|Last month we began our study of the Epistle of James by first learning a little about its author. Then we looked at chapter 1 and discovered that there are no good excuses for not being doers of God’s Word. In chapter 2 we considered how having “God’s love” and “saving faith” should lead us to being doers of His Word. This month we’ll conclude our brief study by seeing how the remaining chapters of James encourage us to be more than mere hearers.|
Have you stopped to consider how you think? Do you reason like a godly or a godless person? What kind of wisdom determines your daily choices? Since we Christians read the Bible regularly, we are inclined to think that we function on “wisdom from above.” James asks: Do you show it? In this third chapter, James points to two areas where “wisdom from above” should be evident:
Use Of Our Tongue: The wisdom from above is not theological correctness, nor Bible knowledge, nor doctrinal cleverness. The wisdom God gives leads to healthy relationships and a positive life. Like horses and ships are directed by small bits and rudders, so our tongues – what we say and how we say it – determine the orientation of our lives. Bits and rudders are controlled by an external force. Similarly, the Holy Spirit desires to control our tongues.
Do you speak words that encourage others? Ask the Lord to use your tongue to build others up. Look at the good things around you and verbally reinforce them. Thank your wife for that meal. Praise that child who behaved well in Sunday school. Tell that church leader how much you value his dedication. Tell your husband how much you appreciate his faithfulness. Our Lord also desires to receive from each of us “the fruit of lips that confess His name” (Heb. 13:15). Words are mightier than thoughts.
Our Daily Behavior: Wisdom from above is described as “pure … peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (3:17). Do these qualities describe you? James looks at each one in the congregation and then asks: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (3:13). In a world bent on conflict, those who have wisdom from above are recognized as “peacemakers” (3:18).
Are You A Friend Of God? Show It! James 4
Good friends make life enjoyable. We need them. Although friendships are free, for each we must pay a price. Using James’ words “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (4:4). In this fourth chapter, we find a number of qualities which make for good friendship:
Faithfulness: Good friendships have many enemies, and our relationship with God is no exception. We can be self-centered, have wrong motives or seek our own pleasures (4:3). We can seek popularity in a world that rejects our Lord (4:4). Rather than resisting, we can follow and cooperate with the devil (4:7). If we can’t trust or be trusted, friendship can’t develop.
Preference: Good friends value each other’s company. They thrive on time together. Do you make time to be alone with the Lord? Have you learned to enjoy His presence? James’ recipe is simple: “Submit … to God … Come near to God and He will come near to you” (4:7,8). The Lord desires this fellowship with you. He has called us to it (1 Cor. 1:9).
Humility: Pride damages friendships. Therefore James encourages us to “humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (4:10). Jesus invites us to come to Him and “learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt. 11:28,29). In fact, this humility leads us to want to obey Him, and without obedience, there can be no divine friendship (Jn. 15:14).
Involvement: Good friends take each other into account when making their plans. Friendship affects choices and decisions. James speaks to those who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” (4:13). He does not wish to discourage planning. He wishes to encourage saints to take the Lord into account in their planning (4:15). To what extent is He involved in shaping your dreams and projects?
Do You Believe In The Second Coming? Show It! James 5
In this last chapter, James makes two references to the “Lord’s coming” (5:7-8). The Lord made this plain to His disciples: “In my Father’s house there are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you … I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (Jn. 14:2-3). You probably know these verses by heart, but do you believe them? Does this happy expectation warm your heart? Does it orient your choices? James highlights three areas where this blessed hope should influence our living.
Order in personal life: The first six verses make reference to wealth, modest living, generosity, correct personal finances and justice. If we would not like James to repeat, “You have hoarded wealth in these last days” (5:3), we may need to do some serious re-arrangement of priorities. Does the expectation of the Lord’s coming influence the way we invest our resources?
Good Relationships: We are called to be patient (5:7), to avoid complaining and grumbling (5:9) and to speak the truth to each other (5:12). As parents we know how sad we feel when we find our children squabbling. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if the Lord’s second coming caught us in the middle of strife and animosity? Paul’s advice is, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everybody” (Rom. 12:18).
Prayer, Care, Evangelism: In the last eight verses of this epistle we find seven references to prayer, mainly intercessory prayer. James encourages us to pray for other people’s needs, adding that “the prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16). But a saint who prays for others, also desires to help in some way. As the Lord’s coming draws closer, we should engage in pastoral care. The elders should provide a good example of home visitation (5:14), but visitation is an opportunity for every able Christian (1:27; 5:19-20).
James ends his epistle addressing “whoever” (5:20). He encourages each one of us to share the message of salvation. After all, the “Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Do you really believe in the Lord’s second coming? This promise, if we believe it, clearly adds urgency to the task before us!
James is seriously concerned about works, about change, about action among God’s people. This concern is shared by most inspired authors of Scripture. But a clear understanding of the role of such “doings” is an essential element of the gospel message: We do not do works in order to become something. We do works as evidence that we are something. “It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is a gift from God – not by works” (Eph. 2:8-9). But then, just so that no one would minimize the importance of the practical externals, Paul immediately adds that we Christians have been “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Do we have eyes to see the good works which God has prepared for us to do today? Other people’s needs may be our opportunities. Because we have been saved, because Christ and His love indwell us, because the Lord is coming soon, “let us not become weary in doing good … let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:9-10). Agreed? Now let’s do something!
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org