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Posted By Nan

James 4:1-6
This is part of a section that runs to verse 12. There is a natural break in the middle and a lot of concepts to cover so I am going to cover this over two blogs.
This is the way The Message interprets this passage:
“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the wilful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”
James leads from his discussion on the dangers of our unruly tongues into this section. Here he is writing about the many quarrels that were breaking out amongst the groups of early Christians. He told them the reason for their quarrels were because people wanted things they could not get. Not all conflict is caused by covetousness, but in this case it was. This has an echo is the modern churches where sadly here is often conflict between members. James chided the people who created conflict out of greed and challenged them to ask God for the things they wanted. But then he reminded them that even if they did ask God they did not receive because they asked with the wrong motives. I have frequently observed the quarrelling Christian who will put on a pious face and arrogantly suggest to the fellow Christian with whom they are arguing that they will “pray for them”. The implication of course is that this person is right and the other one is wrong. If they do dare to pray they will not find their prayers answered. Prayer that comes from wrong motives is one reason God does not answer a prayer.
There is more to James statement about praying and asking God for things. God wants us to have the things that He plans to give to us. The things that are good for us. God knows what will truly bring us pleasure. We frequently think we know, but we are usually wrong.
The greedy people are using the world and wanting to be part of the world. This results in them becoming enemies of God because, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:24) we cannot serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other. So if we are using the world and wanting to be part of it, that is our master and we hate God.
The humble, however, are open to God. As was discussed in the blogs on James 3, the humble are not arrogant. They consider they have much to learn and much to be forgiven. God is a jealous lover (Hosea 2:19-23) and will call us back constantly. He will give us the grace we need to overcome the evil desires that seek to covet the things we do not have and seek to align ourselves with the world. The humble, come before God in humility, throwing themselves on His mercy. They are the overcomers. The recipients of God’s grace.
So what benefits come from being an overcomer? This will be discussed in the next blog.

 
Posted By Nan

James 3:13-18
“Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.” The Message.
To live the life of the wise it is important to live the humble life. C.S. Lewis described the humble person as someone you would consider a cheerful, intelligent person who took a real interest in what you were saying. The humble person remembers he is not perfect but has feet of clay. Godly wisdom springs from a humility that is the result of recognising our sinfulness. After the initial feeling of sadness at that state, we are rapidly filled with joy and delight at the salvation provided for us by Jesus. So the Godly humble are filled with Joy at their salvation and happily rejoice in that salvation.
These verses describe the humble true believer, filled with Joy at his salvation. This believer is not interested in boasting, or playing with words to make himself sound better. James describes that sort of behaviour as belonging to the devil.
The wise man who demonstrates his wisdom in the way he lives his life endeavours to be a peacemaker not a troublemaker. He is gentle, reasonable and merciful. His behaviour is consistent and does not fluctuate from day to day. This person will treat others with dignity and honour. This person demonstrates righteousness.
It is interesting to compare verse 17 (which speaks of heavenly wisdom as pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere) with Galatians 5:22-23 (which speaks of the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Also Galatians 6:8 states that the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life. Compare this to James 18 which speaks of Peacemakers who sow in peace raising a harvest of righteousness. These different letters cover the same practical application of Jesus’ word to our lives, but from different perspectives.
So James is instructing us here to who our wisdom and understanding by living a good life evidenced by deeds done in humility that come from wisdom. This is Godly wisdom, the wisdom that is “foolishness to those who are perishing” 1 Corinthians 1:18. This is the wisdom, lived out as Godly humility, that we should aspire to have.

 
Posted By Nan

James 3:1:12
James now commences a discussion on how our commitment to Jesus is tested in how we use our tongue. The first argument in this discussion is that the tongue is a powerful tool for evil. First, he notes that the tongue is a powerful tool for the teacher. The teacher is judged not only by what he or she teaches, but also by his or her behaviour. James advises that the teacher will be judged more harshly. How dangerous to be a teacher, to be perfect in the use of the tongue! As James acknowledges, no one is perfect and everyone will sin. The easiest way to sin is in the way we use our words. James considers the tongue is the last part of the body we are able to bring under control. The only person who is able to completely control the tongue is perfect and none of us are perfect!
To illustrate his point, James uses the example of the two mightiest forms of equipment of that time. The first is the horse. Nothing was more powerful than a horse. Yet even the powerful horse could be completely controlled by the bit on its tongue. Also, the largest transport of the day, the ship, was controlled by the small rudder. The bit and the rudder were powerful and so is our tongue. We need a bit to control our tongue and we need to be mindful of the fact that our tongues can change our direction.
James also contended that the tongue had the power of a small spark that was sufficient to start a campfire, or a bush fire. James considered our tongues were corrupted by the fall and therefore extremely prone to evil that could change our life direction and inflame conflict. From his perspective most sin begins with a single word spoken aloud or silently. Hence the mighty power of the tongue.
Unlike the horse, which has a bit on its tongue to control it, our tongues are difficult to control. We all say things we shouldn’t at some time in our lives. Some of us do this more than others! James considered the tongue to be restless, a symptom of evil. A controlled tongue would be a peaceful, Godly, tongue. Our tongues seem unable to not say things, and the wrong things we say bring death rather than life.
Then James talks of the hypocrisy of the person who sings Hallelujah in church, then spreads malicious rumours about another person, or calls someone else “idiot” or “stupid”. A lovely point he makes is that people are made in God’s image so by calling them names (what he describes as cursing them) we are calling God names. What a horrifying thought! Most of us recoil at the thought of calling God a name, yet we never think about it when we say such things about another person. In Matthew 5:22, Jesus spoke about this. He said that anyone who said to their brother “You fool” would be subject to the fires of hell. That is a clear message that Jesus considered name calling to be a sin.
In case we do not understand James’ point, he reminds us that we cannot get fresh water and brackish water out of the same spring. Therefore we cannot get words of praise and words of insult out of the same mouth. The mouth is the mouthpiece our thoughts. If we are capable of thinking badly of others then how can we praise God? We are being hypocrites. He also spoke of the fact that a tree can only produce the fruit it is by natural laws, designed to create. Therefore we cannot get anything but apples from an apple tree. So our tongue cannot produce a pleasant fruit and a bitter fruit. It can only produce one or the other. We cannot at one moment praise God then in another moment speak ill of others. A very sobering passage and a challenge to all of us to be very careful about how we use our tongues.
I pray that God will help us all to control our tongues. May we speak only words of praise and God’s love.

 
Posted By Nan

James 2:14-26
In this section James talks about faith and works. He talks about a faith that is an intellectual acceptance of the truth about Jesus Christ without the trust in Jesus as Saviour. In verse 19 “faith” is something demons have. They believe in Jesus so they have “faith”. In verse 20 he talks about “faith” as being useless when it is merely in the head and not demonstrated in the actions. In verse 26 he refers to “faith” without actions as dead. James argument is that true faith, that genuine, saving faith that believes in Jesus and trusts in the salvation won by Him on the cross is all a person needs to be justified before God. But genuine faith in Jesus Christ will produce good deeds.
In this section James describes false faith and this has a parallel in the false love spoken of in 1 John 3:17. In that verse, John asks how a man who claims to have God’s love can see his brother in need and not act to help him. So true love from God is a love accompanied by actions as a response to that love. Likewise, true faith in God is a faith that is accompanied by actions in response to that faith.
At the time that James wrote this letter there were some in the church who said that believers were “faith” Christians and “deeds” Christians. A distinction was made between the two and there were those who believed it was possible to do good deeds without faith and still be a follower of Jesus. James denies this is possible in verse 18 when he says “show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (NIV). In verses 20-24 James talks about Abraham and how the Jews considered Abraham to be righteous because he put his son Isaac on the altar (Genesis 15). He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. It was his actions in response to his faith that caused him to be seen as a man of faith. In verse 25 he cites the example of Rahab (Joshua 2) who put her faith in God into action by hiding the Israelite spies and sending them to safety. Actions are not worth anything unless they are the result of faith. Many take James to be a justification of “works” as a necessity for salvation, but this is not what James is saying. He is saying that when we have faith in God (or as John puts it love) then the outpouring of that faith will be actions.
In summation, James states that the body without the spirit is dead and faith that is not accompanied by the deeds or actions that flow from that faith is also dead. Because we have faith in God we will be drawn to act out that faith in the way we live our lives and our obedience to God’s calling. If you are in a Christian group and you are told you have to help on a particular roster because you do not have enough “deeds” pray about it. If God does not call you to do it then your participation in that activity is not a result of faith in God but is done to satisfy another person. Be careful not to be bullied into taking on more than God intends you to do by people who misuse the letter of James to fill their church rosters.

 
Posted By Nan

James 2:1-13
This section covers generosity as it is revealed in a believer’s life. James argues that the person whose behaviour is partial, by behaving differently to the rich man and the poor man, is living more like the Pharisees who persecuted the church, than those who call themselves followers of Jesus and His disciples.
In verse 1, James reminds us that Jesus is our glorious Lord and because we are followers of Him we must not show favouritism. As you read the gospels you will notice that Jesus did not distinguish between the rich and the poor, the “saint” and the sinner. He loved all people and treated them impartially.
In verses 2 to 4, James gives an example of showing partiality. He describes two men entering the worship meeting. One man is rich and is given preferential treatment. The other is poor and is treated with contempt. Stories on this theme abound, but I want to relate one of my own from a church I once attended many years ago. Like many churches it was in a comfortable middle class area. The members of the congregation were comfortably off and enjoyed the privileges of not having to worry excessively about money. They appeared at church services in the latest conservative fashions. They had absolutely no idea or concern for those in the world who are really struggling. The Youth of the church, however, were quite concerned about the complacency of their parents. At school they mixed with people from less privileged backgrounds. As part of the Youth group they were involved in supporting drop in centres for homeless youth. The Youth Minister was concerned at the partiality that was creeping into the thinking of the adults in the church. One Sunday morning, two little known members of the Youth Group appeared in church. One was dressed as a homeless man, with dirty, smelly clothes, dishevelled hair and unshaved face. The other dressed in clothes often identified as those a prostitute would wear. They were both obviously young which should have raised concern from the adults in the congregation about their safety. However, this was not the reaction of the complacent parishioners. People moved away from the man and gave him filthy looks, holding their noses and whispering. The young girl fared even worse. People chastised her for being in the service when she was so obviously a “fallen” woman. She persisted in staying, but many were the dark looks and nasty were the comments about her. The Youth Minister gave the sermon that day. He commented on these two young people and the reaction of the congregation. He then introduced them as members of the Youth Group. Members of the congregation were very ashamed of their behaviour.
In the remainder of this passage James speaks of two things. First that God loves the poor. Jesus certainly demonstrated this when He was on earth. The other is that Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. (Matthew 5:43). This command was not new, God instructed the Israelites to love their neighbour as themselves during their time in the desert (Leviticus 19:18). James reminds us that when we show favouritism we are breaking God’s commandment. He reminds us that we can’t pick and choose which commandments to follow. If we break one of God’s commandments, we are guilty of sin. If we judge others, then we fall under the law and are judged by the law. Inevitably in life we do judge others, but our judgement must always be tempered with Mercy, remembering that we are also sinners. It must be about acknowledging another’s sin but not discriminating against them because of this. After all, in Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus commanded us to be careful of judging for the measure we use to judge others will be used against us. He told us to remove the beam from our own eye before removing the splinter from our brother’s eye. So in judging others we must be humble to acknowledge we sin as well and must seek lovingly to restore others, not judge them.

 


 
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Nan
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