Another version of the same passage says that Love is not easily provoked. I don’t think there is one of us with an older or younger sibling, who does not understand the meaning of the word “provoked”. Either we were the provoker or the victim! Hopefully, as we grew older, in most cases, that type of early childhood provocation died away.
Yet, we know people today, adults, who will, with the slightest hint of provocation, unleash a whole barrage of anger. They then turn around and say “YOU make me so angry” or “That’s the way I am”. Some even blame their heritage or hair-itage. “I am Irish” or “I have red hair”, they say.
Love does not rush to wrath. In fact, if we were to follow the advice James offers us: be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, we might avoid a lot of problems in our own lives and create fewer difficulites in the lives of others.
James says that the “wrath of man” does not work the righteousness of God. Perhaps I am incorrect, but in the context of James, I think he contrasts “man’s wrath and will” with “God’s will” and implies God’s wrath is different.
We understand that God does show wrath but after how long of a time? The patience he showed while the ark was being built, while the sin of the Ammorites increased, with Nineveh during the days of Jonah, with Israel….all through their existence, teaches us two things very clearly. God’s wrath is slow in coming and is not something you want to experience.
Love does not allow the little things to provoke it. Love is bigger than the petty things that those who have not learned to love are interested in. Love will show wrath at appropriate times but the childish provocations of children and worldly people are not the times to let loose.
Can you imagine if Jesus had displayed the wrath of man?
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Pe 2:22-23)
How would the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17) been shown, if Jesus had been so easily provoked! (I hasten to add, that I speak in hyperbole when I say “easily provoked”, He showed remarkable constraint) What if He had called those 12 legions of angels? Where would the Gospel be?
Question: What causes you to get angry the quickest? Is that trigger mechanism something you have prayed to God about?
Photo Credit: Matt Erasmus
** 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.
- To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
- To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
- 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.
The 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?
Imagine you desire to run a marathon, set the goal of finishing the marathon, learn what it takes to train for the marathon and then…don’t put any of it into practice or keep hitting the snooze button! How much closer are you going to get to training for the marathon? Well, of course you are not getting closer.
Activity or practice of what you learn is an essential part of training. In a marathon situation, you practice setting a pace, breathing correctly, even perhaps how to grab a drink from a refreshment stand, drinking a little bit and pouring the rest over your head (I suppose). The point is, if you don’t put your knowledge into practice, it will not benefit you.
James is a classic epistle for talking about putting one’s knowledge into action in the spiritual realm. You learn more patience as you go through the trials than by watching other people do so. You learn more by comforting other people going through those trials than by reading about the ‘right thing to say’. As Job suffered through the trials Satan threw at him, he relied on what he knew about God and his years of experience to keep himself from sinning.
David, in facing Goliath, had previous experience in facing threats which helped prepare him for that situation. In all of it, he credited God with seeing him through. As God saw David through a fight with the lion and the bear, God will help us with the biggest lion of all. Satan is a roaring lion out to devour whoever he can. Activity helps us in our training.
Is attending church services such an activity? Is reading your Bible such an activity? Will these help you become more godly? The truth is, no godly Christian would fail attend church services or read their Bible, but how mature you are will make a difference to the answer. A newborn Christian will most certainly get trained in godliness by attending services but, as you mature, you need to be sure that you are not just a pew-warmer 5 years later. Reading your Bible is always going to move your forward, as long as you do not simply read the same passages over and over and fail to go a little deeper into the text. Apparently those to whom Hebrews was written has such a problem:
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14 ESV)
This audience of God’s people missed out (as did we) on an opportunity to learn more about Melchizedek because they were dull of hearing when they should have been teachers. They had reverted back to milk and they did not have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice. In other words, no activity!
Don’t let the fear of mistakes stop you, you simply have to put what you have learned into action. If you talk to much, practice listening more. Make it a priority and a prayer item. If you use foul language, be aware of the times your react like that and, either avoid those situations, or pay attention to your actions so you can conquer the reaction and replace it with an appropriate response.
We don’t get to Heaven by being perfect (or at least perfect in ourselves) but as we add a virtue like godliness to our life, we become more like our Lord and assure ourselves of an entrance into that kingdom.
What activities help you exercise yourself toward godliness?
The question of “Who is Jesus?” is a question that is asked many times. Almost everyone has heard such a question. The question of course, can be asked in many different ways and I won’t take the time to list them here (but I just became inspired for sermon outline. LOL).
To the Christian, Jesus is the Lord of all. He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for our sins, the One who brings peace between God and man. He is the King and Ruler and all authority rests with Him. That last one is important.
Authority lies somewhere. You might have a problem at a business establishment and so you talk to the clerk and maybe the manager and if the problem is bad enough, you can talk to the owner or the CEO and even then, you can go further to the stock holders or the public opinion route. If the offense is bad enough you can talk to the courts and if the laws aren’t what they should be you can talk to your congressional representative, up to the president and Supreme court and then back again to the people to change the law if needed. All in a search for the person with the authority to deal with the issue.
You can’t go higher than Jesus. The Father has given to Jesus all authority. (Mt 28:18-20) So to the Christian, the statement that Jesus is Lord and King, should mean allegiance to Him and what he wants of us.
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (Joh 8:24)
We accept that statement as Gospel truth. However, now the question is, Since we know who Jesus is, do we live like we believe it? Take for example, James’s statement:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! (Jas 2:19)
Mark records that they knew him as well.
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” (Mar 1:23-24)
And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mar 1:34)
Do your actions show your belief in Him? Knowing him, believing that God is one, and even calling him the Holy One of God was not enough to save the demons. (For those who have read my blog for a while, you will remember that James is breaking the word “believe” into components and uses it to indicate a simple “mental acceptance of a fact” and lacking actions that show that the fact has any importance to you.(read this or this one)
So again, I ask: Who is Jesus to you really? The answer can be found, not in your words but in your actions. Even reading the Bible might not be an indication because we are “to be doers and not hearers only” (James 1) but doing something like ‘visiting the widows and orphans” while certainly an action, might not be done in faith. Both are necessary.
Here is the challenge: 99% of us will read a post like this and think , Yes, I can, or need to, do better. Well, make a plan to do so. Pick ONE item today that if you start doing it will make a difference in your spiritual walk with the Lord. It might be more time reading of the Bible (and that is a great place to start so that you will know better what to do), more time praying, it might be taking the list of sick in the church bulletin and sending a card to them. A 101 other activities can be done to help and not all actions will make a difference in your life or in your life today. However, we, a Christians walk and talk and live in a certain way. Let’s do more of it.
Who is Jesus to you? Really?
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. (Jas 3:14)
It may not be that a person has wisdom at all. It may be that instead of wanting to be a wise teacher, he really is a bitter, envious, self-seeking individual. James’ advice is that this person face the truth as opposed to trying to deny it.
Looking back on chapter one, James talks about the person who looks intently into the perfect law of liberty. That person looks into it, sees hows he is and by continuing in that law, he will improve more and more. James also talks about the person who says he is religious and yet, he deceives himself. Don’t be that guy. His religion is useless.
There are many sources of envy and while I might be a little hard pressed to explain the difference between envy and envy which can be considered ‘bitter”, I am pretty sure that I do not want either of them to be among my possessions. Envy is a word that is very close to covet or jealous and none of these emotions are good things. I think of envy as something you feel when you do not possess something which someone else has. That something, be it a possession, a position, or a prize is something which you also wish (lust) to have and because someone else has it, you resent or despise the person for what they have.
James ties in “self-seeking” with this because truly what we are talking about is an attitude of “me first’ and not just first, but second and last also. If you look at the beginning verse in this chapter, perhaps one of the reasons that James does not want many to become teachers is because so many times, it goes to our heads. There is always another teacher who is better, there is always another one who receives this or that honor, there is always another blogger with more subscribers (Hey now!) and so it goes.
Jesus warned against having honor among men, actually he warned against doing things so that you would have honor among men. James seems to be warning about the same thing. If you have these things, then admit that you do. Don’t sit there and lie against the truth.
As a person looks intently into the law of liberty, as they work on being a doer and not a forgetful hearer, as they see those things that they need to correct, they need to admit that it is so. Only by admitting the problem can you begin to correct the problem. Peter had that problem. He didn’t know his own weakness and when Jesus (the Word) told him plainly, he boasted all the more “I will not deny you” yet, in the end, he did.
I have often wondered, who do the teachers confess to? You never see a preacher respond to his own invitation to come forward and confess sins. No, that would be bad, people would lose confidence in him and that can’t be allowed to happen. It may not be that you see it but a teacher does need to have his own person(s) with whom he can be honest. Otherwise, he may get caught up with sins that he will not admit.
When that happens, he stumbles as we all do and yet it is worse for the teacher than the one who is not a teacher.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (Jas 3:5-8)
Forest fires are started with very small fires. It doesn’t take a lot to ignite fuel that is there and in some cases fuel is not prone to burn. Fire is an interesting entity. I do not have the experience of being a fire fighter but I am told that fire creates its own weather. Things change inside of a fire and even once it appears to be out, it can flair up again.
Understanding that it doesn’t take much to get a forest fire going helps us understand James’ metaphor (or is it an “analogy”) that the tongue is a fire. The ability of the tongue to set ablaze a great ‘forest’ is not one that we have to much doubt about. Experience itself, will confirm by the time you are 12 that if you use your tongue for gossip or slander that you can create a whole world of hurt, not just for yourself but for others.
Gossip can stir up many problems and even separate the best of friends. (Prov 16:28) Those that gossip become involved in saying things that they ought not to say. (I tim 5:13) The trouble with Gossip is that it is so hard to define. “But it’s true!” says the Gossip. However, “true” doesn’t make it “not gossip” nor does it make it tame. Great problems are caused that way.
James says the tongue is a world of unrighteousness. A “world” of unrighteousness! Think about that. In Matthew 15:18-20 shows us that the mouth pulls things out of our heart. That heart, is ours, no one can ‘see’ it (save God) and within that heart exist all sorts of things: evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. That is quite a list! If it is true that each mind is a world, then James has just said ours is full of unrighteousness.
I should note that I don’t think that James is saying that our world is totally filled with unrighteous, obviously being washing in Christ sanctifies us, but as we all know, the temptations still continue, originating from our own desires and we better not use our tongue to say “God is tempting me.” (1:13f) It is when the tongue is not managed that we create the largest problems.
James also says that the tongue is set on fire by Hell. I think James is using this, also as a metaphor for the temptations that we face; temptations that we properly associate with demons. How many times have we spoken out of wrath or envy or pride? More times than I care to count!
Controlling the tongue is not an easy thing to do. In fact, we have better luck taming wild animals that can tear us limb from limb than we do the tongue which can cut a person to shreds in a moment! Once said, it can’t be taken back. The poison that a tongue can unleash will spread and not only creates enemies but destroys friendships.
When I think about the tongue of man, I can’t help but compare it to the tongue of God. God spoke and the world came into existence. Our words also create a world. When you speak well to friends, spouses, family your world is at peace, when you don’t…Well, we have all seen THAT family!
Question: In regards to Gossip, does anyone have a good definition that they like?
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (Jas 3:5)
We all remember the song we learned or taught to kids in Sunday School. “oh be careful little hands what you do” and one of those verses says “Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say!” This verse may well have been inspired by this section in James!
So James has just explained how the small rudder or small bridle is able to control such force of strength in the horse or the wind, allowing the driver to go in the direction that he wants to go. I think it would be worth putting out the thought that we are all heading in some direction. It could be Heaven, it could be Hell or it could be ‘in circles’. (which is the same thing as NOT heading toward Heaven). James says the tongue is a big part of that direction.
It is small and, really, it is. While other parts of our body are easily seen, the tongue hides away. Unless one opens his mouth, it doesn’t say anything. However, it can say so many things and as James points out, it boasts of great things. I understand this use of the word ‘tongue’ to refer to what we say, how we speak, and really that all gets back to our heart because the mouth speaks what is in the heart. (Mt 15:18) James wants to warn them of the trouble you get into by boasting. Prov 21:23 says “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble”
Great boasters of the Bible would include Lamech (Gen 4), Goliath (I sam 17), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 6), Jezebel (I kings 19), Haman (Esther), Korah (Num 16) and who can forget the little horn of Daniel 7 or Rev 13? Indeed, we can point to sinners and rebellious ones who turn their backs on God, boasting in their own abilities but what about those other great boasters!
Peter (Mt 26:33), Samson (Judges 16:20), Jephthah (Judges 11:30), and Moses (Num 20:10) represent the other side of the equation, using their mouth to promise things or say things that they had no ability to fulfill. These, who would be followers of God and were men of faith, (all of them are mentioned in Hebrews 11-the faith all of fame) yet their tongue got them into trouble and brought misery into their life. Moses, in particular, was denied entrance into the promised land. Ouch!
“I am a great teacher” some may be tempted to say. Others boast in those who they follow. (I cor 1) Some boast in the future (James will talk about his later) saying “I will be profitable”. Some boasted that they had faith (James 2:18) All of these things are vanity and puffing up your own self.
Boasting in the things which you say you have, or which you say you can do, or will do, or even did do is truly a vanity. James has already said in Chapter one that the poor should boast in their exaltation (not that it is of themselves but of the Lord) and the rich should boast in their humiliation (because only the humble rich man will ever see Heaven. Knowing that your riches don’t count is a big step). And Paul exemplifies this principle of not boasting in vain things when he says that he forgets what is behind and presses forward, being too busy reaching the prize in Jesus to boast of his own accomplishments.
In applying this, we can once again go back to chapter one and this time, verse 19 “let a man be quick to hear and slow to speak…”
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 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.
Maybe James is expecting some protesting from his audience. Maybe he expects them to say that they are not showing partiality, that James misunderstands. They might protest “Custom or respect requires some special treatment for the rich person.” As I said in my last post, if the President were to visit, you could welcome him saying “Mr. President….” and this would be respectful of the position. But, to fawn over him because of his influence or the prestige of having him in your congregation is something James would have us guard against, especially when another brother of lower estate is shuffled off to the overflow seating….why not give him your seat next to the President?
Anyway, James says “Well, if you really are doing the royal law, then good” however, he doesn’t drop it there. Recognizing that this audience might not be letting his words sink in, that is, they are not being “swift to hear, slow to speak”, he still adds the warning: If you show partiality, it is a sin and the Law tells you the same thing.
Which law you have to ask? Which law indeed? The law of Christ or of Moses? In this case, (though I think he refers to Moses’ law) the two overlap. The 2nd greatest commandment that Jesus talked about with the Pharisees is the Royal Law that James mentions and under either law, when you do not show the love for your neighbor that you would show for yourself, you sin. Showing partiality is a sin in God’s eyes.
Peter had this problem and Paul rebuked him in Gal 2. It was the judgment of some Jewish Christians that Gentiles should not be eaten with. When they showed up, Peter got caught up in it and then so did Barnabas. Barnabas! Even the son encouragement (cf Acts 4:36) was drawn into a less than encouraging situation.
James indicates that no mercy was being shown to the poor brother. Instead evil thoughts and judgment dishonored him. However, the problem with the dishonored brother is not just a problem for the poor brother. (Hopefully he will look past it and boast in his exaltation. James 1:9) There is now a problem for the judge, the brother showing partiality; he is now condemned and condemned as a lawbreaker. Worse, he showed no mercy to his brother, what mercy should he expect from God?
Lord willing, We shall continue this thought tomorrow…..
For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (Jas 2:2-4 ESV)
So James continues to show in these verses, and the ones to follow, the sin of partiality. Those who have a faith that is called Christian should not be partial based on superficial means.
It is not entirely clear from the text if James has in mind a rich Christian who might be passing through or simply a visitor who happened to wander into the assembly. Paul makes mention of visitors in I cor 14:23 so such a thing is possible. However, in either case, paying attention to the richly dressed rich man and shunning the poorly dressed poor man puts those who do that in a bad spot.
First, James says that distinctions have been made among yourselves. A class warfare so to speak and possibly similar to what happened in Corinth. Paul addressed this in the first chapter of I Corinthians concerning those who made distinctions based on names of preachers . Second, he asks, in what I think is a question obviously designed to be answered “yes!”, if they have not become judges with evil thoughts?
It is bad enough to make yourself a judge and he will have more to say on this in the book but this judge is one with ‘evil thoughts’. A quick consult of a concordance and you can see ‘evil thoughts’ appearing in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21. At the end of a discussion on Corban (a scheme by which the pharisees enriched themselves in so-called service to God), Jesus says that from the heart proceed evil thoughts. I would suggest that covetousness would be included in that context and this one.
Maybe they just were hoping that this rich man would drop a Talent or two into the collection plate. I am sure no one expected more than 1/2 a shilling from the poor man if that much. After all, they had buildings to build, salaries to pay, programs to fund…oh wait, once again I am getting a few centuries ahead of myself. Maybe they saw him as a potential business partner, client or someone who had connections that would help them out. In either case, the fact that they were well dressed became an enticement and their own lusts brought forth sin. (mmmm, heard that somewhere! 1:13-15) James says “don’t let the sin grow up!”
Another danger to this would be that the rich man might fall for this partial treatment and consider himself to be somebody special. Jesus was subject to this kind of flattery and yet did not succumb to it. Still, who is to say that this person might not think “wow! I must be someone.” Of course the truth is ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female and let me add ‘black nor white, rich nor poor’ we are all one in Christ. Gal 3:26-29
Still another danger would be that the poor man in seeing this might become discouraged and fall. Sure temptations will come and even the poor must endure them (1:3 and 9) but woe to the one who puts the stumbling block in his way.
I am sure that the person showing partiality had a logical reason for doing so. However, let me suggest that if the President of the United States (pick your favorite, Obama, Bush or Reagan) were to come into your assembly and a poor man from the poor side of town were to choose that day to visit also. The best you could do is say “Mr. President…Welcome. Please go find a seat. Sit where you like.” and to the poor man. Sir, welcome….please go find a seat. Sit where you like.”
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jas 1:23-25 ESV)
In the previous post we paid attention to the thoughts of looking at the natural face in the mirror in verses 23 and 24. The expectation is, that if you look into a mirror, you will correct what needs to be corrected. Why look in a mirror otherwise?
Have you ever had your mother ask: Did you look in the mirror? She doesn’t mean: “Did you only look in the mirror?” Nope. She means, ‘If you had looked in the mirror, you would not have failed to correct what I can see needs to be corrected, so go back, look, and correct it!” (Mothers have a way of putting a lot of meaning in one short question.) James’ point likewise is: Those that hear but don’t do are like those who see in a mirror but do not do (correct) what needs to be done (corrected).
In today’s post, with the word “but” in verse 25, James is going to change his subject. Instead of the person who hears and does not do, he is now going to talk about the person who hears and does. This person also examines himself and his mirror is the perfect law, the law of liberty.
Anytime you bring the word “law” into a conversation on spiritual things, there is always the risk of misunderstanding. It seems strange, at first, that James would suggest that one who perseveres in the law will be blessed, yet that is exactly what he says. I will offer a brief note on this with the realization that, in one short post, it will not be possible to cover every angle of this topic.
It is my understanding though, that as James qualifies it, he calls it the law of liberty. How does this law differ from other law, say the law of Moses? First, if we divide the Law of Moses into two broad categories, we have the ceremonial law and the moral law. We understand that the ceremonies, most of which pointed to Jesus, our ultimate sacrifice, have gone away. However, I think we also understand that the moral laws regarding murder, lust, brotherly love, godliness have not gone away at all, nor could they.
The moral standards are still the aim of every Christian. Still, we have not kept, nor does it seem we are able to keep, a law where the standard is “perfection or death”. The Liberty comes in Christ, whose blood cleanses us from our sins. We are not condemned for imperfection in keeping the law; we are liberated from the consequence of imperfection. So, since we don’t have to be perfect in it, can we then just not do the things we ought? Paul answers that in chapter 6 of Romans: God forbid!
So the persevering is something James wants these Christians to do. Paul’s illustration of a runner running for a prize shows perseverance and if you have ever done a 5k or marathon run, you know place that perseverance plays. James seems to link in this verse the idea of persevere with ‘hearing and doing’. As if to say, I am defining a perseverer in this way: One who hears and does.
Finally the reward: Those who persevere, that is, hear and do, will be blessed in what they do. Read Psalms 1:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psa 1:1-3 ESV)
David describes one whose delight and meditation (more than a casual consideration) are in the law of the Lord. He says this person will be prospered in what he does. Sounds a lot like what James is saying. The message should be clear: Hear the word of the Lord, Do the word of the Lord and you will be blessed.