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Recap: The Book of James on How To Live Well


True faith


Resources come with access and power that gives one the option to feel invisible at will. I wondered as I read James 2 why instructions are usually to the rich and the Bible generally make being rich unattractive (James 5). To me, hardship, struggle and poverty are really not attractive. The Holy Spirit gave me clarity that the more invisible money makes one, the more easily it is to sin and drag many down. I considered that further and looked at the world I live in. While there are many people whose wealth come from honest, fair work, there are far more whose wealth come from questionable means. Nevertheless, the world favours the rich, I think we can all agree on that. The word of God according to James 2 does not however approve of discriminating against the poor in favour of the rich.


It seems quite a high bar to me that looking down on a group of God's people is a sin. But James ensures that there is no confusion about it. We either keep the teachings of scripture or we do not, there is no room for cherry picking (James 2:8-12). God used the example of a prostitute who many would condemn because of her trade, but I'm sure that was intentional, to show us that faith is not entirely by what we see. Many may condemn Rahab as a prostitute, but in protecting God's people, she evidenced her faith. That's very interesting to me; God does not permit us to pick and choose the teachings and instructions we obey. But when we do good, he recognises that as evidence of faith in spite of other sins we may have committed. What a gracious God.


That's very interesting to me. God does not permit us to pick and choose the teachings and instructions we obey. But when we do good, he recognises that as evidence of faith in spite of other sins we may have committed. What a gracious God.

Intention and dying to self


Motive is important. The Bible instructs us to do things like visit orphans and widows and supporting them (James 1:27), but when we do, why do we do it? To honour God or for self serving reasons? Focusing on the world (or self) brings about evil, so our foundation, intent, is important. James 3:13 onwards describes the difference in outcome, depending on man's intention, even when the act is good. Similarly, James 4 shows that the origin of evil in this world is love for the world and lust for the things in it. Lust makes way for temptation.


God in his infinite wisdom offers us a cure, submission to him and dying to self. Dying to self, focusing on God allows my thoughts to be purified and my intentions to be refined. It allows me to remove self from the situation, what I want, what I need, what will serve my ego and purify it of selfishness. Most times, without self many situations deescalate and responses are more likely to be Christlike. It becomes easier to respond with patience, grace, love, kindness.


World vs Word


Before I committed myself to Christ and realised that this world doesn't have much (or better) to offer me, I thought the teachings of the Bible were extreme or unnecessary. I imagine that one of the verses I thought was "extreme" was James 4:4 "do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God". Why so extreme! As I study the Bible and learn about the father's heart, I have come to understand that it is impossible to love the world and God because the world contradicts the word of God in most instances. Let's take something as benign as "Do what makes you happy" as an example. While that may seem harmless and is likely intended to be harmless, that's not what the Bible teaches us. Abraham didn't do what made him happy when God instructed him to kill Issac. He did what God instructed. When he did what made him happy (or his wife really), he had a child out of wedlock. What did he do to achieve happiness? Sin. Twice and produced a child he didn't parent.


Putting our desires first or centring decisions around "me" doesn't always lead to anything good. James 4 reminds us to be humble lest we allow our self centred nature to drive us into all sorts of calamities. When we lust, depending on what we're lusting for, in the world, we may arrive at adultery, pre-marital sex or theft. When we find ourselves jealous of another's possessions, we may start to hate them or they may begin to irritate us or worse, make us feel bad about ourselves. James gives us the cure: humility. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up (James 4:10).


Conclusion


He who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Again, seemed harsh, but upon reflection I realised it is fair. If I take time to study towards a degree, I attend class, I study, speak to my Professors, do my assignments etc but when it comes to the test don't use any of my learning, but instead use the opportunity to come up with my own theories and applications, I will most likely fail. Similarly in life, if I take the time to study the Bible, invest in a relationship with the Holy Spirit, meditate on the word but abandon all I've learnt once I leave my quiet time, what's the point?


The point is that it's sometimes easy to fall into the allure of the world. It's easy to think we have all the time in the world to do better. Now is the best time to do better and not take anything for granted. So we must correct in love. Help lost sheep find their way home, not by judgment - the same chapter warns against that - but in love, so that no one is left behind.


Until next time, keep us a secret x



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