with me. The same would not be said if I were guarding the See’s chocolate factory or the Blue Bell factory. It could become a temptation. The desire is for chocolate not to steal. Theft would be the result of letting the enticement go too far.

What if I like my sin?

Once the lustful desire has been conceived and accomplished it brings forth sin. Then when the sin becomes fully grown, it brings forth death. Since Scripture teaches that ONE sin is enough to result in death, I asked myself why sin would have to become full grown in order to kill. (“Self”, I asked…..)

Keeping in mind that James is writing to Christians, already cleansed in the blood of Christ, the lesson James teaches has to apply to our current temptations and desires. Christians are not prevented from sinning mechanically. God does not make it impossible for us to sin or the first chapter of First John wouldn’t make much sense.  The blood of his Son cleanses us from our sin….if we walk in the light as he in in the light.

But what if we like our lust and desire? What if the sin conceived is enjoyable to us and we do not wish to stop? Well, it grows. Cain had already sinned in not offering an appropriate sacrifice. God warned him that sin was ready to take control and urged him to do right so that he would be accepted. As we know, he didn’t listen, held on to his own sin and let it grow.

You see, if you could blame God for all this then there should be no fault attributed to your account. If you can blame Satan for making you do it, then again no fault is yours. But, if, just what if, that sin you are doing and giving into actually started from your own heart,  your own desires that you fanned into lust and then into sin and then decided you liked enough to live in it. Well, that would be a horse of a different color.

So on our autopsy death certificate it should read:

Cause of death:

Sin caused by an acute desire.

(we could have saved this one if he had repented)

Advertisements

Put down the sin and back away!

** I am going to repost some of my earlier blogs from the blog study I did through James. I will probably do this for the next five to six posts. I hope you enjoy them as many of my current readers were not with me when I put these out. There may be some slight edits but essentially they will be the same.***

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  (Jas 1:21 ESV)

When ever you see the word “therefore” you should look and see what it is there for! And sure enough, this therefore is there for a reason. It concludes a thought that James is expressing and brings to close an argument (or at least a portion of it) that he has been making.  Because we are responsible for our own temptations and sins and God is the one who is giving us all of the good gifts, especially being born again into his family, we need to stop! Listen! and realize that our anger at our perceptions of reality (which are not the way things really are) is messed up. So….

We should put away something and receive something that will benefit us.

That which we are to put away is all of the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our lives. Wait! What is that? Filth and wickedness?  Isn’t James talking to Christians who had been washed in the blood of Jesus? Cleansed from their old sins? How can they have filth and wickedness? Sure, a little sin once in a while (everyone does) but “filth” is such a …well, it is such a filthy word! Don’t even get me started on wickedness. Contrary to the popular usage (or the little note of encouragement that WordPress gave me at post 14 “Wicked!”) it is not a compliment.

James is not the first person to address this issue and every Christian realizes that from about 5 minutes after coming up out of the grave, sin is still a possibility. We are not mechanically prevented from sinning. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6 and told those Christians that they could not live in sin any longer.  In this context though, the filthiness and wickedness would be attributable to a life that was not lived in faith and, worse yet, one that blamed God for the situation.  You can see now perhaps why James goes on from here to give so much good practical advice to his audience on how to live a life of faith and the many actions that will show that you live a life of faith.

I like the phrase ‘put away’. It is used in several meanings. 

  1. To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
  2. To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
  3. To be victorious over. “He put him away with that final shot”

In either case, the understanding should be to remove that stuff out of your life because it does not belong there.

To contrast the putting away and removal of filth and wickedness, James says you are to receive something. In this case, the implanted word.

How you are to receive it is very important: with meekness. As I have heard all my life, “meek doesn’t mean weak” but we still tend to think of it that way. Actually, meek has more to do with the control of strength not  the absence of strength. A meek horse is still a powerful animal but, rather than flexing his muscles and running away with or bucking off the rider, he permits the rider to be there. We also need to permit the word that God has implanted to be there. To fight against it and to tear it out is not good for us.

Jesus spreading seedThe illustration reminds me of the parable of the sower. In that parable, the seed was also the word of God and it fell on four soils. These have already proven themselves not to be the hard soil and probably not the rocky soil. Judging by James’ book, I think he was concerned that they may be the thorny soil. When the word is implanted into the soil (our hearts) if we receive it with meekness, it is able to save our souls. If we do not, well… it cannot do its job.

James is going to expand on this thought in the next few verses. What we need to consider, as we read the word, is are we receiving the word with meekness or trying to remake it into our own image and plans? One last cliché to close. We have seen those bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. While the thought is nice, I would suggest that God should be the pilot!  Let’s meekly let God direct us in His paths.

Question: How hard is it for you to back away from sin and meekly accept only God’s word?

Faith working in our lives

Well, the last few posts have been a lot of fun but as my wife said, “it isn’t a light topic.” So inspired by the last few posts and in particular yesterday’s I decided to preach on this topic today. If anyone listens to the sermons and wishes to comment, you are welcome to do so.

Today’s lessons started with last weeks sermon on the unrighteous servant who showed no mercy to the fellow servant who begged for more time to pay. This, after having been forgiven such a huge amount himself. Transitioning we moved to James 2:1-13 where the audience James is writing to were urged to not show partiality based on something so superficial as money.  Paying special attention to the admonition to be merciful if you want to receive mercy we moved into the last 1/2 of the chapter.

It is important I think to understand that the audience that James writes to have some serious issues. Issues that need to be corrected and I think that they were susceptible to the idea that believing that Jesus was the Christ was sufficient but that those other things like, doing the word (not just hearing), visiting widows and orphans, loving your brother, etc was too much and got in the way of  their ambitions.

With this in mind, James informs them in very certain terms that Faith without works is not going to work. (no pun intended)  Of course, we should be able to see that James is using the word faith in a way that is not a full faith but only a partial faith. One in which the fact is agreed to but there is not any response to that fact. Like a car that doesn’t have an engine, it is still a  car in one sense but of what value is it for getting you to work?

Of course, does the principle of faith and works apply to the our initial salvation?  I think it must. So we take a look at it that question in the PM and try to show how faith, works, and salvation fit together.  The conclusion is that if a person preaches the Gospel that Jesus sent the disciples out to preach that the only response of the person with a saving faith will be to do the things that the preacher (who should only be preaching what Christ told HIM to) tells them to do.

Faith only can either be right or wrong depending on how you define faith. If you define it like James was, it will not work. If you define it the way the Hebrews writer was using it, it works fine.

The links are here for part 1 and here for part 2.

From this point forward, we will move on to Chapter 3 of James.

Believing Demons

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!
(Jas 2:18-19)

This is undoubtedly a difficult passage as you read it. I really would expect this hypothetical person to say “I have faith and you have works.” The understanding still is that someone is making the claim that one person can have faith, another can have works, and God accepts both of them. Another way would be to remove the quotations as if he is talking to a specific person. Friend, someone would say that you have faith and I have works. Then he wants to put these statements to the test.

He challenges this person to show him his faith. And to do so without works. Can this be done? Can a person sit in a chair, say “I have faith” and show that faith?  He continues the challenge by saying that he by his works can show his faith. Can this be done? 

A simple illustration might serve to help. You and your dad are sitting in the living room watching the Super Bowl and you get a call from your brother who works at the Airport tower as an air traffic controller. On the speaker phone, he tells you both that a plane has lost control of steering and is on a beeline to your house. you have 10 minutes to get out. Who is the person with saving faith?

Both would believe the brother because he has credibility.  Dad says “I believe my son,  but the game isn’t over yet. What do you think?” he asks you. But you, with your actions are already driving away.

You might ask, why would someone say faith without works is ok? But then again, people do today. “I believe in God, I have faith”, but they are not willing to do even the simple things that God would ask them to do.  Let’s keep this in the category of a person who is a Christian for the moment since that is James’ audience. (Dealing with this principle as it pertains to those coming to Christ for the first time will make a good follow-up post.)

James is trying to show that  faith and works must go together so he goes one step further. You believe that God is one? Well, so do the demons.  At least the demons do something in response to that faith–they shudder!  But you are sitting there going, I am fine, God still loves me. I have faith. Yay me!

Since I am thinking that this audience is Christians to whom James is writing, it makes sense to ask: Can a living faith turn into a dead one? This is part of the reason why James is a hard book to work through. Perhaps the parable of the Sower (Matt 13 or Mark 4) will help. In that parable, the word of God was spread over 4 soils. All heard, 3 received the word with joy and only 1 produced fruit. 

There is more that James has to say about this though. He is not yet done showing that faith without works is dead.

Living by the Royal Law Part two

Part one was yesterday. Now on to part two…

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.  (Jas 2:12-13)

James’ words here are a rebuke to men who have broken the royal law by showing partiality. He says that they should change the way they speak and act.  He instructs that they are to speak and act as those who are governed by a law of liberty. This is because men of God speak differently than the world speaks and they are certainly to act differently than the world.

The Hebrew writer also says that men of faith spoke in a certain way.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  (Heb 11:13-14 emphasis mine)

Oh, if we would all realize that our speech betrays us. Sometimes the accent tells people were we are from. Peter was betrayed by his speech. (Mt 26:73) Sometimes it is the words we use. Here, James says your speech “sit here…sit there” betrays a judgmental, evil heart.

How should we speak? Like those who will be judged with liberty; with Mercy and compassion to others.  God sees all those who love him as children.  These men have judged and dishonored based on wealth but God will not give extra points for wealth; he will not say to a poor man “Well, we might be able to find a little shack somewhere for you”…No!, the poor man gets a mansion too! One of the lessons we learn from the first 11 chapters of Romans is a proper reaction to others and especially brothers in the Lord. We realize that being saved by Grace allows us to…NO… “allows us to”  is not quite right, it demands us to show grace and mercy to others.

The warning is clear. If you don’t show mercy, don’t expect mercy.  Read Luke 16:19 about the rich man and Lazarus. As you read the story, you don’t read that the rich man didn’t obey the law or do the sacrifices or even tithe…but he did not show mercy to Lazarus.  Oh, if every Christian would hear that!

Of course, a law of liberty does not mean “no law” or else even partiality would not be condemned, nor does it allow for sexual immorality, nor covetousness. But a law of liberty does mean that those who realize that they cannot earn their salvation, in gratitude to God, will strive to live as Christ lived,  these people will treat their brother with a different standard. They will not see rich and poor, black and white, good singer and bad singer; they will honor all who love God the same way.

Soon, I would like to post on the Royal Law. James makes it apply to the situation of showing partiality but it, by itself, is bigger and worth a few posts. In the meantime, a question: In what other ways do you think the Royal law to love your neighbor should apply?

Partiality? Not in your faith.

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. (Jas 2:1)

I want you to feel the weight of these words. People have, in the name of Christ held viewpoints that were contrary to the faith which is called by the name of Jesus.  When you call yourself a Christian there is a standard to which you are accountable. There is much  to be said about this in the coming verses so let me just take the one verse to begin with. The illustration that James gives will be another topic.

My brothers….James is not saying that these people to whom he is writing are not Christians. He calls them brothers and this is good because we need to realize that brothers do err. Here are brothers in Christ who show partiality. In error, but still brothers. This is James’ warning to them. I have no doubt that should they have continued in this practice he would not refer to them as brothers. (Titus 3:10)

Hold not….To hold onto something is to cling to it. Sometimes it is a person, sometimes, a viewpoint.  In this context, the contrast is between clinging to the faith of Christ and yet having a viewpoint that some are not worthy. (cf Luke 18:9)  Simon, the sorcerer, for example, was wanting to cling to the faith of Christ and yet had the spirit of covetousness. (Acts 8 )  He was rebuked and told to repent. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters. (Matt. 6:33) Anything that is in contrast to the faith of Christ is another master to be refused.

I had an acquaintance at a previous job who seemed sad one day. He attended a work Bible study and seemed by appearances to be a Christian. He explained his sadness: “My family is on my case for living with my girlfriend….but they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me.” Whoa!! My brother, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus with a spirit of fornication! What happened to testing the spirits?

Partiality here seems to be a judgemental superficial judgement that is based on something beyond a person’s control. There is a difference between having some close friends and tolerating the presence of others. While I agree that a group of friends could become a click or an isolating factor, Jesus himself spent more time with Peter, James, and John and to the 12 as a whole over the other disciples. Yet, you won’t find him refusing others, disciples and antagonists.

What James is calling partiality seems to be  judging  a person unworthy based on some external thing, in this case riches. But skin color, sex, body build, or even singing voice at church (remember God told us to sing, not sing well) in addition to wealth are not standards for judging a person’s value to God. God is not one to show partiality.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Act 10:34-35)

God does not care if the Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, Kenyans, Mongolians, or any other person from any  nation comes to him, all can be accepted.  Notice the key: Those that fear (respect him) and do what is right. Once again, God has standards and our life should not be lived in such a way as to violate those standards.

What motivates you to make a distinction? If it is something beyond a person’s control don’t do it. If it is a behavior issue and you can correct it, do so with love.

Treat your tongue like a horse: Bridle it!

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
(Jas 1:26)

Even though we are looking at this book slowly, one verse or two at a time, the larger context cannot be forgotten. In the book of James, this is not the first time, nor that last, that he counsels on the speech of a Christian. Here, it is very definite, that he is taking seriously the connection between what a person says and the worth of his religion. A person can THINK that he is religious and still have that religion be worthless based on how he speaks.

In Matthew 6, Jesus said that the prayers (speaking) of the Pharisees were of no value in their relationship to God. In fact, one parable (Luke 18) in the NKJV the Pharisee is said to pray ‘thus with himself” and while the context means that he was standing off by himself, the joining of those words can leave the impression that he prayed by himself, to himself and not really to God.  Worthless speech indeed. He also in Matthew 6 warns against empty phrases or vain repetitions which the Gentiles use.

James talks about an unbridled tongue and if you look back to the preceding verses we again might see some examples of when a tongue needs to be bridled:

  • Asking of God, but in faith, according to His will v5
  • Poor brothers who need to boast in exhalation v9
  • Rich brothers who need to boast in humiliation v10
  • During temptations-so that he doesn’t say “I am tempted by God” v13
  • As he hears the word that can save his soul-so that he doesn’t erupt in anger v 19

In addition to the previous verses in which speech is indicated or implied, James will have much more to say on the use of the tongue starting in chapter 3.

We see then, that while James has illustrated in verses 22-25 that actions (hearing with the doing) are important, speech is equally so.  We might not think of speech as important but it is also type of action. A person’s speech can invalidate his religion. Again, James says “do not be deceived” and isn’t that just the way with us. We fall so easily into a ‘that’s not so bad’ mentality.

This has to go beyond taking the Lord’s name in vain. Or, maybe we don’t understand what a vain use of God’s name is. We all recognize that profanity with the name of the Lord is wrong. However, I would suggest to you that calling out to God in an unserious way is just as bad. I refer, of course, to those who, in their excitement use ‘God’ as if it some expression of Joy.

While it could be an expression of joy (cf  Jn. 20:28), it is not the meaning given when someone shouts out “Oh my–” or abbreviates it “OM-!” in a text message.

Bridling the tongue in both sad times and joyous times is still an essential part of the Christian life. While we DO things that let our faith shine forth, we also need to SPEAK in a way that lets our faith shine forth. Hebrews 11:14 says that there is a speech that let’s people know we belong to the world above. I would also suggest that “Lord willing” is a good phrase that should grace the Christian’s tongue quiet often.

Let us not speak lies or half-truths, let us be kind in our words and not cutting with clever phrases. Let there be no filthiness or foolish talking, or crude jokes, or innuendos but rather let there thanksgiving. (see Eph 5:1-6) I once had a roommate who, while professing to be a Christian (God knows if he was) insisted in using what he called ‘Man language’ (as opposed to the innocent language of boys).  I reject that premise. I think James would too.

Cursing men and praising God with the same tongue? My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

Put down the sin and back away!

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  (Jas 1:21 ESV)

When ever you see the word “therefore” you should look and see what it is there for! And sure enough, this therefore is there for a reason. It concludes a thought that James is expressing and brings to close an argument (or at least a portion of it) that he has been making.  Because we are responsible for our own temptations and sins and God is the one who is giving us all of the good gifts, especially being born again into his family, we need to stop! Listen! and realize that our anger at our perceptions of reality (which are not the way things really are) is messed up. So….

We should put away something and receive something that will benefit us.

That which we are to put away is all of the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our lives. Wait! What is that? Filth and wickedness?  Isn’t James talking to Christians who had been washed in the blood of Jesus? Cleansed from their old sins? How can they have filth and wickedness? Sure, a little sin once in a while (everyone does) but “filth” is such a …well, it is such a filthy word! Don’t even get me started on wickedness. Contrary to the popular usage (or the little note of encouragement that WordPress gave me at post 14 “Wicked!”) it is not a compliment.

James is not the first person to address this issue and every Christian realizes that from about 5 minutes after coming up out of the grave, sin is still a possibility. We are not mechanically prevented from sinning. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6 and told those Christians that they could not live in sin any longer.  In this context though, the filthiness and wickedness would be attributable to a life that was not lived in faith and, worse yet, one that blamed God for the situation.  You can see now perhaps why James goes on from here to give so much good practical advice to his audience on how to live a life of faith and the many actions that will show that you live a life of faith.

I like the phrase ‘put away’. It is used in several meanings. 

  1. To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
  2. To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
  3. To be victorious over. “He put him away with that final shot”

In either case, the understanding should be to remove that stuff out of your life because it does not belong there.

To contrast the putting away and removal of filth and wickedness, James says you are to receive something. In this case, the implanted word.

How you are to receive it is very important: with meekness. As I have heard all my life, “meek doesn’t mean weak” but we still tend to think of it that way. Actually, meek has more to do with the control of strength not  the absence of strength. A meek horse is still a powerful animal but, rather than flexing his muscles and running away with or bucking off the rider, he permits the rider to be there. We also need to permit the word that God has implanted to be there. To fight against it and to tear it out is not good for us.

Jesus spreading seedThe illustration reminds me of the parable of the sower. In that parable, the seed was also the word of God and it fell on four soils. These have already proven themselves not to be the hard soil and probably not the rocky soil. Judging by James’ book, I think he was concerned that they may be the thorny soil. When the word is implanted into the soil (our hearts) if we receive it with meekness, it is able to save our souls. If we do not, well… it cannot do its job.

James is going to expand on this thought in the next few verses. What we need to consider, as we read the word, is are we receiving the word with meekness or trying to remake it into our own image and plans? One last cliché to close. We have seen those bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. While the thought is nice, I would suggest that God should be the pilot!  Let’s meekly let God direct us in His paths.

Can you hear me now?

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (Jas 1:19-20 ESV)

Part of not being deceived (see a  previous post) is knowing what is right and true. James does not want these beloved brethren to fall into the trap of deception. Some types of knowledge are a necesary thing.

James is going to give them knowledge that is essential and applicable in so many ways. It is certainly good advice to listen more than you speak in social situations. In sales, good salesmen are those who listen more than they talk. However, James’ advice (while applicable in relationship to others) is directed at our relationship with God and towards listening and responding to Him.

Be swift to hear: When you want to do something, you are quick to get to it. If you are going to play a game with friends in the morning, you shower fast, dress fast, eat fast, and rush out the door. Excitement motivates you. (Hopefully the same excitement happens on Sunday morning for worship services….but I digress). 

Someone once said “God gave us two ears and one mouth; we should use them in that proportion.”  James would agree.  

Slow to speak: The pause between another’s expression of  thoughts and the words starting out of your mouth should be more than 5 nanoseconds. Allowing the time to fully digest the words to which you were intently (i.e. swiftly) listening will allow the nutrition of them to be processed and used more readily. This can sometimes take 10 full seconds…or even longer.

In this context, David’s words may apply. The righteous one “meditates” on His law. (Psalms 1) Hearing God’s words and then thinking about them and considering them before you act or speak rashly is a good idea.

Slow to wrath: Those with a quick fuse are going to have problems. In fact, by this point in the book, James might even be expecting some anger as his audience hears these words read to them. Read back from verse 2 to this point and see if these might not be responses in a person who was not quick to hear, slow to speak or slow to wrath:

  • “What do you mean rejoice in trials? Life is hard, there is no joy!”
  • “Why does my faith have to be tested? I am faithful. God shouldn’t need to test me.”
  • “I didn’t know what to do and asked God, he didn’t answer me.”
  • “What do you mean I didn’t have the faith in my request?”
  • “I am what? double-minded?”
  • “What exaltation? I am poor and that no good greedy rich guy won’t share his money so I am going to go occupy his Jerusalem, Rome, and Antioch” (oh wait, that thought won’t happen for 2, 000 years from when James wrote this.)
  • “Why should I be humbled? I am rich. I should be treated better.”
  • “God does too tempt me. It has to be Him, it can’t be my fault!”

For any one of these responses, God has something to say and James is delivering that message to these Christians. It is not, of course, an exhaustive list, nor does it need to be. If we will simply put into practice the art of listening to God and not trying to talk our way into what we want to do, or getting angry when things don’t go the way we want them to go, life will be better-especially the one to come.

Consider that he says ‘the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God’. How true that was with Cain. He brought an unacceptable sacrifice and became angry. God spoke to him but he was not willing to listen. He ended up killing his brother.  

There is a difference between the anger of man and of God. God’s anger is directed at ungodliness whereas the anger of man is generally directed at godliness, especially when such godliness is showing their faults.  

The reason why James wants us to listen more than we speak is because you can learn something when you listen. I have had the occasion, several occasions actually, to debate  a point with someone only to discover after the conversation was over and time had passed, that his point was a good one or that we actually agreed and were arguing over semantics.

James will tell us what to do once we accept this simple advice in the next few verses. When a person will actually remove anger, stop talking and start listening, much can be accomplished.

The Gift from above

 lots of gifts in boxesEvery good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (Jas 1:17-18 ESV)

As God finished each day of creation, the text says that his creation was “good” and when finished, the whole thing was “very good”.  When we think of the gifts that people give to other people, sometimes those gifts are not so good. Sometimes they are inadequate and sometimes not appropriate to the person who is recieving the gift.

However, God gives us good gifts, things that are necessary and adequate for us. He meets our needs, not always our wants. Sure, we may not have as much as we think we need but when we serve God, even if we were to die of hunger, there is a feast waiting. The struggle we have oftentimes is to trust God and wait for him.

James has just told his readers not to attribute to God bad things (temptations) and here he reminds them why: God doesn’t give us bad things! In fact, contrast HIS WILL with OUR WILL and you see a big difference. When left to our will, we bring forth all sorts of hurts, lusts, desires that come from our heart.  These are not good gifts for the benefit of others but, rather for our own benefit. (Wait till we get to chapter four!)

However, God not only provides for us the things that give us life in this world (food and clothing with which we should be content 1 Tim. 6:8), he provided us the greatest gifts from above that will give  us life in the world to come: first, in the person of Jesus who modeled His will, and second, in the person of the Holy Spirit who reminds us of his will, having first inspired the Apostles to write it down for us and second by dwelling in us.

The heart is the source of a person’s quality and character. When you look at how God choose to manifest HIS desires, qualities and characters, we see that it resulted in bringing us forth through the word of truth.   By obedience to the Gospel (the word of truth), we are born again. 

 We are now a kind of firstfruits. Certainly that would be more true of the Christians to whom James was writing but it is also true of us. Much can be said about the firstfruits but one thing is certain: If there are firstfruits, there will be secondfruits. We not only have the joy of being brought forth by God’s word but we have the opportunity to be the source of spreading that same word to have others brought forth too. If only we would not try to do our own will. 

James will have more to say about how to mold our will to His next.

%d bloggers like this: