Monday, July 9, 2007

Lessons from James--Week 4, Chapter 4

Lessons from James--Week 3, Chapter 3
Lessons from James--Week 2, Chapter 2
Lessons from James--Week 1, Chapter 1

Yes, yes, I know...technically, it is no longer week 4, but the beginning of week 5. Unfortunately, I was unable to write this at the end of last week, because I went to my parents' for the weekend for my nephew's birthday party (pictures to come!) and whenever I'm there, I don't seem to have time to accomplish anything. So...sorry, it's a little late, but here it is...

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot hav what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
-----It looks like, to me, that here, James is giving more practical information on how to live our lives on a daily basis, still tied to his theme of "earthly vs. eternal." He's telling the people that they shouldn't be fighting and quarrelling, coveting and killing. But, more than just recognizing the symptoms, James diagnoses the real disease. "You do not have because you do not ask with the wrong adulterous people...friendship with the world is hatred toward God." WHOA! That's pretty intense. Adulterous...hatred...those are some pretty ugly words. I think that's what makes James' message so emphatic...YOU CAN'T SIT ON THE FENCE. You may find this strange, but for me, it kinda brings to mind God's sentiments for the church at Laodicea, as James tells the people, who are claiming to be Christians, that they CANNOT BE FRIENDS OF THE WORLD. For our God is a jealous God, and as we learn over and over again from the history of the Israelites, to participate in idolatry, putting anything of the world above God Almighty, is, indeed, adultery. Then James once again proceeds with some practical advice on how to overcome this obstacle. They are to repent...humble themselves...submit to God. And God will lift them up.

"Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor."
-----More extremely practical advice. Some things are just so much easier said than done. But this is it, guys. James just reminded them of the need to humble themselves. This raises the question, "Is it possible to be passing judgement on your brother while, in humility, considering others better than yourselves???" I believe James's answer is a resounding NEGATORY!

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
-----Along the lines of humility, there is no room for boasting. For in being humble and submitting to God, we realize that it is, indeed, God, not us, in charge of the mist that is our lives. A mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes--this phrase just remains with me. It comes to mind more often for me than for most people, I think. I recall the death of my 12-year-old cousin several months ago...I believe the events of that weekend have ingrained these words into my mind and made them all too real. But in dealing with that, and the questions it raised, I learned that the only place to find comfort and answers for those questions is through God. That is precisely James' point. In humility, we rely on God, and just continue to do what we know He would have us to do, regardless of the circumstances.

This concludes my commentary on James chapter 4. But I'm most definitely interested in hearing your commentary...if you have anything you'd like to share! Much love!

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