Right from the beginning James establishes himself as a mere servant of the Lord. As a bondservant he's joined his life to the Lord eternally. By calling himself a bondservant James places himself among the lowest of low in the eyes of the world.
James addressed this letter to the 12 tribes. This was primarily the church at that time. We can take this letter as being written to all Christians, both Jews and gentile. The gentiles just weren't a prominent part of the church yet.
James doesn't say 'if' trials come, he says 'when'. Trials are inevitable in life. We should accept that truth as part of life and then establish how we will receive those trials. There are a couple things we can do. First, James is encouraging the brethren to count it all joy. This is keeping our eyes on a Sovereign God. It's saying, these tribulations are all part of life, accept the trials and receive them as such. In John 16:33, John records Jesus saying, In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Count it all joy, be of good cheer, the tests are coming! When trials come our faith is being tested. The various trials are the variety of ways we are being examined for flaws. The flaws aren't so much failures as opportunities to grow in our faith; to exercise it in a broader field and variety of settings. Our attitude towards these trials reveals our faith for us and for others to see.
The testing of your faith produces patience. The word for patience here is the Greek word hu-pomone'. It doesn't mean sitting quietly waiting for things to get better. It's not that kind of patience. Hu-pomone' is perseverance and endurance. The testing of your faith produces perseverance and endurance to continue on in the race set before you.
Remember Paul and the writer of Hebrews used this often. We are in the agon, the race course set before you. The word is agon is closely associated with agony. It's the setting of our life. Our faith is tested there and with each test our ability to endure is extended or increased. With each trial we learn to count it all a joy in spite of all we may see and feel. Our hope and belief in the world to come gives us courage and motivates us to endure all things here for the glory of God.
Now, before we move on, I said there were a couple ways of dealing with trials. We need to look at the other response to the various trials. The first response is one of commitment and obedience in faith. The opposite of that response is one of doubt, unbelief, fear, questioning and wavering. We all have to admit we often become quite familiar with this response and it is a much more natural response for us. When trials come, we're more apt to say, Awww, not again! Why me? Why can't I catch a break? I have the worst luck! I can't believe this is happening to me. Counting it all a joy must be conscious and intentional until it becomes a habit to count the suffering as joy.
Note: Hold on tight, we're only on verse 3 and James is already challenging us. Remember, he is calling the church to uncompromising obedience and commitment.
God wants us to trend toward perfection and completeness. This is full grown, becoming spiritually mature. When we resist the work God is trying to do, we remain spiritually immature. Resisting God's efforts to grow us is like trying to remain a small child by holding onto childish things. At some point we all realized we couldn't remain children forever. Remember that first birthday or Christmas when you no longer got toys? It was a mixed reaction of something lost and something gained. We are to look ahead, press on and embrace growing older. As kids, we did that at the urging of our parents or caretakers. They taught us manners; taught us when to speak and when not to. We were taught to share, kindness and caring for others. Many times we were taught these lessons kicking and screaming along the way, "You can't make me! You can't make me!!" Then, suddenly, at age 12 to 14 we all run headlong and headstrong, th other way. It's like we suddenly decide, yup, I'm an adult. And we all thought we were much older and more mature than we actually were. Our parents now tell stories of these times and show us pictures to remind us how obnoxious we were.
Spiritual maturity is very similar, although it has nothing to do with age. It comes from lessons learned. It comes from the mentoring of our Heavenly Father and those he puts in our lives to guide us. Sometimes we go through these lessons kicking and screaming, "You can't make me! You can't make me!" Spiritual Maturity doesn't happen overnight; uncompromising obedience takes time. And this process of growth comes much easier when we have a good attitude. When we decide to mature and receive our lessons because we know that's what the Lord wants of us. And we should always be mindful of our tendency to see ourselves more mature than we are. This will show up as self-righteousness when others see it. We've all experienced people like that.
Let the trials come. Recognize them for what they are. Let these trials test your faith. Allow them to build up endurance. If we are in Christ and He is in us, all that happens to us is known and allowed by God. He asks us continually, "Do you trust me?" Yes Lord, I trust you with this. Then a new trial comes, Yes, but do you trust me with this?
James said trials that we endure do their perfect work on us. Paul agreed. Listen to what Paul said in Romans 5:3-4: And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
James and Paul used the same word here. Hu-pomone' is translated patience in James. It's translated perseverance in Romans. We endure trials and persevere through them and that perseverance builds Christian character. This is maturity. That maturity or Christian character produces hope. This hope is a solid grasp of all the promises that God has made. In Hebrews we said that hope plays out in our life as faith. It's the walk and talk and works done in this life because of the greater promises; because of the inheritance to come.
God wants us to have a strong faith. He wants us to grow up and he provides the trials. These trials crush the part of me that wants to control everything. These tribulations confirm I can't Lord over my life. Every time we are put through the fire we are purified. The perfect work that comes from tribulation is putting to death the old man and becoming that much more a new person in Christ.
Wisdom is an important part of dealing with tribulation. Someone said knowledge is knowing how to take something apart. Wisdom is knowing how to put it back together. I like this one better. Knowledge is the knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is the understanding that you don't put tomatoes' in fruit salads.
James said If you lack wisdom, ask of God. I think this is fascinating. The implication is that there were some who lacked wisdom in their walk through these various trials of life. What is wisdom? We tend to confuse wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge you get at school or from books. It's basic training; giving you the basic tools for survival. Wisdom comes from life and experience and endurance. It's being on the front line. It's when all those lessons others were trying to teach you all make sense.
You can go to Sunday school, vacation bible school and church all your life. This may give you some basic spiritual knowledge you need. But it's out in the world that you learn to apply that knowledge. We can all imagine going through trials. We have the knowledge of God's word on one hand. And we have our life circumstances in the other. It is wisdom that ties the two together. Wisdom is applying God's truth to your life when you are in the fire. It's the application of the knowledge of the Lord. It is Wisdom that keeps us from wasting the opportunities that come from tribulation.
If you lack wisdom, you need to ask for it. This can be as simple as asking God to help you make sense of the trial you are in. If we can see it isn't all just about pain and sorrow or persecution and affliction and it has a godly purpose we'll be less likely to mess it up. We can't be complete in our approach to trials and our endurance of those trials without wisdom.
We need to take a biblical approach to our personal trials. Our lives are full of them. We tend to think of trials as these big things; losing your job, family issues, temptation from addiction or a bad diagnosis. But we also face small trials every day. Our days are filled with many seemingly small trials. For some getting out of bed is a trial. Or getting out of the house is a trial. James didn't put any qualification on these trials. If we don't use a biblical approach to our every trial no matter how large or small we lack wisdom. Wisdom starts with recognizing the trials.
Here's where I think we mess up. The hour to hour, day to day stuff, we often forget to seek the Lord over. We act as if these things are too small. Then when the big things hit we act as if those are too large; as if our problems are too large for God. That approach is unwise. Ask for wisdom. Ask for God's guidance in your situation.
Ask God in faith. Trust that He will grant wisdom. Don't doubt. To doubt is like being lost in the sea at the mercy of the wind. We live in a world that is double minded and unstable. Like the waves of the ocean, they are up and down. You never know what the next minute will bring. It is so easy to get drawn into that. We have to be determined to not be drawn into that doubt. We are to be people of faith and live that way.
We stand in our agon; the setting of our life. We have the knowledge of God's word. It is the wisdom of God that ties them together. By that wisdom, our trials aren't wasted. The perfect work is done when we endure our trials and tribulations.
It is appropriate for the lowly to find joy when the Lord lifts them up. Think about this now. The lowly man is exalted by the Lord. What's he going to do? "The Lord lifted me up, He set me on high." There's celebration and jubilation and that's okay because the glory goes to God. In the same way, when the rich are humbled through trials and tribulations it is also appropriate for them to glory in it. Just like the lowly celebrates and there is jubilation, the rich man in trials should celebrate and be jubilant in the same way. Count it all a joy. God is working on you.
I think we can each count ourselves among the richly blessed. Trials and tribulations keep us humble and do God's work in our life. With no trials, we would trust in our riches. We would count our blessings only in materialistic things and not in the Lord who gives all things. One commentator put it this way, "As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches. By faith in Christ the two are equals." Trials and tribulations are the great equalizer. In trials and tribulations there is no rich, no poor because when you are in trouble you no longer look at this world but look beyond. We lift our eyes and hearts and minds to eternal thoughts.
While this world puts value in being rich, influential, powerful or having status and fame, none of these things help you when you stand in real tribulation. Soldiers in a foxhole aren't concerned with status or fame. Cancer patients aren't spending a lot of time counting their money. We each face trials and tribulations every day. The Missionary that's in chains for the gospel isn't concerned about a 401k.
Do you have a doctrine of suffering? Is it biblical? Have you made it part of our life? Or are you waiting to figure it out on the fly. Go visit the nursing home, you can quickly see the difference in those who have a theology of suffering and those who are figuring it out on the fly.
Can we see trials and tribulations are part of a Christ centered life? Do we accept that and count it all a joy? Trials and tribulation test your faith. Through pain and suffering all we once held dear falls by the wayside. In trials we find out what we really trust in and care about. God works through trials and tribulations to do His perfect work. That work is to bring us to Christian Maturity.
Most of us have lived enough to have gone through some trials and tribulations. Imagine going through these times with no faith in God. With no hope of something better that is coming, with no promise that God is bringing us through it all. And maybe you don't have to imagine, maybe you remember vividly the hopelessness of not having control and having no hope. If you're like me you remember immediately looking to the heavens, suddenly looking for the God you had become so good at ignoring or not believing in. Dark times will bring even the most devout atheists to scan the heavens for a God to bail them out.
While trials bring a believer to maturity, they will bring unbeliever to faith or they will be broken. Tribulations strip away all that is not of God. For the Godless, those with no faith, tribulation leaves them hollowed out and broken because there is nothing of substance when all the layers are stripped away.
The believer, in the worst of circumstances, finds a hope that is born of the promises of God. It's a hope beyond this world; an inheritance from Jesus Christ. We are to be single minded, having the mind of Christ. We are to submit to him and in times of trial this is especially important to give this all over to him. We must be surrendered to whatever work he is doing in our life. This doesn't mean give up or give in to the battle. It's looking to God for His will and perfect purpose in our life. There is eternal fruit from living through trials and tribulations. We need to pursue that fruit.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
There is great wisdom in our eternal perspective. Living each day like it were your last will create in you a heart of wisdom. We'll learn to seek God in and through all things. We'll learn not to waste the lessons that come with each trial.
James says this humility is difficult for the man that is rich. Since we all fit in that category; since we are all blessed beyond measure, we must take extra care to make sure we aren't relying on riches (or anything else for that matter). Because in the end, none of those things matter, nor will it help you through trials and tribulations. So we count our trials a joy because we know we are in the hands of Him who makes no mistakes.
Isaiah 40 said this......and I wonder if James had this in mind when he wrote verses 10 and 11
"All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever."
Judgment and death have a way of making the rich man forget about all his wealth and possessions.
In Matthew 5 we see beatitudes:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit.
- Blessed are those who mourn.
- Blessed are the meek.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
James adds another in a similar fashion.
- Blessed is the man who endures temptation.
Once again, we keep running into these bible verses that no one will ever put that on a Christian T shirt or coffee cup. Christians don't care to think too much on those things but temptation is another kind of trial. We are all faced with temptations daily. And we can go back to what we said at the beginning of the chapter, we have to have the right attitude.
The battlefield of temptation is in your mind. You have to be armed and ready because those tests will come. We have to be single minded with the mind of Christ. When some part of our thought life is set apart for us; for our pleasure or entertainment; or is just something we haven't given over to the Lord, this becomes a trap for us. These dark corners we keep from the Lord breed temptation. To endure, to resist temptation is to be approved. There is a reward for this endurance. We will receive the crown of life. We don't really know much about this crown. But it's a gift from the Lord, so it has great value.
The crown of life is only mentioned one other place. That's in the book of Revelation, chapter 2. Within the letter to the church of Smyrna is says:
10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The crown of life is given to those who are faithful to the end; in the face of temptation, tribulation and suffering.
There's a statistic out that says 1 in 5 divorces today name Facebook as a major factor in the breakup of marriage. Here's what's happening. Men and women start wondering about old girlfriends or boyfriends they haven't seen in many years. Facebook itself is programmed to go find friends of friends, people from the same schools, hometowns, etc. Let's face it, we're all curious and facebook feeds that curiosity. For many the curiosity crosses a line.
What may have started as innocent curiosity leads to something else. The next thing you know husbands are sitting at a computer dreaming of that old flame, "She was so understanding; she never judged me; my wife's always on my case; she's never happy and she doesn't appreciate me. Gosh I remember how happy we were back then (in the 70's or 80's or whatever). Everything was simpler, things were black and white."
And this isn't just guys. The ladies are big into this. They romanticize about their old boyfriends. "Those were the good ole days; life was so carefree and romantic; he was dreamy.
In both cases this curiosity crosses some line into temptation. Suddenly grown men and women are running off chasing some adolescent idea that came from a time when they had no job, no bills, no kids, no cares. They throw their marriage and family away to chase this idea as if Facebook saved their life only to find that the dream is just that, a dream.
Now in James' day, they were saying a temptation like this was from God. They said that God tempted them. Older readers might remember the old Flip Wilson line, the devil made me do it! They weren't even saying that. They said God made the them do it. It's God's fault, He tempted me. James is saying, don't blame God. God allows these things and if we respond in a godly fashion good can come from it. But if we respond in the natural, we're in trouble.
For these folks getting divorced, Facebook isn't the problem. Facebook isn't threatening marriages. Facebook doesn't cause temptation. Our own evil thought life causes it. Facebook is just the arena for our sin. Temptation is a trial and tribulation that can be avoided. It's our evil thoughts that drag us off to be enticed. Sin starts in our mind when we give a place for the corruption to take root. We are to hold every thought captive and have the mind of Christ. Satan whispers, but that's no fun. Besides who will know. Go ahead, take a taste of that fruit. God isn't looking. What seems to be an innocent sweet fruit leads to sin and death.
Verse 14 says we will Each be tempted when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed. The word for "Drawn away" is the Greek word exelko. The New American standard bible translates this as 'carried away'. The Amplified bible translates it as 'drawn away'. And the NIV says 'dragged away'; that's more of the appropriate picture for this word.
This word exelko. is a hunting term. Within the context of temptation, we should picture this not only as a trap that is being laid for us but also Satan is enticing us, beckoning to us to come have a closer look. As Christians we are hidden in Christ. Satan is trying to draw us out of hiding by luring and enticing us. These temptations rarely look dangerous. In fact, most of the time they look harmless and appealing to our appetite; looking sweet and satisfying. Suddenly when we take a taste, the trap is sprung. The vicious animal has a hold of you and drags you off. An evil desire is born out of temptation. Evil desire always looks desirable in the beginning. But then it gives birth to sin and when it is full grown it brings forth death.
We must pray that God will keep us pure? We must guard our hearts and minds. We must learn to spot temptation before it sinks it's hooks in us.
1 Peter 5 says this......
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
(See Psalm 25:20; Romans 6:13 and Proverbs 23:7)
The deception was thinking that being drawn away, enticed by sin would bring something good. Eve saw the fruit, it was pleasing to the eye, she believed it would make her better. She believed it was harmless and that God was keeping something good from her. The deception started in her mind, the words she spoke were justifications for what she knew she was going to do. In our day, deception is all around. Satan seems to have a direct line to every man, woman and many children in the electronic media. Many a good men and women have been brought to destruction by computers and the junk of the internet.
Don't be deceived. Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.
All generous giving and every perfect gift is from God. Why are we deceived into doing things we know are wrong? We think we can rule over it, enjoy it for a season. We think there is no harm. We deceive our self. Ever good gift is from God, every perfect gift is given from above.
The Father of lights speaks to God as creator or the sun, moon and stars; the light that rules by day and the lesser light by night. The lights change with the turning of the seasons and are variable from day to day. But God is unchanging, there is no variation, there is no shadow, no guessing what is behind the curtain. We won't have to wonder if it is God or deception?
Our life decisions must be based on Godly council and principals. Don't be deceived into thinking you can dabble in temptation and somehow get something good from it. Don't think you can avoid the pitfalls everyone fell for. Don't be deceived into thinking your sin won't squeal on you. Temptation leads to sin. Your sin will grow teeth and consume you and your life.
It is by God's will that we are brought forth to salvation. Our salvation and regeneration are an active work of God. It's not our will or our decision. That made us wise enough to come to the Father and find salvation. We didn't save ourselves because we were savy enough to find Jesus. God extends His gift of salvation to all men. He sent His son. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. The word of truth is the gospel message delivered to the world. Jesus came to stand in our place. Jesus didn't just pay for a list of sins when He was crucified. He literally stood where you and I deserve to stand. He took the punishment we deserve.
Jesus says come to me. He actively pursues us; empowers us to respond. The Holy Spirit is working through the word of truth we hold in our hands today (the bible). James said it is His will that brought us forth. In spite of the free gift of salvation many will resist that work of the Lord. Many will disregard the saving grace of Jesus.
James said the brethren were a kind of firstfruits. The firstfruits are the first of the harvest offered to God. They are delivered in faith knowing that God will bring forth the harvest by His sovereign will. James is assuring the brethren that God is working on their behalf. He doesn't save us to then see if he can trip us up with temptation. The brethren of that day were saying, God is tempting, how can I possibly resist God. How can I win at this battle? This is a cop out. If the brethren in James' day were the first fruits of God's creation then we are part of the faithful harvest. In trials and tribulations, we count it all a joy knowing that these things work to mature us.
We are blessed when we endure temptation. We learn to recognize it and turn away. We spot deception before it deceives. The traps laid for us have no power over our lives when we recognize them and avoid them. As this happens, we are maturing as Christians. When we succumb to temptation; fall into the trap and suffer the consequences. We are also brought to maturity when we look back and see where we messed up. These are trials and tribulations brought on by our weakness that in turn do their part to train us so we don't do it again.
So that next time we have victory. And we come to maturity living victorious lives in Jesus Christ.
We are to be firstfruits of the Lord in a world full of temptations and trials. These things hit us from every direction in surprising ways from surprising sources. We must be prepared. How can we be prepared? We are to be people of the word of truth. We must have a biblical understanding of trials and tribulation. We need to have that word of truth established, without question. This truth is part of our life because Jesus is the Lord of our life.
The evidence of this is when we bear fruit consistent with our life and the God we serve. How do we do that in trials and temptations? James said, brothers, we need to be swift to hear and slow to speak. We have 2 ears and one mouth. Some suggest we should listen twice as much as we talk. The best example of being swift to hear is when a mother hears the cry of her baby when it's in pain. That mother is swift to hear and the hearing brings her to action immediately without excuse or debate. She has no doubt and she is moved to action by what she hears. To be swift to hear is to hear the 'Word of Truth'. And without doubt, debate or excuse we are moved to action. like that mother hears her baby.
Let every man be swift to hear, James said, and then slow to speak. Slow to speak is to hold your tongue. It's to hold your thoughts captive; to filter them through the word of truth that is the focal point of your life. We can picture 'slow to speak' as speaking into a big strainer. Only the words of value get through. The words that edify and glorify and have spiritual value get through the strainer.
Proverbs 17:27 says.......
He who has knowledge spares his words,
James called for the brethren to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and then slow to wrath. We can see the wrath of men toward the word of truth every day by unbelievers. And that's normal. That's just unbelievers acting like unbelievers. But James isn't talking to unbelievers. He's talking to believers; to the brethren. When believers act like unbelievers there is a serious problem. James cautions them and us to be slow to wrath. To be slow to wrath is an indicator of the righteousness of God. When we respond in wrath it is rarely about truth. It is about our pride; having our way, protecting our feelings or agenda. Our wrath is usually the result of setting ourselves up as the lawmaker, judge and jury. In our wrath we establish how mad we are that something didn't go the way we thought it should. We judge this trial to be unfair and establish our selves as undeserving of such a vile thing. And then we pass sentence on the offending trial, tribulation or temptation. If we were all honest, we'd all admit we've resorted to wrath in these times. This is obviously not the thought process for someone who has given Lordship of their life over to Jesus. Wrath protects a self-centered agenda. It doesn't produce the righteousness of God.
Anyone can listen to the word of God. Every Sunday, all over the countryside are churches filled with folks who are listening to the word of God, but not all are hearing it. As brethren, as those who trust in Christ, we are to prepare to receive that word. The word of God has the power to regenerate, to transform us. This is the work of sanctification.
The "laying aside" of verse 21 might be read putting off or casting off. As if you would take off your coat. The filthiness we are to put off are like dirty garments. Remember in Hebrews we talked about running the race and throwing of anything that slowed us down or hindered us. This is very similar. This is throwing off or casting off the filth and the overflow of wickedness.
This filthiness was a word that was also used to describe ear wax. It's the useless filth and corruption resulting from sin. This filth might be the moral vices that a person wraps their life around. And wickedness is evil desires and evil intent of the heart. The believer is commanded to put off this moral filth and the evil desires and then receive the implanted word with meekness.
Meekness is the opposite of wrath. Meekness is humility and self control. Meekness is wrath under control. Here is what it looks like. "In trials, I know I have the inclination and ability to scream and curse and pound my fist. I know I have the capacity to throw a fit no one could forget. Meekness is not allowing that to happen. It's saying, this situation I used to go ballistic over, it's the Lords. He allowed this for His purpose and for my good. I'll glorify Him by enduring and doing my best to count it all a joy. The result is Christian maturity.
When we prepare our hearts and invite God's word of truth to come in and have its way with us, amazing things will happen. Don't be deceived into thinking that listening to God's word once a week is the same as hearing it. No one is fooled but you. You can't fake meekness. You can't fake spiritual maturity and growing in righteousness and holiness. The word that is implanted in us will save us in a dark world; in a dark time; through all kinds of temptation and trials.
Paul said it this way in Romans 13:11.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off (this is the same word James uses) the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
The filthiness, overflow of wickedness and the works of darkness threaten us. These are the thoughts and works of the dark places in our heart and mind that haven't been given over to the Lord. These places are breeding grounds for temptations that bring sin, that brings death and destruction.
It's time to come to maturity. It's time to put these things off and put on Christ. Put on the Light and walk upright in the Lord. We can picture this as a call to take off our shabby coat of sin and shame. It smells of death and corruption. We know this is our sin nature; it's vile and unholy. Many Christians walk around with this still on and never take it off. They look and smell and act like the old man and the old nature. A Christian may profess a change of heart from the Lord but if all that is visible to the world looks the same. James is going to question that change. This is not only bad testimony. James is going to show us repeatedly that the change in thought and deed and works are an indication of the new regenerated heart. If the thoughts haven't changed and the works haven't changed, then there isn't a heart change. You can deceive yourself for a while. You might deceive others for a time. But you can't hold onto filth and wickedness along with the implanted word within you. There's only room for one or the other.
Do you know when it will show itself? Remember, James is talking about living through trials, tribulations and temptation. That which is on the inside will always come to the surface when we are tested. If your life is characterized by filth and wickedness then Trials will be difficult because the word is not in you. If your life is characterized by the word of God then you will have established your doctrine of trials and temptations. You will have a mature insight into these trials and yield your life to him wholly.
James said we need to take off the old. You need to put on Jesus Christ. We can be clothed in righteousness. This is victory over sin and death. It's life eternal. It's the royal robe of a king given to the most undeserving peasant. We are to put off the world and put on the word. Throw off the filth and be implanted with the Word.
Now that they received that implanted word, James calls the brethren to not just sit there; be doers of it. Anyone can just sit and hear the word and go about their life. But, if the word is received it is powerful and living and active. It brings about change; it moves us. The word rises up in us and comes out in every part of our being. Every Sunday, millions sit in a pew or chair in a church and deceive themselves. The Greek words translated to 'deceiving yourselves' were used to describe a math problem someone messed up. The added 1 and 1 to get 3. And that was their final answer. They were deceiving themselves, believing their answer was sufficient. These self deceivers hear the word but are never doers.
James gets a lot of credit for tying works to the righteous heart. He simply says, I can see your heart by the work of your hands. I can hear your heart by the words you speak. I can see if you have received the word by what you do after you receive it.
Does the word move you? Are you swift to hear? Are you 'others centered' or self centered? Are you Christ centered? Looking in a mirror and then forgetting what you look like implies extreme short sidedness and a total lack of forward looking To really hear the word of God and ignore it and not take it in and let it change you is to be extremely short sided spiritually and lack any eternal perspective. You could even argue that you are lost. If you can hear the word of life; the word of truth and then get up, go out the door and go about a life of moral filth and wickedness, you have not taken time to really examine yourself.
It's in trials and tribulations and temptations when we are tried. If a person can hear the word; have their heart shown to them and be given the remedy in the word of life, only to ignore it, how will he ever receive a trial or tribulation and count it a joy? How will he ever resist a temptation and find themselves approved by the Lord?
James says, if your faith isn't doing work, it isn't faith. And this starts many debates among denominations and bible scholars. But listen to the words of Jesus from Matthew 7.
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Jesus provided the word. How the men received it and what they did with it was vastly different with vastly different outcomes. Think about that. We are to make the word penetrate every part of our life. In doing so we are proclaiming that Christ owns every part of us. He is in us and for us and we are in Him.
Look intently into God's word; into the perfect law. Be habitual about it. Learn the scripture and then continue in it. You could read this as 'Read your bible and do what it says!' Make God's word a fundamental part of your life by taking it in and putting it forth in all we do. James said, the one who does this will be blessed.
The word religious simply means 'fearing God', Religion is understanding your place before a high and holy God. It's knowing your low and sinful; He's high and holy. The second use of religion at the end of verse 26 should be understood as 'worship'.
So you can read verse 26 again like this. 26 If anyone among you thinks he understands his place before God, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's worship is useless.
Not only does filth and the overflow of wickedness give you away, so does your tongue.
If you want your religion to be valuable to God don't use your tongue, use your hands and feet, your resources and time to look after widows and orphans. Our tongue can be our worst enemy.
We are called to holiness. We are called to hear the word and have it implanted in our life. We are to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. To do so we must concern ourselves with God's principles and values and not the values of the world. We are people of the word, listening for God, guarding our words, not wrathful. And we hear and move and we're driven to good works in obedience to God's word. Not to earn favor but to glorify Him because we love Him and are amazed by the love He's shown to us.
©2012 Doug Ford
©2019 Revised & updated