In some respects James is a collection of proverbs:
- Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds
- everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
- faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
- but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
- When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
- Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Pay attention to them but remember proverbs sometimes conflict so you need to see them in context, e.g.:
Actions speak louder than words….The pen is mightier than the sword.
Knowledge is power….Ignorance is bliss.
Look before you leap….He who hesitates is lost.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. …Better safe than sorry.
Money talks….Talk is cheap.
In James 1:13-27 four proverbs expanded:
- 13-15: God doesn’t tempt anyone
- 16-18: Only good things come from the Father
- 19-21: be quick to listen, slow to speak
- 22-27: Do not merely listen to the word
- God doesn’t tempt anyone
13When tempted, no-one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
A small controversy: The Lord’s prayer “Lead us not into temptation”
- Compare with James – then study grammar.
- Matthew: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”
- Alternative: “Save us from the time of trial” – compare Job.
- Romans 5: We glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character, hope
- No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIVUK
- Don’t ask God to keep me from going down the supermarket aisle where the choc-mint biscuits are. There is a way out, and I can be responsible for exercising the self-control the Holy Spirit gives me
- It is SATAN who tempts, using our own desires.
- Desires -> draw us in, entices us (wheedle, beguile, allure)-> sin -> death
- f. Eve at the tree of knowledge of good and evil: Gen 3:“6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
- “The devil made me do it” OR “The woman you gave me made me do it” OR “It’s your fault, God”
- after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
The moral #1: Don’t blame God; avoid the sin before it starts.
- Only good things come from the Father
16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
- All good gifts come from God – ONLY good and perfect gifts come from him
- Matthew 5:45, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
- He is not capricious or unpredictable but does what you can expect – if you have correct expectations; that is if you understand him.
- He chose to give us birth into this physical life – then gave us the new birth, to be born again by the Holy Spirit and the word of truth
- We are “new creatures”, a kind of firstfuits: the first and best of the crop, offered as a living sacrifice, holy to the Lord. Jesus presents us holy and acceptable to the Father.
- 1 Corinthians 15: 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
The moral #2: don’t be deceived; get your thinking straight. All good things and only good things come from God. Appreciate and acknowledge the good gifts God has given you.
- Be quick to listen, slow to speak
19My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
These verses are about speed control
- Quick! Listen to me! (Look at me..)
- e. quickly stop anything else and listen=> pay attention, concentrate, not just hear but listen.
- Different to the way husbands listen to their wives?
- Neither easy nor common
- Hear their argument
- Especially listen to the word of God – take time to listen
- Slow to speak – easier to do if you are quick to listen – too busy listening to speak
- Hear their words, hear their emotions, hear their needs
- Beware of strong urges to speak out – passionate speech -> passionate action -> passion
- Was Israel Folau too quick to speak? Were the commentators so quick to listen they did not hear? Then were they too quick to speak? Did Folau have freedom of speech but did the commentators not have freedom to hear?
- Slow to anger.
- Like “all moral filth and evil” it is so prevalent.
- g. road rage, protests, political discussion, call for “rights”
- But not from Christians!???
- As in verses 13-15 we get angry with God – then tell him off and disobey him… like Jonah in Nineveh.
- Anger on our own behalf is almost always unhelpful, even damaging. It’s not godly.
- We don’t listen, don’t understand and get angry. It would be better to have a Bible study together!
- Anger is lumped together with moral filth and evil – ie sources of temptation, sin and death – avoid them all.
The moral #3: calm down, pay attention and submit to Jesus’ teaching: first love God with all you are then love your neighbour as yourself.
- Do not merely listen to the word
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.
26Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
- Questions this passage raises:
- Assuming you have looked at yourself in a mirror recently, could you now draw a picture of yourself? Would the picture flatter you? Did you miss a bit when shaving/doing your face?
- What was the last “resolutions” you have actually kept?
- What was the last passage of the Bible you read? What the most significant thing about it?
- Is Bible reading more than just a habit or is it a time for inward meditation and outward obedience.
- If we read the Bible intently to really let it reflect ourselves so we see ourselves as we really are and see what God wants us to be and do then we don’t go away and forget it straight away nor do we flatter ourselves!
- We go with freedom, continuing in it, being blessed in what you do – because you don’t forget what you have heard -> forgiveness, peace, purpose — freedom
- Not just listen but pay attention, apply it, do it.
- The religion God wants of us is practical
- Worst of religion is disobedience, show and affectation, a loose tongue too ready to censure others – non-Christians and Christians.
- The best is pure and undefiled in motivation and in action
The moral #4: Being a Christian leads you to both hearing and doing what God wants you to do.
A couple of discussion points…
What is the purpose of Christians and the church?
Should we preach a “social gospel”: “Christian faith practised as a call not just to personal conversion but to social reform”. – a debate between even evangelical scholars?
- James 2:16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
- We pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Is that what we are here for – to bring this about?
- We don’t see non-Christians too keen on this! Should we strive to achieve this on earth. Or is this a prayer asking for Jesus’ return and the establishment of the new heaven and earth?
- Jesus did good works and expects us to do the same
- As Jesus cared for people he also taught and preached repentance as the only way into the kingdom of heaven. Are we expected to do the same – to care and to preach.
- One good deed is worth a thousand sermons, but is it also true that a thousand good deeds are worthless without at least one good sermon?
- As in James 2:18 But someone will say, ‘you have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
- Faith and deeds cannot be separated.
Is James saying that good works are a requirement for salvation? Is this in conflict with Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith alone and not by works?
- Ephesians 2:8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9not by works, so that no-one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- We are saved by grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone – for the purpose of doing the good works God has planned for us to do.
Conclusion: That’s enough talking – it’s time to get doing