Consider helping today!
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Chapter one James 1:1-4
1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
James means supplanter. This book is written to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. It would seem logical since he writes to believers that he is writing to the many people that were present on the day of Pentecost and the same people that went home after receiving the words of Peter. These were the first believers, and most likely some of their converts. It is also quite probable that many that were scattered from the church in Jerusalem later were also scattered in this area.
James is one of the early books and he would have wanted to give these new converts some doctrine and training. It isn’t like the Graham campaigns when there is an attempt to follow up on the new believers by phone or email. These were scattered all over the known world.
He identifies himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Serving both God and Christ is of interest. Why would he mention two members of the God head? He serves God, why list Christ as well? I wonder if it was a left over from his Jewish background. The Old Testament saint served God; Christ was not on the scene. When James converted, he would have had this strong "serving God" ideal, thus might be why he mentions both God and Christ. He may have served God, and now was serving Christ as well.
It should be noted that these doctrines of the Trinity were not refined until much later in the history of the church, they may not have grasped all the intricacies of theology that we are fortunate enough to have.
It is of note that he introduces himself as a servant - lists no qualifications, just that he is a servant. Paul on the other hand, at times, lists qualifications in his introductions. It isn’t that James didn’t have the qualifications; he just didn’t feel he needed to list them.
James being an earlier book may not have had the problems of acceptance that Paul had later on. Paul also had the added problem of having been a persecutor of Christians.
He himself most likely wasn’t all that well removed from Judaism, and he knew that most of his readers were going to be newly converted Jews, so He identifies the "God" that they all worshiped, and added Christ in that Christ was the Messiah, and He was an added item to the Judaic mindset, even though He was God, there was that distinction I would guess.
I say that they were mostly Jews in that he is writing to the "twelve tribes" a clear indication of his thinking at the time of writing.
The term "greetings" is related to the word that is translated "joy" in verse two. It is a word that can be used of a farewell, and it indicates a joyful greeting or farewell. He is pleased to be writing to them, and to have an anticipation of them receiving his letter.
James use of the term servant may indicate that he is a humble person, one that does not like to draw attention to himself. I read on several online forums and it is of great interest to watch people as they post for the first time. Some are meek and slow to enter into the discussions; while others jump in with both feet to be sure everyone knows they are there.
One man posted a couple of very vague questions on a board and the regulars gave some very "safe" responses knowing that someone was laying a trap. This man had an arm load of degrees and knowledge and he wanted to hit everyone over the head with both so they would be sure that all knew he was there.
This is not uncommon on forums, but usually after the bold have been proven wrong they settle in to become a valued participant of the forum.
James greets the "brethren" or brothers in Christ. John 1:12 speaks to our brotherhood in Christ. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:" And one further Scripture that shows the same relationship. Matthew 12:50 "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
1. This passage brings up the thought of why do the innocent suffer? It also raises the question; if trouble comes into our lives does it mean that we have done something wrong? Lets consider the first question. Anyone can suffer, not only the innocent, but suffering comes from sin. Sin entered the world and nothing has been the same since. God allowed man free choice and man picked sin and all its ramifications.
The second question relates to Hebrews twelve where the author tells us that God, being a good Father will chastise the erring saint. This chastisement is normally for sin that is not confessed nor stopped. If a believer falls into sin and confesses it, all will be right with God, however if the person fights the Spirit’s working in their life and continues to walk in sin, chastisement should be expected. ("4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?")
2. Have you ever had one of those weeks? One of those weeks that seemed like a year? A week when everything goes wrong? A week when everybody comes over for a visit when you don’t have time? A week when you never get any of your projects finished? A week when you have a headache or two every day? A week when the bills all come in at once? A week when there are a few extra bills coming in as well? A week when you’d like to end it all by moving to the top of a mountain for the rest of your life?
We have all had some of those weeks and some of them at the same time. James had something totally obnoxious to say to us - "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;" (Verse two) - "Be joyful in your trials." Now, I can’t use my voice to show you how he said that, but I can almost guess that he said it very softly to make us take a special note of his encouragement.
Some might ask how James could say such a thing. He could say it because he knew what the people were going through. Remember, we decided that the recipients were probably from the scattering of Christians from Jerusalem in Acts eight? They scattered, not to go seeking their fortune, but they were scattered for fear of their lives. They were under great persecution.
James wants to bring them encouragement in their hard times, and he says "be joyful in your trials."
Some of these folks had lost family members, some had lost their belongings, some may have been beaten, and James says "be joyful in your trials."
The Roman Empire was headed by Claudius, an inept ruler that made it to the throne because the Roman Senate could not decide on a new leader - since there was no one else, he was set in power. Caligula had preceded Claudius and he was known for his cruelty and madness. Nero was coming to bat and Christians were in deep trouble under his reign.
James in light of death, loss of homes, facing lions in the coliseum tells the Christians "be joyful in your trials." I trust that you can find some comfort in this when you next encounter hard times. Always remember, it can always get worse if you wait awhile, but in it all, be joyful.
I fear that this is one area where I did not do all that well in my life. Oh, we have had the trials, we have had the hardships, but the joy was seldom there when I started with my many pity parties. I lost some of the "Joy" if you will, in not understanding this concept.
3. Take a moment and consider your hardest set of trials in your life thus far. What was the trial? How did you handle it? Were you frustrated? Were you joyful? How did you work out the details? How did you give Him the glory?
In looking back over many years I always seem to end up remembering a two-week period of great trial. This is one where joy should have been the norm, but I confess, it was not. I was nearing registration for my third year of Bible College. The day of registration came without the Lord’s provision of the money that we did not have. I went to the school office and told them of our situation.
We decided to wait a semester then continue. We found out late that afternoon that the school had rented our apartment to another couple and that we had to be out of the apartment that weekend. We had nowhere to go, little money and seemingly not a friend in the world.
We rented a trailer, and packed up all we owned and started down the road to Denver to find an apartment. The big hill just east of the school proved to be way too much for our little Chevy two station wagon. I backed down the hill and turned around, and went back down the road to get a good run at the hill. We hit the bottom of the hill as fast as we could and as we neared the top of the hill we were barely moving. We did clear the top, but only with the assist of the Lord I am certain.
We finally were offered our pastors garage to store our belongings in and I took my family to Nebraska to stay with our folks. I returned and looked for an apartment all week with little success. There was a rather serious shortage of apartments at the time. I went to Nebraska for the weekend and gathered my family and we returned to stay in a camping trailer that someone had offered us.
The next Friday we got up at five A.M. and left so that we could get warm. We found a couple of listings in the newspaper so as soon as we could call I stepped toward a phone booth. I noticed the coin return was full of coins. I started empting it and then noticed there were coins and a bill lying on the ground outside. The find wasn’t big bucks, but it was such a great encouragement. I made the first call and the apartment was still available, so off we went.
We moved in that weekend. A couple of weeks of great turmoil and trial, but the Lord was with us all the way through. I can’t say that I was joyful through that time, but when you know how little patience I had at the time, it is obvious that God was just allowing that patience to grow and grow.
There were times when joy was the norm and it made me wonder why I hadn’t allowed joy to enter into those other situations. We were on an interstate at two A.M. and the fuel pump failed about ten miles from town. I caught a ride to town but could not find a part - called my father-in-law and he said he would be right out. I walked back to the car singing all the way knowing that blisters were forming on my feet.
It was a time of joy even though things were rather dark both literally and in our lives. Take time, when trials strike to realize what it is and bring joy to yourself so that you can go through this time as God would have you go through it.
4. Continuing on, in this line of thought - trials will come. II Timothy mentions in 3:12 "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." We in America have certainly not seen this persecution. We ought to be getting ready for it, for I think we can see it coming right now if we only open our clouded eyes. Eyes clouded with a phony piousness and self righteousness that has been turning our countrymen against us, rather than our strong witness turning them to Christ.
The persecution of Christians is becoming the common place around the world and the world does not care. It is of import that believers are now concerned and calling for protests against the persecution of Christians. There is a large flaw in that thought.
We ought to have been protesting the persecution of human beings years ago, not standing by until we are persecuted. We may get in on the trouble that our silence has allowed upon so many others around the world for so long.
If we live Godly we WILL suffer persecution. It may be that God is going to have to use the reverse order in America - bring persecution so that we will live Godly.
5. As I have talked to people over the years and as I have observed my own life, I have found that tests are like a long staircase.
Often you will go through a hard time, then a peaceful time, then along will come another trial. It is the joy that levels these out so that they don’t seem to be so bumpy. This is not a guarantee either, for there are times when you must wonder if trials will ever cease.
I am sure that Job wondered at times if the world was totally against him. Trial upon trial upon trial and no let up for such a long time.
I have also noted that when you fail a trial you may shorten the agony, but another trial that will teach you what you didn’t learn will be close behind - so, why not find some joy, work your way through the trial while you are there and be finished with it.
In a similar vein, if God is not testing you, what is going on?
Some possibles are: He may be done with you; you may be perfect and ready for anything. Small trials may come along but some people seem to reach a point where they have learned what is not so obvious to the rest of us.
There is the possibility that you have failed so often that God has given up on you, but this isn’t a possibility for He never gives up on His children. There is the possibility that He has stopped because you are no longer responding to His moving in your life. He may put you on the shelf like you have done to Him.
We do have a Biblical example of a man that must have tried the Lord, yet God just kept working until one day Peter was the one chosen to preach the sermon on the day of Pentecost. He stepped out and was walking on water, then doubted and sank (Matthew 14:29-30). He did not understand the teaching according to the Lord Himself (Matthew 15:14-16). Then there was the denial of the Lord (Matthew 26:74-75). This pictures the testing and maturing that goes on in a believer’s life. If Peter made it through and became useful, then we can also.
Know that God is not a meany, He is our Father and He desires the very best for us. He is molding us as a potter molds the clay to fit the purpose that He has in mind for each one of us. He is preparing us for His purpose and His work, thus we can have joy in that fact, each and every time a trial comes our way.
There is also Joseph, sold into slavery, and raised through those trials to leadership in the land. When he spoke to his brothers, his comment was "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." Genesis 50:20
6. In Jame’s mind and in the minds of other believers of his day the term servant was not a title of derision, nor of humiliation. It was, rather a term of pride and joy. It was a joy to serve Christ as a bond slave. To serve God with your life was the utmost one could give.
Today, I fear, many view the ministry as a sentence rather than a privilege. I read on pastor internet forums and the men that post are so downtrodden, abused, and penniless that you would think they were slaves of the highest order being bought and sold without their consent.
I recently saw a discussion of how hard the pastors life was, that they were expected to do this and that, they were called away for church problems, they were underpaid etc. Yet, this same board listed a thread on pastoral pay, that disclosed that most of the same people were being paid fifty to a hundred thousand a year, and they are underpaid. I should be so underpaid - read that as "We could pay our entire debt in less than a year."
I realize the current church climate is not conducive to pastors, but the calling is from God, it is God we have the privilege to serve not the congregation.
My concept of ministry has always been, Christ went to the cross for me, so what can He call me to do that would be equal to or worse than that? Nothing, thus I ought to be pleased to serve Him to my fullest extent without thought to the hard ships, the put down etc.
Many on the boards are bent out of shape if they aren’t addressed with the respect that they expect, or if they aren’t honored as they would honor themselves. It is God that needs to be honored not his children.
These same pastors view their volunteer staff as mediocre, untrained, untalented, and not worthy of serving, but since that is all we have we will struggle along - even though that staff is called and trained by God - hum.
Many of the threads that I have read over the years make it quite clear that the average pastor views their church as an us/them group. That congregation is the dumbest bunch of sheep that I have ever tried to work with, while "I" am the perfect shepherd that ought to be bowed down to. It is not uncommon to call church members "ignorant" or make fun of their "ignorance."
I don’t see taught in the Scriptures, an elite leadership ruling over a subjected "flock." I do see a committed, knit together, group that is working together toward the same end - glorification of Christ. This we/them idea is not Biblical and is leading ultimately to what we see in the Roman church - a large hierarchy to rule the masses.
7. In verse two we are told to be joyful in trials. Life Application Bible properly agrees that this is the concept taught here but points out that it means that during trials we are to accept them with joy, but it does not mean that we are to joy in the anticipation of coming trials. In the book of Job we don’t see him going out to the country side seeking trouble, nor being joyful in the trials he did not know were coming. He was perking along in his normal everyday rut knowing that one foot was going to be placed in front of the other for the day. He did not anticipate possible trials; he did not have a joyful smile on his face as he wondered if there would be trials that day.
It is rather like one session I had with my dentist, a man that I would describe as a torture expert. To start with, his hands were the size of a giant dog’s paws. When he started working in the back of your mouth it felt like you were getting cosmetic surgery to enlarge the opening. He had been working on me for three hours and the machine he used to cut away gum material was not working quite right.
To start with most of this time he was working on me live. He could not deaden the nerve itself on four teeth he was working on. He was in the middle of doing root canals so could not stop, so forged on in spite of my condition.
There was a small metal plate hooked to a wire. This plate was placed under your leg to make contact so that electric current could pass through the tip of his machine into the gum and burn away unneeded flesh. Now, you know why I used the word torture. The plate, at one point, was not making good enough contact so he pulled it out and handed it to me to hold. I knew what it was and I refused to hold it. I might sit and suffer the torture and pain but I was absolutely not going to participate in creating it for myself.
Don’t go looking for trials; they will come when God has something to teach you. He has the time table and it is much better than ours even though we might think we know better.
8. Trials bring pressure to bear upon us to make us into the believers that God wants. Coal is coal unless it is subjected to great pressure for a long period of time. Without this process all you ladies that are engaged or married would not have the beautiful diamond that most of you have. Coal becomes diamonds. If there is no pressure, then there can be no diamond, you will only have coal.
So, it is with the believer, if there is no trial, there will be no good results. This is why we ought to have joy when trials come - the pressure will cause improvement of our beauty and value before the Lord.
If you run across a believer that is really on top of things and that has a good Christian nature about them, talk to them and see if there aren’t some hard trials buried way down under the joy of living. I would guess that there is.
A very dear friend from years ago was the classic model of patience and godliness. One time when we were driving somewhere he shared his personal testimony with me. He knew I was under some hard trials and had been for quite some time. He told me of his time of telling God no to entering the ministry. God took him through trial after trial to train him and to increase his faith. He did not want to leave his business; he did not want to leave the money it was providing. Over a period of months the man ended up on his death bed where he finally told God that he was interested in doing His bidding.
His life from that point on was not peaches and cream, but it was on an upward slope that led to a very secure lifestyle and peace with God. He became one of the most influential and usable lay workers I have ever run into. His teaching was deeper than most of his age group. He was of great encouragement to me in that time of problems and hardship.
If you find yourself in trials, find an older, godly believer that has been there and you will find the shoulder to lean on that you need - work your way through those hard times, and watch your faith and trust in God grow to proportions that you could never believe of yourself.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
He jumps right into the doctrine. Count it joy when the Devil attacks. It is a joyful occasion because you are saying no and defeating the Devil on his own grounds.
When you are walking down the mall and that really neat guy or gal struts by, you can be joyful knowing that you did not succumb to a lonnnnnng look that might lead to incorrect thoughts. When you find that billfold with two thousand dollars in it, you can be joyful as you attempt to return it to its rightful owner without those thoughts of pulling the cash and dumping the rest.
God would have us closing the door on the devil at every opportunity and that, not only should make us happy, it most assuredly pleases Him as well.
Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
James may have been acquainted with Paul’s teaching since this same concept is found in Romans 5:3, or maybe more plausible would be that it was a common theme of the Lord’s teaching. Paul mentions, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;"
Knowing that this process worketh patience. Hum, now he is meddling, telling us that patience is the end result that is desired when we are tested - so who says we need patience?
Patience is that quality that allows you to be steadfast in your walk, it relates to continuing on no matter what is put in your way - doing what is your appointed task. In our case, as believers, it is to walk with God and not the Devil. It is to stand against the Devil in all that he throws our way. Ephesians is clear that we are to stand against him with the armor of God on our person to allow our standing before him.
Trials are a body builder for the believer; they strengthen us to withstand the Devil.
Trials are a trying of our faith, as well. As we walk with God by faith, the Devil tests our commitment, he tests our beliefs, and he tests our faith in what God has said to us in the Word. All this stretches our faith so that we might have patience in our stand against the enemy of God.
But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
"Let" is of note, it indicates that we can stop our progress in patience. We are to allow patience to have its work done in us. In other words, don’t stop the trials or avoid the trials so that patience can do what it wants with, and to you.
This is the only way that we can be perfect, entire and wanting nothing. Perfect relates to having matured to its final end. Entire relates to being complete - all parts present and functioning. This sounds like what God wants in the way of disciples, yet we cannot be this sort of person unless we go through the trials and gain the patience that we need.
Computers usually have a processor unit that makes the decisions and a memory unit that stores all the information. A university, years ago built a unit that combined these two sections into one. They fired up the monster and started working with it. The unit was taught to think on its own. It did not function as planned at first, but after awhile it began to function pretty much as designed.
One day a janitor was cleaning in the back of the unit and noticed some wires lying loose on the floor. He asked someone about it and upon inspection it was found that about twenty percent of the computer had not been hooked up.
The computer had learned around its deficiency. We, on the other hand are to be complete - ready to go - all hooked up - ready to serve our master and Lord.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
If you lack wisdom, ask for some. Ask God because He gives liberally. Don’t refrain to ask, fearing reproach, because God does not reproach. Wisdom will be the result of your request.
Very simple terms and they are easy to understand. You can ask God freely because there will be no reproach from God. Ever have a parent or teacher or a boss that when you asked a question, they made you feel like a stupid dunce? This will not happen with God, He has all wisdom, and He loves to share that wisdom, so why would He look down on anyone that is asking for it. Indeed, is not asking, wisdom?
Reproach is not something a good boss uses, it is not a good teaching method and it is certainly not a good parenting method. We might even mention how husbands and wives relate to one another - if one doesn’t know something it is not a reproach, it is that he or she does not know something. There is nothing wrong with not knowing, but it is wrong to not seek answers.
In the context we have just been speaking of being joyful in trials - if you don’t know how to accomplish this then ask God for wisdom in how to deal with those trials.
Note, "if any of you" is the qualifier. Not all will need wisdom, some may and others may not - again being in either group does not make you better or worse than the other. Some of us are way too wise in how we speak. We need to curtail such "wisdom" and keep our spiritual life straight.
One thing you will learn if you study wisdom in the Bible is that wisdom is from God - true wisdom that is - there are all sorts of wisdom, but proper wisdom comes from God and His Word.
Let’s look at wisdom for a moment so we can be sure we know what it is. There are a number of terms that will help us gain knowledge of what wisdom is.
PERCEPTION is that which allows us to recognize what is around us.
KNOWLEDGE is that perception of what is around you, and what exists. It is an awareness of all that the world is.
COMPREHENSION: Comprehension is the capacity of the mind to understand that information that our knowledge allows us.
UNDERSTANDING is comprehending what we perceive and apprehend.
INTELLIGENCE is that power of the mind to consider, and think and begin to use all this knowledge.
WISDOM is that ability to use all of these other things in a proper and judicious manner to come to conclusions about all that we perceive and know.
PERCEPTION is seeing a ten-dollar bill on the ground. COMPREHENSION is knowing it is a ten and not a one. Intelligence is knowing you’d better grab it before the man behind you UNDERSTANDS what you are doing. UNDERSTANDING is what the man behind you doesn’t have when you pick it up for you see it belongs to him. KNOWLEDGE is when you know he is six foot five and two hundred and eighty pounds. WISDOM is returning the ten to the huge man that is towering over you.
Trials are self-equipped with an answer when God sends them our way. We have only to ask for His wisdom and act upon that answer. The Word tells us that there is no trial that God does not provide a way for us to survive. He will not overburden us to the point that we fail. We may feel like He has, but He will not do such a thing to one of His children. 1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]."
And in case you feel all alone in your trials, know that others have gone before you with terrible problems, so find some consolation in this passage. Hebrews 11:36 "And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth."
1 Peter 4:12-13 speaks to the context of joy in trials. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
The purpose of trials can be seen in 1 Peter 1:7 "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"
We were between colleges years ago and we had about half the needed money to register for the coming semester. We felt that we should go on a cash basis, and since the Lord had supplied the money we had through a generous gift we felt we should wait for the other half or not register. I stewed over it and prayed over the situation and one night as I slipped into bed I just ask the Lord to give us the answer to what seemed to be an impossible question. Bingo, a few moments later it came to my mind to register for a half load that semester and see what came along the next semester.
This half semester turned out five years later to be credits that allowed me to take a partial load at a time when I was working full time and going to college full time would have been impossible.
It is not insignificant that anyone that believes can ask for wisdom. The pastor, nor the missionary, nor the board member has a corner on gaining God’s wisdom. All believers have this freedom to ask and to receive the wisdom that they need for this life’s journey.
We all know the wisdom of Solomon in deciding which of the mothers belonged to the live baby, and it is this same wisdom of God that is available to us if we only take a moment to ask of Him.
He will give it in abundance. The term used here means all that is needed, totally adequate to the need. You never need to worry that He won’t send an adequate amount to get you through the problems.
Treat your wife, children or employees as God treats you in this area. God will not reproach you for asking. Can you ever imagine Him answering your request with a retort such as we give to others? "Act like a Christian stupid! I’ve never seen anybody so dumb in all my eternity. Even your brother isn’t that dumb!" Not so - never will it be that He answers us as we probably have answered others.
One must wonder why so many pastors are spending so much time in counseling sessions with people involved in broken lives, messed up parenting situations and job problems. Most of it is that the people aren’t seeking God for wisdom and they are running their lives off into problems.
I’m not saying you should not go to your pastor if you have problems, but asking God might be quicker and it will be totally based on the Word and not what the pastor thinks or has read in a self help book.
My wife has told me of some of the Christian counseling sessions that believers she works with go through. They sound like they are right out of O magazine, or the Oprah show. Flaky at best, downright unbiblical at worst.
God’s wisdom is in keeping with His Word and it is perfect, why bother with the lesser of options?
1. The Life Application Bible correctly notes that wisdom from God is the knowledge of what God wants us to do in a given situation. It does not mean that He is going to make the decision, it does not mean that He is going to provide the way (though He may) and it does not mean that you won’t have to do some things to cure the situation.
If you ask for wisdom, He will give it, but then it is up to you to do the rest to bring the situation to a good conclusion.
We were asked to fill the pulpit in a little church that had just rid themselves of a shyster. I had prepared for an evening service as well as the morning, but they asked if they could have a devotional for after the noon potluck and that they were going to forgo the evening service. The study I had prepared was quite flexible so I just gave the information in a very informal way in the park after we had all pigged out.
The study was on the qualities of a pastor as opposed to the qualifications of a pastor that most churches usually look through when seeking a new man. The devotional time went well and the people seemed very responsive.
After finishing I prayed and relaxed in my chair. One of the women almost immediately blurted out, "But how can we find someone like that?" It was clear that their former pastor was not of this quality.
I talked with them at some length about selecting a pastor. They seemed to want a quality man in their church, but in a few weeks they had hired a man that was far from quality and they were regretting their double mindedness within months. They had heard the standard, they had decided to wait for a man that lived up to that standard, but then accepted the first man to come along, settling for a lesser standard than they had originally set. They had the talk but did not have the walk. They said they wanted a quality man, but they were not willing to wait for him to be supplied by God in His time.
2. Another way of viewing the double minded person is that the person’s allegiance is split between himself or herself and God the Spirit and His control.
They want to run their life, but they want God to run their life. This won’t work. Kind of like the driver wanting to drive the car, and the passenger wanting to drive the car - both with hands on the wheel trying to make the car go the way they want to go.
We can’t control our life when we have asked God to control it. If we ask for wisdom, we need to receive it and use it. If we don’t want wisdom, we shouldn’t ask. If we are going to do it ourselves, we shouldn’t ask.
3. It is of import that James, the great man of prayer that he was, would open his book with such a requirement as faith. Prayer is based totally on faith, and it is faith that makes prayer work. No faith, no answered prayer.
Faith is a vital portion in the Christian life. Without it you can do little, and with a little faith you can do more, but you are still limited.
Imagine having a man like James as part of the church leadership in your church. A man that prays so much his knees are hard like a camel - a man that knows just what faith is in the believers life. That is the kind of leader we need today in our churches, not the bunch that prays five or six minutes a day and watches several hours of television the same day.
4. The overall theme of James seems to center around believers getting their lives straight before God.
Is there a better place to start on this job than faith and how to live by that faith? How can a believer begin in the Christian life if they do not understand that we must be single-mindedly men and women of faith? Without faith we will not be able to do anything much for our God and Savior. Faith is the gas that our motors run on.
The Lord told the disciples that if they had a little faith, they could move mountains. I personally think we underestimate the power of faith and prayer in our materialistic world. We have so much we don’t have to worry about faith; we can buy it, pay for it, or acquire it by ourselves without the need of taking time for prayer.
Years ago Trans-World Radio was building a new facility and they were pouring a large slab of concrete for some of the heavy equipment to rest on. The slab was very important to the site and the perfection of the slab was also highly critical. They knew that if it rained the slab would be ruined and they would have to tear it out and pour it again at great expense.
Much prayer had been made by people around the mission and around the world.
One of the mission leaders was to fly in to watch the work being done. As his plane took off they ran into rain storms immediately and the entire trip was the same. The official knew that the workmen were in deep trouble with this sort of weather.
As the plane approached the work site, the clouds cleared and for a mile or two around the site the sun was shining - as it did until the work was done and the cement was safe. God is able if we will only ask.
We need to understand that there are some prerequisites for this sort of prayer - you have to be on praying ground. God told Moses to take off his sandals before approaching, can we do any less. We need to be in holy array before we venture into His presence. We need to confess our sins and we need to know in our heart that God is in the venture about which we are about to pray. James mentions the prayer of faith that heals; this seems to be a prayer that is offered with a complete faith that the prayer will be answered.
Don’t go before God with a lot of um’s and ah’s and if You will’s and expect great things.
5. 1 Corinthians 1:24 has an interesting fact relating to God’s wisdom. "24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
Since God is also wise and powerful we are left to assume that this passage suggests that the power and wisdom that we have available to us may come from Christ. Christ is the wisdom of God. When we ask God for wisdom, it isn’t a great stretch to suggest that we are asking to be Christ like in our thinking.
6. James uses the tossing to and fro of the waves to illustrate this double mindedness. Have you ever seen an empty bottle in the ocean? It bobs and twists and goes this way and that way but never seems to have any sure direction, while if you have ever watched an ocean going ship as it sails and cuts its way through the sea. There is nothing that can deter it from its course, it is set on a course and it does not waver unless there is a course change that will take it to its destination.
When I was in the Navy, we entered into a Typhoon (a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean). The winds were strong; the waves were high. At one point in the night, had we gone over another degree we would have capsized, yet no matter how the storm blew, we remained on the course set. The winds were so strong that we were carried several miles back of where we began our journey, but we never missed our course.
So it is with the believer, we must have our course set and not waver from it.
As a side note to this thought, if we are committed to Christ, if we have committed to serve and follow Him, then we will have that course set, we will be on target and nothing will keep us from it. On the other hand if we are with Christ in the morning after devotions, then decide to go our own way a few minutes later, then decide we are again on his side, then on the other then.... you get the picture - how can we hope to ask and receive? How can we hope to be on track, how can we hope to come to the final destination that God wants?
Walking in the Spirit is the only sure way of requesting wisdom and expecting to gain it from God. We must walk with Him in an ongoing manner lest we be like an empty bottle going nowhere.
7. Constable suggests that wisdom is seeing life in a proper perspective - from God’s view point. I tend to like that, but I think it is more also. If Constable means all of the details of decisions and choices, I would tend to agree. However, if he means only an over view of life from Gods perspective - I think that thought is lacking what wisdom really is.
I can have a good overall view of life with God’s perspective, but need wise mental faculties to work through the intricacies of the many decisions we face in life.
Constable is correct, in my mind, to picture this wisdom as relating to all of life, while some seem to relate it only to the specific context at hand - wisdom in a proper understanding of trials and how to be joyful. Contextually, yes that is the thought, but the thought of wisdom is much wider than that as well.
Barnes seems to agree "Probably this refers particularly to the kind of wisdom which they would need in their trials, to enable them to bear them in a proper manner; for there is nothing in which Christians more feel the need of heavenly wisdom than in regard to the manner in which they should bear trials, and what they should do in the perplexities, and disappointments, and bereavements that come upon them: but the language employed is so general, that what is here said maybe applied to the need of wisdom in all respects."
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Ask in faith without doubt might be the thought of the text. Wavering means to doubt or as a wave of the arm, might indicate turning from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is not faith; this is totally with doubt. Asking with faith is asking with the steadfastness of the pointer hunting dog that varies not from his position once he has found the quarry.
Faith simply is that quality of our mind that allows us to believe without a doubt that God will do as He has said. If you ask for wisdom with a "hope" that you will get it, you are wavering. If you ask with little hope of getting it, you are also wavering. Ask with confidence, the confidence that Almighty God, the creator of all that there is has promised to give you wisdom.
The "driving" and the "tossing" are verbs that have action from without. The winds drive and toss the man that wavers in His request of the Lord. He is like a wave - this is a perfect tense, something that is and always will be this way. If you ask wavering, you are the type that is driven as a wave in the sea. You will be driven whatever way the wind desires, and you will have no control.
Faith is illustrated by the Lord in Matthew 17:20 "...if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, move from here to yonder place; and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Quite a mouthful even for the Lord Jesus. Move a mountain by faith! Some would scoff at such a principle. Indeed, some did when Christ said it. Luke gives the other side of the story when he tells of the other peoples reaction. Luke 9:43 "And they were all astonished at the mighty power of God." One might observe that they were astonished, but the indication is that they believed it His power.
Faith is a powerful tool of the believer if we will only use it.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
The one that wavers will receive nothing from the Lord. This is a blanket statement of fact; if you waver, you are out of luck. Why? The faith is faulty.
It isn’t that we all have complete and perfect faith; but that we use what faith we have in a complete manner.
A double minded man [is] unstable in all his ways.
The one that wavers is double minded. He has two minds when he asks. God won’t do that for me. God will do that for me. No, God won’t do that for me. Well, maybe God will do that for me. There is no stability in this sort of mind. When we ask, know that the answer is on the way and that God will do exactly what He has said.
This is just another type of man which wavers in his life. He says one thing and lives another. You can’t plan on his talk and actions being the same. This is one that is wayward either by personality or by choice.
This reminds me of a politician. While out getting votes he or she says one thing, but when they have gotten your vote and have been elected they begin doing the other thing - that thing they wanted to do in the first place, but had to make you think something else so they could get elected.
Peter resembles these thoughts. He was totally committed to the Lord, yet denied him when he had opportunity to stand for Him. Not unlike some of the rest of us, but then Peter found the more complete faith and ended up being one of the leaders of the church.
God has us in a growing pattern. Trials bring about growth in the area of our faith.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Here we go again, one of those obnoxious commands - hey, poor people rejoice you are exalted. Well there must be more to the text than that.
This is a strange assemblage of words in my mind. James contrasts the brother of low degree with the brother that is rich, but at the same time communicates their equality in brotherhood yet points out the rich man only in coming death. They are both changed from the normally viewed status to the other’s. The rich man is then singled out for the gore - death, not that the lowly brother won’t also die - all humans of any degree die, but the rich man is singled out in the text. Some questions to ponder as we study.
Why is only the rich man’s end considered?
Why is the lowly’s end not considered?
Why is only the lowly to rejoice in his degree, since both end in their proper place?
Why is the rich man given so much information?
Might it be that the rich man needs to be educated on the fact that he is not going to outdo death, that his end is coming, while the lowly man knows all too well his end cometh? The lowly, if they know the teaching of the Lord know that they will be in a far better place in their end when it cometh. OR, more precisely, is James not talking about the lowly and the rich believers coming to their realization that they are equals, and that James is singling out the rich man that has not been humbled - the one that is going to wither as the flower. I suspect that this is the more appropriate line of thought.
Let’s consider the text and see where we find ourselves with these two examples.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
There is nothing surprising in the text that the English doesn’t bring out. The point is, the one that is of low degree will be raised up or exalted.
In short, this is a blanket statement that if you are of low degree, you will be exalted. This is something you can go to the bank with - it is safe and secure. It is not unlike the Lord’s words in Matthew five when He said, "5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Christ related later to His listener that He was of the same position and mind set. Matthew 11:29 "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light."
It might do well for us to consider these verses in light of our own lives. Are we really meek, are we really lowly, are we really Christ like? This is part of Christ likeness. Sure we are to be spiritual, sure we are to be well versed in the Bible, and sure we are to be all those things we think Christ likeness is, but part of that is ALSO meekness and lowliness. Do we really measure down to His level of living? Something to consider for sure.
1. Just how are the lowly exalted? Aside from the fact of becoming a believer and all the joy and hope that gives, at the death process they are transformed from some lowly poor life to the rewards of an Almighty God that sent His Son to die for them - they are His brothers and the children of the Father. That alone is certainly exaltation enough, yet the believer knows that secondly they will have reward for those good works that have been done throughout life. Thirdly, we are as we have said, sons of the living God, and I am sure that has a lot of exaltation of its own over and above the sonship.
2. The rich man, on the other hand, is made low by the humbling of himself before an almighty God in salvation. He becomes aware of who he really is before God, prior to that he thought he was the ultimate.
The rich man that is not humbled by salvation, in death, is made low by the loss of who he was, he is made low by the loss of what he had gained, and he is made low by the loss of enjoying both of the other points, and finally, he is made low by the loss of his life and the reality of his final destination - the Lake of Fire.
3. This seems to be a passage of encouragement to the lowly, rather than a curse toward the rich. It seems to me, in this context that James is just saying that the lowly will be exalted in salvation and that the rich will be humbled in salvation, but on the other hand the rich, lost person, is really in for it - lowly folks, be at peace for you are going to enjoy gain that is ahead. These readers had suffered persecution and had seen the ugly side of mankind, and that having a large component of rich men that were involved in the persecution - the rich and the religiously pious of their day. Can I prove that it was the rich that persecuted, no, but this text seems to imply that the lowly would be knowledgeable of the rich and know that their demise was sure. I have many times wondered at the rich - those that have it all - why I’m not one of them - not that I would know how to live Godly if I were one of them. I have wondered at the things the rich get away with, I have wondered at all the things they could do with their money and I have wondered at the things that they have acquired.
The answer to all of this is that God is in charge of all things and I don’t have to worry about it. God will deal with the rich as they have need, I have only to live my life in His light and leave the rest to Him.
I have known few rich believers, but two of those that I have known have been as lowly as any lowly that I have known. They took their riches with a grain of salt and they have patterned their lives after the one that saved them. Being rich is not wrong, but being high and mighty with your riches is most assuredly wrong. All believers are held to the same standard - meekness and lowliness.
4. Other translations take a little different approach to verse nine, in that they show it that the lowly should rejoice in that they are exalted, not as being exalted in the future. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tend this way as well. The view it that the lowly person that is in trials can take refuge in the fact that they have been made low because of Christ. This exaltation is their being lifted to this high position of persecution. I am not sure that washes with the context. This seems to detract from the thought that this passage is an integrated part of the entire context. They go on and add many of the things that I have already mentioned. They further point out that while the lowly are exalted and the rich are made low, that both end up on the same plain - children of God and all that goes with that inheritance. This points out something else. Their earthly riches seem to be much less important than what they will have in heaven.
We all knew that but it is good to be reminded of it.
They suggest that this passage was taken from Isaiah 40:6-8 "The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
At the least it may have been in James’ mind when he was writing, but it doesn’t seem to be a quote.
As to whether the exaltation is future as the King James seems to indicate or present as others make it, I am not sure. It seems to me that there is nothing in the text to show either way. I am not sure that James shouldn’t have explained that he was talking about present exaltation, because I’m not sure the reader would have related their lowly estate to being exalted at that time, and I am not sure they would have made the connection.
5. Barnes suggests that this passage is divorced and separate from the previous context, but it seems to me that they are very closely related. It isn’t impossible, but it seems rather awkward to find such and abrupt change of thought with no transition. He, in the next paragraph, seems to link the exaltation to the trials of the previous context.
6. Some suggest that this exaltation and lowering relates to the spiritual equalization when one is saved, which is true, but seems to relate closely to the outward attitude that should compliment that equalization. Others suggest that the rich man that is saved should have a change of attitude about his riches. This is true, but don’t look for this change to be immediate. It may be, but it is like the man that is deep in sin when saved. He may clean up his life immediately, or he may do it in steps - both are correct if God is leading in the action.
7. There seems to be a need for the lowly to be satisfied with who and what they are. A friend once told me that one morning he got out of bed and his first thought was "Hey! I am a human being!" Now, my first thought was that he was nuts, but he was content with what he was. He was up and around to do the Lord’s bidding and that was enough.
8. If the lowly and the rich are equal before God, and they are, and if the lowly are exalted, and they are, and if the rich are brought low, and they are, then is it not true that riches mean nothing to God and that to bring the rich man to the point that God wants them He has to lower them. This is an awesome reality to contemplate.
Not to say that God wants middle income Christians, but the riches that one might amass, mean nothing to God, because He will have to get rid of them to get you down to where you belong. What a thing for a rich believer to think about. Maybe part of this life for the rich is to bring themselves down by giving to the Lord’s work and assuring that their spiritual life is right and proper and on a plain that is pleasing to God. Yes, if you are thinking it, I found it quite easy to say that since I am not rich.
9. Within the context it may be that James sought to encourage those lowly persecuted folks that might have been thinking that all was lost, that they were failures since they had lost all that they had when they fled Jerusalem. They may well have been surrounded by rich people and this would have only added to their possible guilt over being lowly.
It would have been hard for the parents to have children and to be trying to make it in a land that was not their own. I bring this up, because the younger generation living now, may well find themselves fleeing persecution. We have been seeing the beginnings of it in our own country and it has been going on for a number of years abroad.
Christians are being banned from normal everyday activities. We can no longer pray in the schools, and it is becoming doubtful in many other areas. We are being called the religious zealots, we are being called the radical right and we are being made out to be identical to the likes of Hitler.
This is from the loving liberal left, for the most part - you know - those that are accepting of all peoples -- just not Christians.
Why are we being persecuted? Well, in my opinion, because God has brought a situation upon us that makes us look like the light of the world in spite of our taking on the worldly appearance. They see us as a threat to their sinful, worldly life and as such are reacting as we will react to the loss of our liberties - acting to counter what we perceive to be wrong.
Our sons and daughters may seek another country where they might be free to practice their beliefs. This is a radical thought, but anyone looking at the news can see that this could be coming if things don’t change in our near future.
This may well relate to the double mindedness that he addresses. Those that had fled persecution may have been second guessing their decision to leave their homes so quickly. After all, they had moved to get away from the persecution and now they were in the middle of trials - even possibly similar persecution to what they had fled.
I’m not sure fleeing persecution is the key, though it may be in some cases. Persecution is rather a part of being a Christian. We are supposed to be on the outs with society.
I believe that is one reason persecution in America is going to be so bad. It will be persecution, but since believers are so much a part of the worldly society, it will not only be persecution, but separation from that which they know as life - the world.
10. The LITV translation translates verses nine and ten as follows: "9 But let the lowly brother rejoice in his lifting up; 10 and the rich one rejoice in his humiliation, because he will pass away like the flower of the grass."
Note that both the lowly AND the rich are to rejoice. This is indicated, though not clearly, in the King James Version. Both are to rejoice in their lowly estate, because the rich man, if not humbled, will be like the flower.
To me, it seems that James is telling the lowly to rejoice in the rich man being humbled, but at the same time I have to wonder if "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low:" isn’t trying to say that all believers ought to be on a level playing field as believers. The lowly uplifted to believerdom, while the rich are humbled to believerhood.
It seems to be saying that the lowly realizes how low they are but that Christ lifts them up, while the rich, in realizing he is nothing special before God, humbles himself to the level of needing Christ. Most rich are so high and mighty that they can never NEED God.
Not only are we all equal in our state before God, but we are both to rejoice in that we are equal to each other, or ought to be.
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. When someone died and someone spoke of them as having passed away, you now know where the Biblical basis for that terminology comes from.
This is very clear that death is in view, that the rich man will die, just as the flower. Now, if you are a flower at my house you have a very short life. I kill just about everything I work with. We used to buy live Christmas trees, the very small ones, because we lived in small apartments. At times we would buy a small regular Christmas tree, but one year I called the family together and asked them if they wanted to get a dead tree or get a live Christmas tree and kill it. We ended up with death on our patio every single year we attempted to be environmentally conscious.
Not only does the rich man have death coming, there is also a leveling of sorts, in that he will be made low. I assume that this leveling is in death - the loss of all that one has achieved. Faith’s grandfather always told people that he was taking it all with him because he had purchased an asbestos coffin - might take it with him but he was most likely going to get lung cancer as well.
On one of the last of our twenty-four moves we had loaded it all up into the truck and the car was on the dolly behind. As we pulled out of Cheyenne, WY I turned to my wife and said, "You know one of the great joys of death just has to be that you don’t have to take it all with you!" The rich often are tied tightly to their belongings, and this great leveling of the rich to the level of the poor will be quick and sure.
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Here in Oregon the winter and spring are normally quite wet so the grass is lush and green and fast growing. When that summer sun starts to shine, you had better be getting the watering gear out lest you miss that very small window in which you must wet things down. If you wait a day or two that grass will be on its travel between green and brown and the picture is not very pretty. So, the rich man will dry up and wither away.
I am told that in Israel there is a wind that blows from the desert that can wither grass within an hour. A hot high wind can do real damage as does death to a rich person. It seems that this death is related to the rich that are not humbled in salvation, though it is rather true of all of us. It is not a pleasant thing to contemplate your own demise, but you really need to understand the coming death that awaits us all. The young seldom consider it, the middle aged often dwell on it, and the old face it. If you are a believer, the prospect is much easier to handle because we know there is something far better coming, while the lost person knows nothing of their impending demise, or have been taught things that will give them false hope.
Here I am at the end of this life and I have nothing unusually wise or profound to relate to you except that you are all going to get here also - there is nothing that can hold it back, except the rapture of course.
The only thing that has come to my mind in recent years is the fact that it isn’t really "death" but a transition from this life to the next. It is an instant process and we will be far better off. Actually as I have considered it all over the years, the only part of death that bothers me is all the pain and trouble that oft times precedes it.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
I read an illustration once that fits well here. It related to a small boy with a sail boat. The boat was skimming along nicely and as it neared the middle of the pond the breeze stopped. The boat was just stranded out of reach and the boy was becoming quite disappointed about not being able to retrieve his boat.
Shortly a big boy started throwing rocks at the boat. This upset the little boy until he realized that each rock was landing just beside the boat and the ripples from the rocks were pushing the boat toward the little boy. Finally after all the rocks the boy was able to be reunited with his toy.
Sometimes we feel God is throwing rocks at us, but He isn’t really, He is only keeping us, ever gently, on our path to serving Him.
When I was in the Navy, we had a saying when things started to pile up. "When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." It seemed to work in the Navy, but not in the spiritual life - JOY is the key according to James. (I might add that the saying in the Navy seemed to lighten the load, so even that was Biblical - it brought joy :-)
I would like to introduce you to the crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament that are available to the believer.
First of all, the crown would relate to a wreath around the neck or garland about the head for sports events, but this is probably more of a real crown. Some suggest the crowns are for now, while others state that they are for the afterlife. In the case of some both might be true.
Many relate this to the throwing of crowns before the throne in the book of Revelation, but note should be taken that there are a limited number that do this and there is little indication that all of us will follow suit. We may, but the Bible does not seem to state this is the case.
The Crown of Life: This is seen in our present passage. This is also seen in Revelation 2:10 "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast [some] of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." It seems that trials of great proportion were coming for all believers across the known world. This crown is to those that love Him. Easy enough to get this one I would think.
The Crown of the soulwinner: This crown is mentioned in Philippians 4:1 and the people of the church are Paul’s crown. They are his reward for the service He has given to bring them to the Lord and to bring them up spiritually. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 also mentions this thought and it is called the crown of rejoicing.
The Crown of Righteousness: 2 Timothy 4:8 mentions the crown that is available to all that love His appearing.
The Crown that is Incorruptible: 1 Corinthians 9:25 mentions an incorruptible crown which the believer strives for. Paul mentions it in the context of the running the race and running it properly, for the proper reason. We live this life, but if we live it for God, the implication is we will gain an incorruptible crown.
The Crown of Glory: 1 Peter 5:4 tells of this crown as going to the shepherd’s that have been faithful.
It isn’t that we should spend our lives working and hoping for our crowns, but that we should spend our lives working for the Lord in all the areas He desires, and the crowns will come if we have been faithful in the proper areas. Reward is not why we work; it is our love for the Lord that moves us to want to do the works that please Him.
In essence, if we just do as we should we will gain reward for it. What a deal!
1. One commentary suggested that man in this situation is like a fish, taken with the hook, even though he swallowed the bait. He may have a morsel of food, but there will be a sharp pain and maybe even death.
I have known some good men that have, in a moment of lust, fallen from their calling as a result of their sin. They saw a woman that was desirable, they allowed lust a foothold and sin was the result, with all of its ugly consequences.
It is quick, it is sure, and it is quite detrimental, yet so many of us open ourselves up to the possibilities of this terrible process by our inappropriate decision making.
Beware that decision. Be very careful to consider the possible consequences of what you are going to do.
2. There is a related concept here. A friend’s wife was caught in adultery with another church member, indeed three wives were involved with three husbands, not their own. Six couples and an entire church shook to the foundations due to very poor decisions.
The friend’s wife would not admit that there was anything wrong with what she had been doing. She felt that it was normal and okay. Now, think for a moment, about what we have just studied. Is this even a possibility, that she did not know that this was wrong? She processed the information, and she made the decision to go against all that she knew to be Godly in her many years of teaching in the church, and then in my mind added the lie to her arsenal of sin.
The individual is the one that allows lust, the individual is the one that allows temptation, it is the individual that allows enticement, and it is the individual that allows the sin.
No one outside the person, nothing outside the person, and no force outside the person causes any of this, it is all from within. God didn’t do it, the Devil didn’t do it, you did!
If this is true and it seems to be, then God has every right and duty to judge that one that allows these ugly items into their lives. Yet, He willingly suggests that He will forgive if we will only confess and seek forgiveness. What a God we serve, even when we are at the height of our rebellion against Him He awaits our turning to Him.
Might I suggest another concept that is foreign to much of the Biblical teaching today? Personal responsibility. Is this not the outcome of this text? You sin, you are responsible. Our society is so quick to blame everyone and everything under the sun for all that goes wrong, when it is actually the personal sin of people in the world.
When someone is deformed by a quack plastic surgeon, it is the governments fault for not controlling him. When someone totals your car it is the traffic lights, or the road, or the whatever. Recently a young man was driving his date to the prom when he lost control of his car and crashed. The young woman was killed and it was the counties fault for not straightening the road, it was the rail road’s fault for not moving its trestle, it was the curves in the road fault, it was the fault of everything but the drivers actions which caused him to lose control of the car.
Personal responsibility is quite painful at times, but it is ours to accept and a burden we need to take upon ourselves instead of trying to shift it elsewhere.
3. We have laid some strong ground work for understanding the spiritual life. There are many that suggest that we sin because we have the old corrupt sin nature inside us warring against the new nature that is given to us at salvation. They see the one constantly struggling with the other for dominance.
Now, rethink our passage and try to fit that truth into this idea of warring natures. Does it fit easily? Does it fit at all? To my way of thinking the answer is no to both questions.
There are others, and I would concur, that believe that, yes, we have a lost sinful nature at birth, but at salvation we are given a new nature that replaces the old rather than coexists with it. The word nature means the very essence of what a thing is. If you have a glass of milk, you have a substance that has a certain nature to it. If you stir in a little poison, you don’t have poison and milk coexisting in the glass, you have a new substance called poisoned milk.
Thus, when Christ enters our lives, we become new as the Word tells us. We are a completely new nature, but we are still man. Man is and always has been a self-willed being. Point - Adam did his own thing rather than what God required. He did this, not because he had a sin nature that made him do it, he did it because he wanted to do what he wanted to do rather than do what God wanted him to do. So, we, as new creatures in Christ go through the same process as did Adam, to gratify our own sinful lusts - our responsibility not some figment of man’s imagination called an old nature. It is our choice to sin and we do it, we need not try to blame anything or anyone.
No, I am not talking about sinless perfection, for we are, as I have said, self-willed beings. Christ lived this life perfectly; He was tempted as we in his manhood, and walked perfectly with God. He has made us, in salvation, as Adam was as if he had never sinned. We make that choice to soil our sin free life when we chose to walk against God.
To me, in a simplistic way, to say that man has a sin nature is a slap in the face of God. He has done all there is to be done to free us from all sin and all ramifications of sin that He possibly could. We still suffer from the ravages of sin in our physical beings and one day will die, but in our spiritual arena we are ready for heaven on a moments notice because all has been done. To say that there is something lacking, that there is still a sin nature lurking that must be cared for is to slight what He has already done through Christ.
Think about it. If we have a sin nature and when we die, we are ushered into the presence of God - what? How can sinful beings be ushered into the presence of God? All is ready within us for that day when we are moved from this life to His presence. We don’t go through some decontamination process to get into heaven; it is immediate and sure, not based on a clean up process of some theological folks that like to have an excuse for their sinful ways.
I wonder if those that believe in two distinct natures have considered that. I also wonder when they think this sin nature will be cared for so that we can have entrance into heaven. It is a spiritual nature in their minds, as is our new nature, just when is it cast off? It is an integrated part of our being before God, in their mind, just when is God going to get around to being able to do something about it? What process is yet needed for us to be rid of this scourge - questions that really add weight to the one new nature line of thought - to me anyway.
4. Barnes mentions that there are two aspects to temptation to sin. He submits there is that general aspect of the trying of ones religion, or faith. The other is the up front temptation to do wrong. Within this context he makes the following statement. "In each and every case, whether by affliction, or by direct allurements to do wrong, the question comes before the mind whether we have religion enough to keep us, or whether we will yield to murmuring, to rebellion, and to sin."
He brings up an interesting point. Do we have enough "religion" to stand up to the trying of our faith or to stand up to the trying of our will to say no? In essence the trying of our ability to say no to lust is, indeed an indication of our religion. It indicates how strong our faith in the Word is, it indicates how strong our faith in God is, and it indicates how strong our faith in what God has promised is. When we succumb to temptation, we automatically know the limits of our faith in God.
If you succumb quite easily to sin, then your faith in God is weak. If you can withstand all comers of the family of temptation, you can be fairly assured that you have grown quite strong in your faith in God. If you are young you many not grasp the beauty of this, but if you are old and have survived the temptations of youth, you probably know that your number of sins is quite low when compared with your younger years. This, if true in your life, is proof that your faith in God has grown to great proportions.
Not that older believers are sinless, nor that they don’t sin, but they sin much less because they desire the peace that comes with walking closely with their Father.
I will leave you to consider the implications of this in relation to some of the big name preachers that have fallen so deeply into sin. Men that have been "spiritual" for so long, falling so completely into the clutches of lust and sin, makes one wonder the depths of their faith all those years.
We needant stop at the big name preachers, we could consider the not so big names that have fallen just as completely. We could also mention the lay people, the men and women that have walked so closely with God for so long that suddenly turn into the vile hateful people we see in business meetings from time to time. One must wonder at their level of spirituality as well.
5. I find this thought of God tempting man to be of interest. Imagine, this holy and perfect God that desires to create companions for His own pleasure. He creates, he creates while giving free will, but he also sets a decree in place to redeem these for Himself. He creates within them a new nature to serve Him, He sets that person on a path to eternity with Him in heaven, but all of a sudden tries to tempt that one that he is preparing to try and trick them into sinning. How ludicrous, yet this is what some of mankind would suggest.
God loved the world and did all that was needed to bring the world to Himself, why in the world would he try to trip poor man up by tempting him to fall? Not too bright a line of thought to me.
6. Barnes points out that in his generation, as I observe in our own, "lust" is a very narrow term tied usually to sexual sin. The truth is that this word is a general term that relates to the desire for anything, be it gold, sexual gratification, more toys for the house, or more houses to fill with toys. The desire for more of anything that leads one away from God might be the meaning in our day.
When you see that new Hummer with its shiny coat of paint, G.P.S., video player in the rear and all those goodies, if you aren’t satisfied with what God has given you, lust will be the result.
When you see that person of the opposite sex in its shiny coat of duds, neat shoes, and great hair, if you aren’t satisfied with what God has given you, lust will be the result.
God has told us that He will give us all that we need, but when we feel He has not been true in this area, and we think we need more, then lust and sin will follow.
7. We see that this truth that James laid out about sin and that it is our own fault is to further emphasize the fact that God does not tempt us. We tempt our selves. We ARE our own worst enemy.
Not only do we allow our lust to conceive and produce sin, James reminds us that sin brings death. We need to consider this for a moment.
I don’t for a minute believe that James is telling us if you sin, you die, nor is he telling us that if you sin you are going to hell. He is simply relating the reality that sin ends in death. Death of a relationship, death of a person, spiritual death, there are many forms of death, and all result from sin.
Our present creation is a result of sin. Nature has suffered dearly because of sin and will one day be gloriously transformed into life.
There is spiritual death, that which we are born into because of the fall, there is physical death, and some might suggest there is a sort of death when we fall into and remain in sin. Spiritual death is overcome by salvation, while physical death cannot be overcome - it is the lot of every man to die unless taken home in the rapture.
The ultimate problem for a believer in continuing sin is the possibility of physical death. John 15:1 ff pictures the branch of the vine being taken away if it is not producing fruit - this lack of fruit would be the outworking of sin in that life.
Along with the John passage, you might consider Acts five and the couple that lied to the Holy Spirit and lost their lives as well as Leviticus 10:1-2.
8. It is of interest that James carries through with this idea of conception in verse fifteen with the phrase "bringeth forth death" - the term translated bringeth forth can deal with birth or with the begetting of a father. Lust will conceive and birth is the natural and to be expected result.
You don’t need to wander about what kind of child it will be - James tells us the offspring is death, there is no other option or outcome, death is the natural result of sin.
9. Constable notes correctly that the context of being joyful in trials is quite a contrast to the thought of trials and temptation. He suggests that the thought here is that when trials come, don’t be tempted to avoid them, but to go through them for the growth that they will bring.
The reality is that many have mentioned that they failed or avoided a particular trial, only to be faced with something similar at a later date. God has certain things for us to learn, and we will learn them sooner or later. Why not get it over with?
10. 1 Corinthians 9:24 shows a contrast between the lost and the believer. One labors for one thing while the other "ought" to labor for the other - not sure how true that is today, but that is the way it is supposed to be. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible."
While the world strains for the plaudits of men, the panacea of things, and the peace of having it all, the believer is to be looking to God for his recognition, and heaven for his peace. The world has little to offer, and what it does offer can only satisfy while you are in this world - that won’t be too long when compared to eternity and all it has to offer.
11. Christ mentioned "Lead us not into temptation" in Matthew 6:13, indicating that God could lead the believer into temptation. How does this verse square with our passage in this chapter where it tells us that God does not tempt believers?
One commentary suggests that Christ did not imply that God could lead someone into temptation, but that God can help us avoid it. He further suggested that we should ask God to allow only the minimum amount of temptation possible, and concludes that James wasn’t contradicting Christ’s comments. First of all it is not James that made the statement, but the Holy Spirit, so we KNOW there is no contradiction. To me, the man does not answer the question.
First of all, the Matthew text uses aorist tenses, indicating a request that God not lead us once, into temptation, and to deliver us once, from evil (Matthew 6:13). Secondly this portion of Matthew is relating to Millennial Kingdom information which is quite another subject area. Thirdly the words were aimed at the disciples, not us.
The term translated "lead" in Matthew can be translated "bring" which might be the better way to view the verse. In fact the American Standard Version translates it as bring. God can and will bring us into situations where we might find temptation lurking, but it is not to say that He is tempting us. It is as a father that allows a child to enter situations where the child can learn to make good decisions, yet the father is not actually teaching the child. The father would not allow that child into a situation that they could not handle either, nor would the father endanger the child, nor would the father purposely lead them into a situation that would cause harm.
Nor, would God lead us into a situation that would cause harm, but in any situation where free will is in action, there is a possibility of the choice of harm or wrong. God allows temptation in the world, but He will not lead us or bring us to it.
God cannot and will not tempt a person, but He certainly does allow temptation in the world and some of it is bound to come along for the sake of maturing us into what He wants us to be.
The rest of the Matthew passage is of interest as well. "But deliver us from evil" is the other side of the prayer. The overall result of the prayer is to keep us safe from evil.
Don’t bring us to temptation, but when we meet it, let us be joyful in it, is the thought of the James text with Matthew included - in my mind at least.
12. The crown of life in verse twelve is said to be eternal life according to the Life Application Bible.
This is one example of why I encourage people to look to the Word for their interpretation and help. The verse plainly states, "for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life," so to say the crown of life is salvation we must change the Gospel to include, not only calling on the name of the Lord, but also the enduring of trials. If that sounds like a works salvation you are correct in my mind.
Actually, if you add the Revelation 2:10 passage and you might even understand the trials are to be unto death. So, to be assured of salvation according to the Life Application Bible you would have to call upon Christ and be martyred.
Yes, use these resources for your Bible study, but think about what they say before accepting it as useful.
13. One last point of application. We already know that when we sin we and we alone are the reason, but lets consider some of the excuses man uses.
1. We mentioned blaming someone else - Adam blamed Eve, the WOMAN GOD HAD GIVEN HIM.
2. The devil made me do it.
3. It was just my old nature that was just too strong for me today.
4. I couldn’t help it; it was upon me before I could think.
5. It was a bad decision - YA THINK?
6. Well, everyone is doing it.
7. God tempted me and I wasn’t strong enough yet.
8. Peer pressure made me do it.
9. I didn’t know it was wrong.
Note these in your everyday conversation with believers and when they use one of these take them to this passage and say, "NO, you sinned because YOU chose to sin!"
Just a note relating, some suggest that 2 Samuel 24:1 contradicts this passage by showing that God tempted David to sin by numbering the people. "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."
When someone finds a passage such as this go deeper to see what the rest of God’s word says. In this case you need to look at 1 Chronicles 21:1 as well. "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel."
The first passage is God allowing circumstances, while the last verse pictures the results - David succumbed to the Devil’s temptation.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
And I would add that they shouldn’t say that the Devil made me do it either. We will see this a little further into the book.
Years ago I read the following account from St. Augustine’s life: "Soon after St. Augustine’s conversion he was walking down a street in Milan, where he was a student, when a prostitute spoke to him by name. She called, ’Augustine.’ The young man would not answer; he kept on walking. ’Augustine,’ she called again, ’it is I.’ Without slowing down, Augustine replied, ’yes, but it is no longer I.’"
He knew how to face (or not face, may be the better) temptation. Even if you may not hold him in high respect theologically, we would do well to face our lusts in the same manner.
NO man is to lay their temptation upon God’s shoulders. The ultimate illustration of this is found in Genesis 3:12 where Adam blames the fall on Eve and God. "And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." No, God had nothing to do with this situation except for having been the one that set the limits. Man will try anything won’t he?
There are a couple of truths here of interest. The plain one which we will cover in a moment and one that is kind of funny when you think about it. Let me point out something of note concerning the phrase "for God cannot be tempted with evil." Let me read a passage for you that makes this very funny - in my mind at least.
Matthew 4:3 "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in [their] hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
Get the picture? The tempter, the Devil, that devious denizen of evil knows God, he knows the character of God, and he knows the Word of God, yet he is trying to tempt God - how wasteful of his time is that? God can’t be tempted, so why would the Devil try - must be one frustrated being to stoop to that exercise in futility. Of course to his credit, James hadn’t written this yet, but me thinks he probably knew it wasn’t going to happen, but in his dire need to do something, grasped at this straw.
Let’s look at the principles the text sets forth.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God"
Everyone is tempted, and everyone is tempted more than once, but never suggest that your temptation is from God. It will not happen, it cannot happen, and in the long run, why would anyone even suggest that their Loving Heavenly Father would do such a thing?
"For God cannot be tempted with evil,"
Statement of fact. God cannot be tempted with evil. In the first place He does not allow evil in His presence, secondly there is no evil in His character and thirdly if there was evil in His presence His character would not be tempted, nor even if it could be, would He succumb to that evil.
"Neither tempteth he any man:"
Another clear statement of fact, He will never tempt a man - never.
"No man" really means no man, none, not, not a one. Never is there a man in all of history that should claim that his temptation is from God. Not that there hasnt been, but there shouldn’t have been even one. Kind of seems that is telling us that to blame God for your temptation is sin. This is a good passage to take a lost person to if they are blaming God - it might bring them up short in their thoughts about God. (Some electronic Bibles list "Let" as Strongs number 3004, but as near as I can tell this is incorrect. Only the word translated "say" is 3004)
This phrase has quite a message to the lost person. It is a clear statement that God does not tempt them, it is a clear statement that He isn’t out to get them - there must be a concern on His part for the lost person. Another verse to share with the lost - He is concerned about their lives, about their coming to Him, indeed He does love the world as John told his readers in chapter three and verse sixteen.
The verb "when he is tempted" is a passive indicating that the tempting is coming from without or from some outside force. He is tempted from outside, but we will soon see that from there he can do it all quite well by himself.
The terms "tempted" in the verse are all the same Greek word except the one relating to God and His inability to be tempted. The term relates to testing, to evaluation, to trying to see the quality of something. It relates to trying to get one to do incorrectly. It is of note that with man’s bent toward sin, the Devil feels it his duty to help us along in our rebellion against God.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Ah, now we see where temptation comes from (This is the same Greek word that is translated tempted previously). The Devil may set traps, lay wait to trip us up, but it is our own mind and character that is the real culprit. He may dangle the carrot, but it is man that must start chasing it with a decision of the mind.
Every man - not most men, not a few men, not a lot of men, but "every" man is tempted. Every single one, the tall ones, the short ones, the rich ones, the poor ones, the handsome ones, the not so handsome ones, the educated ones, the uneducated ones - every single solitary man is in view.
How is he tempted; when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. The final and ultimate culprit is the man’s lust and allowing himself to be enticed. Indeed, the construction seems to indicate that this enticement is coming from within him - it is his, it is his mind that responds to the lust and allows germination of thoughts that are improper.
Something of note - "tempted" and "drawn away" are both passive indicating that this process is going on within him, but it is a process that seems to be on automatic. Once lust is free it kind of does its own thing if it is not brought into check.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Here we see that next step in the lust that has been set free, it conceives and brings forth sin. Sin in turn is another of those automated systems that brings forth death if not brought to its knees.
Did you get that? Did you see how quick this process can be stated? It isn’t a long drawn out process that takes days to come to pass; it is with the quickness of a jet, it is the quickness of a thought or two. Lust is where we must stop the process - before sin develops.
I trust that you catch the implication of these two verses. It is on our shoulders when we sin, because it our own decisions that cause our sin. We are the guilty one, not God, not the Devil, not the wife, not the lack of clothing, not the alcohol, not the alluring world, it is US. We do it to ourselves.
There is a Dr. Philism that I just love and it relates so well here. When someone has stepped off into adultery or some deep wrong, he often says, "You had to have seen that coming, it didn’t just "HAPPEN" - it took your involvement, it wasn’t a surprise. It wasn’t like "Oh, I hate it when that happens."
I have mentioned in some of my studies that in past years when the mini skirt craze was in full swing, many people were condemning the young Christian ladies that were wearing them, even wearing them to church. This was a large problem for the speakers in churches; for they had to look out into the audience and assure that their glances weren’t from eyes to legs.
The young ladies often caught the brunt, but I always suggested that there were two other problems. One was at home when their husbands allowed them to put them on, and the other was in the men’s minds - this process of temptation to look, looking, lusting and fortunately for this problem most stopped at the lust stage, which if it went too far, according to the Lord was already sin in the case of mental adultery.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Do not err is a passive indicating that some outside influence is causing the person to err. This influence would be the effects of the sin mentioned in the previous context.
James shows his great love for the brethren as well as his concern for their safety in truth. The love of James for these that he probably did not know all that well is of interest. What an example we have for ourselves in our own society.
I think this short verse actually relates to the last lesson, where we spoke of the mind taking us into sin. He does not want the believers to wander off into sin. The term translated err is the idea of wander or going astray. This added to the passive would indicate he didn’t want the folks to fall into sin and wander away from the Lord, due to its appealing effects and appearance.
The term used for beloved is a form of the self-sacrificing love, agape. James has a real love for the brothers in Christ. It is not a phony, surface love that wishes them a good day, but a love that moves him to concern for their safety and well being.
Don’t hold your breath for this sort of love in your church. If you find it among the brethren, see to it that you encourage them in it and don’t let it falter. If you do not, maybe you are the seed that God has planted in that barren wasteland - you need to begin to grow and mature, go to seed and spread.
When I was a very new Christian sprouting my interpretive wings, I did a study on "outer darkness" and came to some grand conclusions all on my own. I mentioned them to our pastor and he turned red in the face and said, "Oh, that is just Catholicism!" and stormed off.
I mentioned this to an older man in our church and he suggested that we go over to his house and look at one of his commentaries. We went over and he let me read a couple paragraphs from the commentary which opened my foggy eyes to the fact that there was much more to consider than the few passages I had studied. While there, we had coffee, and a snack. Over time this couple became very dear to us in our spiritual lives as well as good friends.
This is the type of love that we need among the brethren, not the lack of love that the pastor showed to me. In the pastor’s defense I must admit he was a great teacher, and he was one of the most consistent men that I have met in my spiritual walk with the Lord.
1. We are told to not err. How might we be tempted in coming days? What are some of the daily temptations that are a problem to man?
And the list could go on.
Avoid these, when there is temptation flee them like Joseph fled before he would sin with his master’s wife (Genesis 39:12). Get up and run like the wind before that sin knocks the wind out of your spiritual sails.
Remember what a wise person once said, "The number of times a man says no before yielding to temptation is usually once weakly."
Remember also that God can only bless success, He will never bless failure.
2. Verse eighteen mentions that we are the firstfruits of His creatures, or creation. This calls into question a lot of theological concepts that have been set in stone. I have challenged some of these in my work on regeneration.
This is a passage that might well back up my line of thinking, that the New Testament believers were among the firstfruits of regeneration. I submit that it may be that the Old Testament saints were not regenerated until the work of Christ was completed. Indeed, logically they could not have been regenerated before the work of Christ was done. Regeneration is on the basis of the completed work of Christ, not the coming work of Christ as has been taught for so many years.
The Old Testament saints would have had their salvation completed upon the completion of Christ’s work on the cross. Thus, the Old Testament saints would have found their salvation complete at the same time as those believing on Him from the day of Pentecost forward.
3. Verse nineteen tells us to be slow to speak and slow to wrath. How might we apply that in today’s society?
a. The lack of this is why we have road rage today - the unbelievable tempers that flair on the highways and streets of our country. People react immediately with wrath, and word. They don’t think; they automatically act upon their emotion.
b. When that person at the retail store is rude, wrong and obnoxious, walk away and sleep on the incident and then write a letter to the store manager, if you remain confident that the person was wrong and that you did nothing to bring about the reaction.
c. When the pastor makes a mistake, refrain from jumping on with both feet to grind him into the ground. Ask him if he meant to do what he did, he could possibly have made a mistake like you sometimes do.
Every person, man and woman, are under the terms set forth here and we ought to be teaching our children the same principles.
SWIFT TO HEAR SLOW TO SPEAK SLOW TO WRATH
God Don’t argue Don’t blame God (1:17)
Word Be sure of your interpretation Be patient with others ideas
Criticism Consider it well before speaking Wrath never works it seems
Advice Consider it before rejecting Don’t be upset if it doesn’t fit
4. "Father of lights" in verse sixteen calls to remembrance the creation of the sun and moon and the stars. I have recently learned that there is another small intricacy to this creative act that man had not known about till recently.
In the past they have known of black holes, but they had very little understanding of them. As science advanced, they found that they weren’t quite what they thought they were. In more recent days they have made the little discovery that every galaxy has a black hole in the center, thus the infrequency of their existence is slightly underexagerated.
God created all that there is and we as believers need to understand this and marvel at the fact. (Genesis 1:16 "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also." Psalms 136:7 "To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever :")
I watched an Atheist discussion recently. The two men were discussing how best to present themselves to believers without giving them a large target. One of the observations was that they HAD to be sure they expressed that they have no belief in God, not that they believe that there is no God. If they say there is no God, then the burden of proof is upon them. If they have no belief in God, then they have no burden of proof because their statement is enough.
They then discussed what the one real problem to their belief, or lack thereof, was - that thing that gave them problems about their position when they were alone. One of them stated that if there is no God, then there must be an explanation for all that we see in creation. He even spoke of the intricacies and vastness of creation.
Now, if you are thinking quickly enough you know why it is important to know the logical arguments for a God. These arguments may be rejected, but they have to bother them at night. Learn them and use them as you have opportunity. (See my theology (http://www.mrdsnotes.com for more information on these thoughts - go to the index, under God, click on "proofs of")
5. One last look at verse nineteen. "let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:" In our context we have made it clear that we are speaking of hearing the Word, and being slow to speak against God or be mad at Him. However, I think there are some other applications we might find.
a. So often I find people do not listen to what I say, whether it is technical support, a store where I am seeking information, a clerk that is waiting on me, or people in churches.
I once read an article by a man that had researched listening. One of his little research projects was to stand in a wedding line and tell people something terrible to see if anyone would react to his comments. When he was introduced, he told each person that his mother had died and that he was having a bad day. Not one person acknowledged his loss or even let on that they heard what he had said.
The church must be in the listening business. If we don’t listen, we don’t hear the problems, so we cannot help those in need.
b. Many there are in the church that loves to talk; they love to talk to the burden of others. Some in fact seem to not be able to control their talking. We have visited a church from time to time that has a man that, I am sure loves the Lord, but the man doesn’t know when to stop talking. He is verbose in my estimation and because of this trait, he doesn’t always think before doing his talking. Some of his statements are so illogical that one is left to wonder if he has had any schooling.
Speak when you have something to say and then have the wisdom to be quite.
c. Slow to anger is one of the keys to peaceful church meetings, though many do not rely on this particular passage for their guide. Anger should never be a part of the church. There are many ways of dealing with problems long before anger needs to be considered. At that, we ought not to consider it very long, for it really has no place in the church.
The emphasis should be on the listening and talking, rather than the non-verbal skill of anger - well verbal is not required, but often is.
6. Is there ever a time when anger is appropriate? Since we are to be slow to come to it, there must be times when anger is the appropriate response. Webster suggests that wrath is the outworking of anger so maybe we should use the correct term. What are some of the times when wrath is appropriate?
When sin is running wild in a church someone ought to be getting angry and take action. When false teaching is in the church it is time for anger and action. When false witness is in the church it is time for anger and action. When injustice is not being corrected, it is time for anger and action.
Or on the other hand should we be party to wrath in any manner? Yes, we should be upset if the above situations exist, but let’s consider the term a little further.
The word translated wrath is Strong’s number 3709. It is used of God’s wrath against the unrighteousness of men. Specifically in Romans 1:18 it is against those that hold the truth in unrighteousness. This would indicate people that know the truth that pervert and distort it into unrighteousness.
It is translated vengeance in Romans 3:5 "But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)"
In Romans 4:15 we see that the law is involved. "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression." Seemingly because it existed, wrath was the result - not that the law is bad, it just put requirements on the people.
In the great "government" passage Romans thirteen we see that the civil authority is there to punish evil. 4 "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil."
We are called "children of wrath" in our pre-salvation state in Ephesians 2:3 thus we might consider wrath an appropriate response to worldly living, but it is up to God to deliver that wrath.
In looking into the New Testaments use of the word, it seems clear that wrath is something that is from God, is from unregenerate man, or is given forth by civil authority. Believers are told to flee wrath.
From this one must surmise that the passage is not saying wrath is something that we should be involved in, but that wrath does not work. Verse twenty is clear on the evaluation of man’s wrath.
In short, don’t get involved in it - be so slow to it that you never get there might be the thought of the text.
7. Has it ever struck you when someone that is saved blames God for problems, trials or temptations - struck you with the utter stupidity of such a claim (and many of us have done this so selfrighteousness isn’t needed)? God loved us in our fallen state, enough to send His Son to die in our place, He sent the Word to man so that we could know this truth, and in most cases He sent a person to share the truth with us, then He takes us in as sons, and gives us eternal life and the Spirit within to assist us in our walk and then we have the audacity to blame Him for bad things in our life. How dumb and arrogant of us!
He has done all for us and we turn to Him with a kick in the face. Not smart in my mind.
8. In closing, we mentioned the hearing and talking, but lets focus on one other aspect that is somewhat indicated. QUIETNESS is a thing of the past in America. We have no such thing today. In our neighborhood quiet is not known. There is some sort of noise almost constantly, even in the darkest night. It is so noisy that we run a background sound machine that masks the noise outside so that we can find sleep in our bedroom.
I was told by a missionary of a tribe in Alaska that honored quiet. It is one of their greatest joys to just sit in a large circle and be quiet together. To our mind set there could never be quiet, someone would have to talk or tap their finger or answer their cell phone.
Quiet is when we can meet ourselves in thought, it is when we can meet God in prayer. Why do we shun quiet?
When my father-in-law was in the hospital, we would drive down to see him. When it was my turn to go in often we had nothing to say to each other, so we would just sit quietly together enjoying one anothers company.
Talk is not the answer to quiet; it is the interrupter of quiet. Quiet should be sought not avoided.
On a couple of other fronts relating to quietness, we might consider teachers/preachers/congregants and worship.
There are teachers/preachers that feel quiet between sections is terrible. They usually fill in the gaps with ramblings better left to the false teachers as much of it is off the cuff and off the wall. They babble about anything that comes to mind and often is off topic, off logic and off Scripture.
A pause to gather your thoughts is not incorrect nor abhorrent. If you feel you must have talk, ask a question while you gather your notes and prepare to move on.
As to the congregants, often when a question is asked they feel compelled to fill the remainder of the class time whether on topic or not. They drone on and on about little of anything, or a little of everything much to the teachers frustration.
In today’s worship I often wonder where the quiet before the Lord has gone. Seems we want to add instruments, add speakers, add noise to our quiet time before God - not sure how much sense is to be seen in the current trends. Not only from the stage, but we often foster noise and commotion just after the hymns have quieted us down to meet God, the leader usually calls on us to "GREET ONE ANOTHER" - a time to bring the house down and embarrass all the new people.
I might mention for the pastors of America, that the beginning of the sermon is not the signal for bathroom call. Bathrooms are installed for BETWEEN services, not DURING services. While on this point PASTORS those that dutifully mind the above rule often are limited in time duration. An hour service is about tops for many people, so if you want the first rule attended to, be sure to attend to the second.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Both verse thirteen and verses seventeen are true because both are in the Word of God, however seventeen proves thirteen true. If seventeen is true, and it is, then thirteen must be true.
Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God. The two terms translated "gift" are two different Greek terms. The first term has the thought of giving with it. Actually in Philippians 4:15 it is translated giving. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only."
The other term has the thought of bounty as well as gift. It would be a bountiful gift. Reverting back to the couple I mentioned that took us under their wing, several years after meeting them, we were moving to Oregon. They asked us over for supper one evening before we left. We arrived and the man met us in a suit and tie, and his wife and daughter were dressed in fine long dresses. We sat and talked for a while, and finally supper was ready - well, read that as lavish dinner, rather than supper.
They ushered us down into their finished basement where a long table was set with silver, crystal, and flowers. At each of the children’s places was a small wrapped present. The dinner was most lavish in comparison to our usual meager grocery shopping on a college students part time income.
They had given us a grand gift, a bountiful gift, to say good-bye. Just further sign of their love for the brethren.
Barnes states of the two words, "The difference between good and perfect here, it is not easy to mark accurately. It may be that the former means that which is benevolent in its character and tendency; the latter that which is entire, where there is nothing even apparently wanting to complete it;"
Just what does "Father of lights" mean? The lexicon mentions the power of understanding of moral and spiritual truth. Not sure what that is based on but that is what they had to say on the subject. "Father" is the normal word for father and "lights" is the term that describes light, so the terms have little to tell us other than their plain meaning.
I would assume that it relates to the fact that truth comes from God, that any light in this world comes from God, and since we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), I assume that this relates to God’s revealing His way upon the earth - He is the source of light. John 8:12; John 9:5 pictures Christ as the light of the world, thus this may explain the translators plural "lights."
"With whom is no variableness" tells us that we will not see the God of love that we know turn into a God of hate or evil. He does not change; He has always been and always will be as He is on any particular day.
"Neither shadow of turning" tells us that God does not turn back from anything. What He has declared, He will do - no question. The Greek word translated "turning" comes to us in our language as "trope" which is a usage that changes something to give description. To call a shrewd man a fox would be a trope. There is no sign of this turning in God, He is not variable, and he will not turn away from His character.
This summation of God seems to be included to amplify the statements of James concerning the goodness of God and the badness of man lest anyone try to blame any sin upon God when the blame rests squarely upon the individual themselves.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
"Of his own will" is a verb. He willed this event; He brought it into being via His will. It is an Aorist tense, thus refers back to the decree, in my mind, when He decreed that some would be elected to son ship.
"Begat" is also an aorist verb, also referring back to the decree. Some might question whether this goes back to the decrees or if it is an individual begetting when one becomes a believer. The "us" would require it going back to the decree and not being an individual item. (The "us" and "we" are the same Greek word.)
What "word of truth" is speaking of is up for grabs. Some would suggest that it is the Word itself, the Scriptures. Others would suggest that it is something else, that the Scriptures were not in existence at this early date.
Personally, if we are speaking of events that occurred in eternity past, then this being the Scriptures would not be a real problem, though I suspect it relates more specifically to the word of truth spoken to us that brings us to the Lord in salvation.
The Word presumes to tell us how to live. It tells us what we should do, and it tells us what we should not do. Yet, we presume to set it aside and tell God that we don’t need it. Many have little to no Bible study time in their lives unless it is the spoon feeding of Pabulum at church.
The Word controls our living, so if Christians are living primarily in sin, we must assume that there is little of the Word in their lives. A number of years ago there was a large gathering of missionaries in Japan. Many of the American ideas set forth were rejected out of hand due to their liberalness and lack of separation from sin.
The Word should be our basis and our guide to everyday living. If it is not then the world will be our basis and this is quite obvious in our world today. The phrase "word of truth" seems to have an authoritative ring to it. I trust that the Word is your only authority in life.
This was done so that we would be "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." We need to determine just what that might mean.
Since this is an early book, it might relate to the early church believers - those that were converted from the day of Pentecost to the time of writing. They would be the firstfruits of the Gospel of Christ.
There may be a play on words here, as he speaks of firstfruits and the word creatures can be translated "thing founded" which seems to be descriptive of firstfruits. Those that James speaks of are the first bearing fruit of His creation.
Firstfruits relates to the first of a harvest, so they were the first of a large harvest of His creatures. This is the terminology of the Great Commission, that of a harvest, a large harvest that is in progress since the cross.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Keep your ears open, your mouth shut and your anger controlled might be the thought of the passage. Good advice to the believer today. We tend to get ourselves into a lot of trouble when we don’t listen to people, and when we open our mouths to insert our foot.
In our context, it might relate to the idea that when trials come, we are to listen to the words of James, and hold our tongue, rather than blame God for things gone wrong, and to certainly not get angry with God for what is going on in the life.
Oh, the churches need to heed these phrases! "Let every man be swift to hear" - "Slow to speak"
- "Slow to wrath" - clean the wax out of your ears shut your trap and keep a lid on it! The church is being torn asunder with church fights and no one listens to James.
I read a lot on a board where there are a lot of pastors and congregants, and there is constant chatter relating to problems in the church. The reactions of the people are not Christian all and all too often the leaders are little better.
The introductory phrase of this verse tends to be the problem. "Beloved brethren" is not descriptive of the average believer today. Indeed, many of the leaders on the board that I just mentioned have not caught this vision of James. They talk of their congregation as if they were only means to the pastors ends. When the congregation doesn’t do right, it is an affront to everything he wants to do.
The attitude of love is quite lacking today. If you don’t agree with me, if you don’t do as I do, if you don’t jump when I say jump, you are against everything that I want to do for God. There is little Christian love expressed these days. This is not only the pastors and leaders, but the congregations as well.
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
There is in this statement an unspoken truth. The wrath of man may not work righteousness, but the wrath of God does most certainly worketh righteousness. His wrath is based on righteousness and justice and so will work correctly.
Wrath is a strong word in my mind. To me it is the strongest outworking of anger possible. It is that action which one takes to exact the worst, the most, the fullest punishment for wrong that one can muster.
There is another thought here. Some men tend to think that their anger against evil will work to show the righteousness of God, yet it often shows them to be the fool they are. We should be careful how we show our anger against sin. We may or may not be an influence for good. Our feeble attempts to be indignant may not do anything for the cause of Christ.
As such, there is little of good that can come from this outworking of our anger.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
In light of what has been said, then you ought to follow these instructions. Just what we are to relate "wherefore" back to might be of note.
Chapter one verse seventeen and eighteen relate to us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
Then verses nineteen and twenty-one lay out twin "wherefores" that are to be followed.
Because God is so good, because God gives us gifts, because God has begotten us, we then ought to follow His instructions to live a Godly life in the area of the mouth, of the ear, of the mind, and now in verse twenty-one we are to clean up our lives to match our position in life - a child of God. Then we must use the Word to our own benefit within our lives.
"Lay apart" does not need a lot of explanation, it is quite straightforward. We are to set aside, lay apart, put away or get rid of all the nastiness to follow. Have a garage sale in your life folks. Get rid of all that excess filth, you don’t need it any longer. Sell off that naughtiness that you love. You are now a child of God and your life has no place for all that stuff.
We used to gather on Labor Day weekend with a friend or two for a huge garage sale. We would run it two or three days in the hot sun. We would sell all sorts of stuff, but seldom the bigger items that we wanted to pedal to make some money. After several years of this I was really full to the brim with garage sales.
Now, we have a garage give away now and then. We decide what must go and we call someone that can spread it around a church, or announce it at my wife’s work and just give it away. The recipients are over joyed at the gift and I am relieved of the garage sale. Works well with us.
The point is, when we become believers, we are equipped with a new destination, a new purpose, a new direction and we don’t need all that old stuff anymore, we need to get rid of it. When a pastor led me to the Lord, years ago, he did not make it a point to disciple me. I then went into the Navy and took with me all that extra baggage of my lost life. I had no idea of the truth James is setting forth here, so I went through four years in the Navy and a year or so after that with the old life still in place.
There was no putting away, no setting aside, just the continuance of sin. I felt there was something amiss, but did not know what it was. I tried reading the Bible but started in the Old Testament genealogies and the reading didn’t last long.
I tried having a quiet time of sorts, but again, had no real idea why or how. I am to assume that the recipients of this letter may have been in a similar situation or James wouldn’t have brought up the subject. He certainly wasn’t just adding in a few comments to get the word count up in his research paper.
The term "filthiness" depicts dirty, foul or just nasty. This is the only occurrence of the word in Scripture. I recently watched a series on crabbers in the ocean off Alaska. One section was set as they were unloading their catch and the severe disappointment when the crew found that the hold was full of dead crab. They shoveled out hundreds of dead creatures and finally discovered a dead fish that was rotting. The rot of the fish had spread to the crab for many levels around. One rotting fish destroyed a large part of their catch.
This foulness of the fish is like the foulness of sin. The sin of a person spreads the foulness to all those around them. The remedy is to put away that foulness, to excise it and get rid of it. Our neighborhood has a lot of drug activity. The whole neighborhood is affected. The parents can’t allow their children to play without constant attention, owners can’t leave anything out for a moment or it will be gone. The neighbors aren’t as open and friendly because they don’t know if the new people in the rental next door are drug addicts or sellers. Most of the time it is one or the other. Of the seven houses on our block three are owned by responsible owners, and the rest are rentals that normally rent to drug related or crime related tenants.
Now and then there is a season when the rentals actually have decent people in them and the whole atmosphere of the area changes to one of trust, friendliness and decency.
If you happen to be the nasty influence in your area, why don’t you follow the thoughts in this section. Clean up your life and be a positive influence rather than rotting those around you.
"Superfluity of naughtiness" is translated by some "all that remains of wickedness" but most likely a better thought would be "overflowing of wickedness." Indeed, "overabundance" might be a translation. The thought of wickedness is that of evil or malignancy. Terrible stuff and James suggests that they have an overabundance of it to lay aside.
"Superfluity" is a Greek term that the Greeks used of the wax in the ear. It is the excess of what is needed; it is that which is discarded by the body. So, the wickedness of the recipients of this letter is to figure out how to sluff off that which definitely is not needed - sin.
This seems to add to the thought that these are new believers, new in maturity, but not necessarily years. They are still living in filth and sin and James wants them to change their ways, to lay all this aside so that they can serve the Lord properly.
Barnes says this of the phrase, "And superfluity of naughtiness. Literally, "abounding of evil." It is rendered by Doddridge, "overflowing of malignity;" by Tindal, "superfluity of maliciousness;" by Benson, "superfluity of malice;" by Bloomfield, "petulance.""
"Receive with meekness the engrafted word" is the next step in the spiritual life after you have freed yourself from sin. Meekness or humility is that aspect of the Christian life that makes one quiet in demeanor and slow to verbalize, but does not mean one is to be walked on, or put aside as one having no opinion or truth. The lexicon suggests mildness of disposition, or gentleness of spirit.
I think if you think back to the last presidential election you would bring John Dean to mind as one that does not fit this description. He was one that was far from meek or humble, he was in the business of loudness, and attention gathering. The election is far over and he is now, as the head of the Democratic Party, doing the same thing, being boisterous, insulting to those that he disagrees with and condescending to the majority of America because they chose a Republican instead of his own partys offerings.
In my opinion had the Democrats set forward a candidate that was meek or humble, they might well have taken the election, but instead they chose egos that they thought would roll right over the top of America leaving their lasting imprint - well they did just that and the imprint was not accepted as right for America.
The people were to leave their sins and receive the Word. The context is to believers, but this passage almost seems as if he is directing his words to lost people. I must wonder if the recipients were living as the lost and James wanted to cover all bases - treat them as believers, but in case there was some that were not, so that he could bring them to the Lord.
"Which is able to save your souls" would indicate the thought of salvation, but not necessarily. It is general enough to indicate salvation while still indicating the general principle of cleaning up the life to save the soul from the filth of sin.
I am sure this passage may come to you in an argument for the idea that the believer can lose their salvation. We have always believed in eternal security and when one of my wife’s Seventh Day Adventist relatives came to visit the subject came up briefly. I thought she was going to explode; she turned red and nearly shouted, "You don’t believe in that damnable doctrine do you?" Faith responded in the positive and the discussion was over to save family unity.
I once read that a man that was employed in insurance was facing the possibility of a lay off or at least salary cuts. He had also been offered a great opportunity to make money from his great singing voice. He was trying to decide on what to do. He seated himself at the piano in church and found a note from his mother. The note was a poem and the man began to sing the poem. It began "I’d rather have Jesus" and that song became his testimony. He followed God and became one of the great Christian voices of our time, George Beverly Shea the soloist for the Billy Graham Crusades. We would not have heard of the insurance man Mr. Shea had he not made a choice for God.
It was of interest to me recently (getting to the point of bringing up Mr. Shea) to see a portion of an interview with Mr. Shea. He was speaking of different highlights of his life and someone mentioned Elvis Presley. Mr. Shea beamed and began telling a story about one of the songs he had written and Elvis had recorded it. His comment was something like this. "And that is the one song of mine that Elvis sang!" You could tell he was so excited and happy that Elvis had selected one of his songs to sing - I think this illustrates the meekness or humility of our passage. One of the greatest talents of our day and he is excited that someone selected one of his songs.
Receive with meekness the Word - receive with humility the Word. Accept the Word and its truth as something that is meaningful to you. Don’t accept it like you think you are doing it a favor - receive it as something that you know you need to navigate your coming life.
Years ago I had the misfortune to hear a man speak twice in a couple of weeks. He had mastered the ability to word his invitations so that everyone in the congregation would feel obligated to go forward. What impressive numbers he had to tell his friends about - my entire congregation came forward. In the early part of his invitation it was rather obvious that many of those going forward felt that they were super saints because as they walked slowly down the aisle they were looking from side to side to be sure everyone saw who they were. Then as they stood at the platform, they weren’t intent on prayer or confession, but were rather intent on knowing who in the congregation was seeing them. Still, looking around for man’s recognition.
There was little meekness involved in this even though I am sure God worked in some of the lives. Had I had the courage of my convictions as a young believer I would have risen and walked out of the services in protest against the shallowness of the proceedings.
When you deal with the Word, or when you are receiving the Word, do it with all humility of spirit lest you waste your and God’s time. He is interested in honest response to His simple Word.
We might look at the term "engrafted" for a moment. It is only used here in this verse and it has the thought of implanted. I don’t know that there is a large difference between implanted and engrafted. Graft is the placing of something living into something else that is living but of another sort. Grafting a sprout from one plant into the limb of another. The new limb will then draw nourishment from the host plant. Implant can relate to the same thing, but can also relate to something that is implanted or put into something else.
Now, that we know there is little difference, we can know that this is the placing in of the Word - it is the Word going inside us, to be within, to be something that will grow within us. It is there for a purpose - not to just be there in a dormant state.
Taking this a step further, the Word is implanted in us so that it can grow and draw nourishment from us and grow to produce fruit of like kind - sons of God. We are to be fruitful creatures. The Word, in all of its perfections is implanted into a worthless mess of humanness to be nourished so that it can be productive. Rather like implanting a rose stem into a nonflowering bush. The rose will draw nourishment and produce roses because it is part of something else.
1. Let’s consider the one that hears but does nothing. One must wonder at the coldness, the callousness, and the deadness of one that is able to see the Word attempting to change them and walking away with no change.
This is like the person that feels that God has called them to the mission field and instead they go into banking. They turn their back on the call of God for the call of money. It is like the person that is stealing and when they see in the Word, "thou shalt not steal" they turn and go to the store and steal even more. It is like the liar when confronted with the Word continues to lie and cover up the truth with falsehood. It is like the gossip that continues with the verbiage even though they know that it is an improper use of the tongue.
In essence, these call God’s Word incorrect. They see the Word but judge it as not meaningful to them. They usurp the Word’s place in their life. They say no to God and His will for their life.
How can this be if the person is a true believer? What mental process goes on in their mind to justify saying no to God. In the family there is something seriously wrong when a child says no to their parent, and so it is in the Family of God. When one of your congregation is saying no to the Father, they are causing disruption in the family.
This disruption should not be allowed to continue. The church leadership should step in and intervene if the other believers can’t have the desired effect upon the erring person.
We tend, in today’s church, to be isolationists - probably due to all the sin - and we tend to cut ourselves off from everyone else in the church. This allows us to get away with those pet sins that we like to keep in backup to make ourselves feel good.
This separation of one from the other is key to worldly Christians. If we were fellowshipping as we ought we would see those little hints of sin creeping out now and then and we could challenge one another to clean up our acts. If there isn’t some change then the church leaders should be called in to assist.
Some of my greatest growth was in a little Bible church where there was a lot of fellowship. The Word was being taught and the prayer times were long. The confrontation with the Word was constant and the accountability was present. A time of hearing the Word and the doing just kind of was an automatic response.
This thought of an automatic response is something we should practice. When you hear, begin to plan as to how you are going to change your life to comply. Not putting it off till Thursday, but while in the service, taking time to contemplate and lay out a plan of action. Take Sunday afternoon to study further on the topic to set it in your mind with a good imprint.
2. Another aspect of this hearing/doing might be seen in current thinking on Foreign Missions. Many are seeing that the fad of "short term mission trips" is becoming a hindrance to Missions in general. The person goes for a brief time and returns home with a true high, but soon gets involved in the mundane to the detriment of anything that the mission trip might have stirred up spiritually.
It is easy also to feel that "I have fulfilled my obligation." I do not question the sincerity of these folks, nor the validity of what they have done, but do wonder at the lasting effects of this expenditure of the Lord’s money.
3. In verse twenty-one the verbs that are aimed at us are aorist or a one time act. "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word,"
We aren’t to put aside all that sin, and then pick it up and play with it now and then to pleasure ourselves, we are to lay it aside, get rid of it permanently. One of the things the pastor that led me to the Lord asked me when we were still praying, was "Stan, do you have any sin problems that you need to ask God to help you with.
He knew that a clean life was the goal of the Gospel of Christ.
This passage also points to the fact that we ought to be able to live a relatively sin free life from the moment of salvation on. Get rid of the filth, and walk in purity.
This passage also points up to the error of the struggling natures within the believer. If there was a struggle to go back into sin, we should see James telling the believers to put away the filth every night before they go to bed. You are living in it and you ought to continually be putting it away.
Some wrongly connect this accepting of the word to the salvation message. Remember that James is speaking to believers, not the lost. There might be some that hear the book read that are lost and they might understand this as an invitation, but in the context it is not. The Life Application Bible in one section tells us as believers to set aside the sin and listen to the Word that is within, and in another section tells us this is the Gospel message. Clue. It can’t be both, maybe this is a classic example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.
This same thought of laying aside is found in 1 Peter 2:1 where the one time act is also in view. "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,"
4. In the idea of looking into a mirror and walking away and not remembering what you saw, I think older people can visualize this concept, and maybe those that have a serious illness. When we look into the mirror, we see the aged person that we are or the ailing person that we are. When we turn to life we almost immediately revert to that image of what we once were when we were eighteen or so, young, vibrant, smooth skinned, full head of hair and ready for the world.
We seldom think of ourselves as anything but that youthful image. We don’t think of that old person that we really are. One day I went to pick up something in the yard, something that I could have lifted with little effort five years ago, but on this day I had to nearly empty the container of its contents before I could lift if off the ground. As I bent down to lift that item in the first place, I was remembering myself as an able-bodied person, but when I couldn’t budge it I remembered the truth, I am a man in my sixties that hasn’t the strength of the past.
So, as we look into the Word, we must refrain from seeing what we want to see. We must refrain from seeing what we really are, sinful, and then forgetting as we turn away to the false image of ourselves that says we are spiritual.
The best part of this process is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to convict us of our false image. I don’t remember of a time in my life when I have been confronted with the Word with a wrong in my life, that I didn’t immediately know it. Not that I immediately responded, but when I turned from the Word, I knew just what I was and could not put that image out of my mind due to the Spirit’s working within.
If we are being controlled by the spirit this will be the course of things, but if we are controlling ourselves we will naturally turn from what we really are and trick ourselves into thinking we are spiritual.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
"Doers" is a word that is translated well, but there is an aspect of it that I really like. Doer of the Word is quite adequate, but there is the aspect of "perform" that is there as well. Be a doer, but also be a performer of the Word, not as in acting or faking, but as in perform the Word, put it across in your life as if it is the desire to do the very best that you can. To do something, you simply do it, while if you perform it you are really throwing yourself into the matter, giving it the best that you can.
James uses the imperative here so this is a command, not a suggestion. Be performers of the Word, not just hearers of the Word. Oh, the many in our churches today that are listeners, that are hearers that are taking in all there is to take in but few there are today that are doers of the Word.
Many listen to the word, many hear it, many may even take notes, but to put those ideas into action is another thing, something that only a few ever do. There are two basic reasons for a believer to be a hearer only. First there is the simple fact of not being interested in applying the Word to themselves, and secondly there is the fact that in many churches the leadership will not allow anyone but their pet people do anything in the church. Many leaders would rather work a few to death and leave the rest to sit and do little in the church.
The opposite is often true as well. There are leaders that will use anyone that comes along, whether they are qualified, whether they are living in sin or anything else - they just want workers and anyone will do. They allow people that are living in open sin to work in the church. We knew a man that was near criminal in his business dealings - a fact known to the entire congregation, yet this man led the singing, and led the services when the pastor was gone and was involved in many other areas of the church.
There is an inherent falsehood in those that hear only. They deceive themselves into thinking they are spiritual. The following verses make it plain that the person that hears only sees himself for what he really is spiritually and goes away thinking he is spiritual because he forgets immediately what he has seen in the Word.
When we hear or read the Word we see the standard set and automatically know we don’t meet the standard, but as soon as we go about our business we forget that little detail and go on as we were. On the other hand, however, if we see the standard and realize we don’t meet it, then go home and change our lives to be in conformity with the standard, then we have heard, and we have done, and we are more spiritual than before and most likely will be performing that Word in our everyday lives.
There is a dual problem, we do not correct our lives and we think we are spiritual. A double whammy in that if we think we are spiritual, we will tend to listen even less the next time the Word speaks to us in that area of our life.
There is an Old Testament account that illustrates this well. Cain brought of the fruit of the field, while Abel brought the first fruits. Abel brought what was commanded and Cain brought what he wanted to bring. Abel found himself right before God and Cain found himself in trouble with God. Both looked upon the truth given and one followed it while the other rejected it and did what he wanted to do.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
If you look into the Word and go away unchanged then you have not been a doer of the Word, but a listener only. I must wonder why people bother going to church if they aren’t going to allow it to change them. There is no reason to waste your time going to hear, you could just as well go to the movies. There is no gain from listening only; the gain is in the doing of what you have heard.
If you aren’t a doer you are "like unto a man beholding his..." -- the verb, "like" is a perfect tense. First of all it is a verb, it is an action - if you aren’t a doer you are beholding yourself in a glass. You are not only doing it, there is a permanence of beholding to an expected end. Not that you can’t change it, but as long as you are not a doer, you are a beholder and all that goes with that word which we will see in a moment.
There is consequence to the lack of doing and we should be warning people of such. They are setting themselves in opposition to that which God desires. This relates heavily to those that say that we shouldn’t have lists of do’s and don’ts. If we don’t mark in our minds those things that we should not do as described in the Word then we set ourselves against God. If we don’t mark in our minds those things which the Word speaks against and avoid them, we set ourselves against God.
When we look into the Word, we can know what sort of person we are; we can allow the Spirit to point out our pimples and flaws. If we allow this, then go get the Stridex or whatever miracle cream you use and work on the problem areas. If we don’t do the remedy we have looked and ignored the problem and forgotten that it is there.
I don’t know about you, or what defects you might find, but when I look into the Word and it points something out, I want to immediately take action to correct my image before my God.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
The explanation of the text is shown here. If we look into the perfect law of liberty and follow it and do it we will be blessed. The opposite seems to be assumed, that if you don’t follow it you won’t be blessed.
Much has been said as to the meaning of "perfect law of liberty" but I’m not sure that is the point. The point is that we are to look into the Word and do it if we would be blessed.
It is obvious in the context that the law of liberty relates in some way to the Word itself. Verse twenty-two sets the context as the Word. I suspect that James is using a flourish of words to embellish his idea of the Word as introduced in the preceding context but let’s look into it to be sure.
Perfect is the word that relates to completeness and readiness to do the job. A Drag racing car that pulls up to the starting line has been gone over, it has been tuned, it has been babied and it is complete and ready for that blast down the track. This is the thought of "perfect."
"Liberty" simply has the idea that we are free to do or not do. The authority has given us the choice to do what we want to do. The law of liberty speaks of set standards that are placed to insure freedom to act as we will and that is just what has been set forth. Anyone that looks into the Word is free to do as he or she will, but know there is consequence to both the positive and the negative.
Barnes said that this was the law of God in the thought that it is His will. It is the overall will of God for mankind. Constable relates it to the revealed Word of God, which is the will of God. I won’t attempt to describe the twisting and twirling of Gill in his attempt to define the law of liberty, but I think somewhere in there He would agree with what has been presented - the revealed will of God in the Word. I will include it if you would like to read it.
"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,.... By which is meant, not the moral law, but the Gospel; for only of that is the apostle speaking in the context: this is no other than the word of truth, with which God begets men of his own will; and is the ingrafted word which is able to save, and of which men should be doers, as well as hearers, James 1:18, and this is compared to a glass by the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and the word here used for looking into it is the same word the Apostle Peter uses of the angels, who desired to look into the mysteries of the Gospel, 1 Peter 1:12 all which serve to strengthen this sense; now the Gospel is called a law; not that it is a law, strictly speaking, consisting precepts, and established and enforced by sanctions penalties; for it is a declaration of righteousness and salvation by Christ; a publication of peace and pardon by him; and a free promise of eternal life, through him; but as it is an instruction, or doctrine: the law with the Jews is called hrwt, because it is teaching and instructive; and everything that is so is by them called by this name: hence we find the doctrine of the Messiah, which is no other than the Gospel, is in the Old Testament called the law of the Lord, and his law, Isaiah 2:2 and in the New Testament it is called the law, or doctrine of faith, Romans 3:27 and this doctrine is perfect, as in Psalms 19:7, it being a perfect plan of truths, containing in it all truth, as it is in Jesus, even all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and because it is a revelation of things perfect; of the perfect righteousness of Christ, and of perfect justification by it, and of free and full pardon of sins through him, and of complete salvation by him; and because it directs to Christ, in whom perfection is: and it is a law or doctrine of liberty;" There is more, but I think you get the idea.
Mr. D’s Notes on James
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion [is] vain.
Wow, that first phrase screams for comment today. "If any man among you seem to be religious" is just where many in the church are today. Seemingly religious, but far from religious in reality.
Yes, the context is the tongue, and that is one of the major areas of problems in Christianity. In business, in church, in family, in all areas of life some believers have a tendency to show themselves liars. They go against their word in business; they lie when in church and often lie even to their own families.
The lie usually is not even needed today; the truth would be easier to follow and would not require the person to keep track of all his/her falsehood.
I recently opened a backup for my website. The server offered to register a domain name for me very inexpensively so I had them register one for me. About six months later I could not get support from them so I told them I would not be continuing to do business with them. In the process I found that the man that set my site up registered my domain name in his name. I paid for it but he is shown as the owner. The result is that I have no control over that domain, and have no control over what he might decide to put on that website.
The domain name is related to my other website so I am stuck with him doing as he pleases - he being a Christian and part of a "Christian" business. Not only that, I was brought to their business by an ad in a Christian magazine. I further discovered that the man that had stolen my domain name was also on the staff of the "Christian" magazine.
After contacting the magazine, the server, and the man that register my domain under his name, I have heard nothing from any of them. Ultimately this issue was resolved but why would Christians act this way to other Christians?
"If any man seem to be religious" seems to be the war chant of many believers today. They feel that being religious is correct and moral living.
Years ago I was a janitor in a printing business. I would go in to clean as the workers were winding down from a long day. Twice in my time working there people said "Stan, you are religious, aren’t you?" to which I responded, "I try not to be." then explain that being religious isn’t enough. The sad part of it is that both were "Christians" of one sort or another.
Being religious in name only does not cut it in life, in business, in the family and certainly not at the judgment. Many there will be at the judgment that thought they were all right because they followed some moral code that they dreamed up to make themselves religious.
The term translated "seem" can be translated "think" or "suppose" which indicates that this seeming, may relate to the person themselves, not a seeming to be religious outwardly. Both ideas are valid in application, but the fact of the text seems to follow the idea that if anyone think themselves religious. All of the translations I checked follow that idea rather than the idea of a seeming to be religious to others.
1. If you consider these two verses together you might find that it is "Verbs, not Words" that please God. Doing rather than telling of what you are doing or telling of what you plan to do. Do that which God has led you to do, don’t just talk about it.
I suppose doing while telling about it is better than either or, but I don’t think we have to tell others about our deeds, God is watching and it is He that we should be working for rather than the praises of men.
2. "Bridleth not his tongue" seems to be a fairly straightforward idea. Stick a bridle on yourself, and direct your tongue as you ought, don’t let it run wild in the meadow frolicking from one corner of the fence to the other. Be controlled in all that you say.
One of the definitions of a bridle, aside from the usual type that is used on a horse, is a cable that is anchored to the sea floor and is drawn up into the ship to tie it in place while moored in the harbor. This sort of bridle allows free swing of the ship with tides and currents, but holds it steadily in place.
So the bridled tongue, it is free to go to work as long as it works in that limited area of freedom. Keep your tongue in the proper area and it will do no harm, but allow it freedom to go where it will and trouble is to be found.
We will see a larger section on the tongue in chapter three, where James really gets busy talking about the damage that the tongue can cause.
We all know that the gossip should be dealt with due to the tongue’s misuse, but what about the pastor/teacher that turns his loose on the people? How about the parent that tongue lashes his/her child? How about the spouse that verbally abuses their partner?
All of these should be dealt with as well in the church. All of these are deluding themselves if they think their actions are spiritual.
When I speak of spouses I am not speaking only to husbands, for wives can swing a very sharp tongue as well. It doesn’t have to be cutting remarks, because the little comments that indicate the man’s shortcomings over time can be devastating as well.
The media is constantly tearing down man. Watch the commercials and you will find that man is that dummy that can do nothing right and has an ego that won’t let him ask for assistance. He is always the one that is lost, dumb for buying something, or because he bought the wrong item. He is the buffoon that messes up all that he attempts to do.
Many wives share little tidbits of a similar nature to their husbands on a constant, unceasing, incessant basis.
All of us need to bridle our tongues for other peoples sake as well as our own. If you need further proof, give a little study to Galatians 5:15 "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
3. "Deceiveth his own heart" is often illustrated by the one that is not walking with God. The person will constantly try to convince other believers of his/her spirituality. On internet boards I find people that are in this area of ungodliness. One such woman had the sharpest tongue ever and used it as if she never tired. Yet, she harped on the "love" of God and that nobody, but you know who, ever showed God’s love on the board.
Many there were that attempted to show her the lack of love she was showing by the use of her keyboard, but she insisted that it was she that was spiritual and that all others were unspiritual because they weren’t coming up to her standard of love on the board.
Actually, anyone that emphasizes the "love" of God and ignores His "judgment" is in full blown deception. God is both and both must be understood to really know God.
4. "This man’s religion [is] vain." What is a vain religion? Do Christians get into a vain religious mode?
Some of the thoughts from the Lexicon are devoid of force, truth, success, result - useless, of no purpose. Do you get the thought that vain religion is rather totally worthless to the man as well as to others around him? The strict context here is keeping the tongue, but aren’t many believers caught up in a vanity religion, one that feeds the vanity that is already overworked in the life. A church that preaches a feel good message, that has feel good music, that has feel good works - seems it might well be a vain religion, one that is meant to feed the person’s vanity rather than their soul.
I especially like the thought of no force. How can this type of religion be a force for good in the lost world, it can’t - it can only confuse and mislead a lost person away from Christ and to himself and his self-interest. We certainly don’t need to get the self interest message out to the world; most lost people are already doing that very nicely by themselves.
It has been my observation, especially in the beginning of this century that the self help, the self involved; the self-absorbed churches are the ones that are growing while those few that are preaching the Word and Christ centeredness of life are dwindling. Yesterday my wife and I drove by a once large and thriving church and found that there were only three cars parked, only a handful interested in a good Bible lesson and message.
The self-sacrificing life, the committed life, the take me I’m yours life are to be derided as over zealousness by many today. While in college I read a little book that shook me to the foundations, it was about commitment to Christ, it was about giving your all to Christ, and it was about totally living for Him and not yourself.
Later in life I wrote a little book on zeal and felt that this book from my college days would be a good twin to my volume so contacted the author about quoting his book online as a resource for those reading my own. I was referred to the copyright holder and was told no. The buck was worth more than moving believers into a commitment to Christ.
The publisher offered to allow me to quote a portion of the book with mine with a note of where to buy the complete book. Yes, we will assist Christians, but only for a price. Books today are published on cost effectiveness criteria, not based on the content. If the content is good, then that is fine, but the work must produce bucks to be useable today.
This is partly the publishers fault and partly the readers fault. If either were committed to Christ in a self-sacrificing way, the content would improve, because the publisher would see where the bucks were to be made.
5. We find the qualities of a true man of God in this chapter. Thirty-two qualities found in twenty-seven verses.
1:14 Not lustful
1:18 Begotten of God
1:19 Swift to hear
Slow to speak
Slow to wrath
1:22 Doer of the Word
[not self deceptive]
1:23 Hearer of the Word
1:24 Remembereth what he is
1:25 Doer of the work
1:26 Controls the tongue
1:27 Visit orphans and widows
6. James seems go call back to the Sermon on the Mount for some of his comments here in this book.
James 1:2 "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;"
Matthew 5:10-12 "Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
James 1:4 "But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
James 1:9 "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:"
Matthew 5:3 "Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It seems lowliness of spirit, patience in testing and purity are three very important issues with God. Testing tends to produce humility in the person, and then we must add purity and we have a pleasing combination to God.
One must wonder if believers know this. Humility and purity are not the hallmarks of the present church membership and if they fell into testing they would flee the church.
7. Verse twenty-seven speaks of visiting. Missionaries rely on visitation of different sorts for the contacts they desire when attempting to plant a church in the land of their calling. Without visitation they have little to no contact with the people they would reach.
This is true in many of our churches as well. If you have contacts at work or in your neighborhood that is great, but if you don’t you might give some thought to calling in your area. You don’t have to knock on the door and give the gospel though there is some fruit in that. You can simply just knock and say hello, state who you are and leave a tract or church bulletin with the people. It is a contact. Invite them to a church service, or special service you are having. This simple contact can bring a person/family into the church for a visit.
You can take a moment or two weekly to knock on the same doors and say hi again and ask if they have any questions about your church or the Lord. If they are standoffish don’t worry, in our society many are. If they become rude or ask you to stop calling be sure to honor their wishes. You have made contact and if they reject, it is their lose. It is not you they are rejecting, it is the Lord.
8. Barnes says aptly, "If any man among you seem to be religious. Pious, or devout. That is, if he does not restrain his tongue, his other evidences of religion are worthless. A man may undoubtedly have many things in his character which seem to be evidences of the existence of religion in his heart, and yet there may be someone thing that shall show that all those evidences are false. Religion is designed to produce an effect on our whole conduct; and if there is anyone thing in reference to which it does not bring us under its control, that one thing may show that all other appearances of piety are worthless."
No matter how great your Christian life is, there may be one little fault that will show that you are less than you appear to be. Years ago, one of our pastors was the outward saint, good preacher, good leader in the church and seemed pious to all that would meet him, unless you were a store clerk that did him wrong, then you would see the outworking of an uncontrolled anger and tongue.
This was always a problem to the man and I’m sure it hindered his ministry at times.
Another leader, that again, was the good preacher of the Word, outwardly pious and always the correct Christian unless you disagreed with him on the sports field. This would show him to be the typical jock that can’t possibly be wrong and he didn’t mind telling you so.
Many there are of this sort on the Christian sports field. Some of the Christian softball leagues can’t be distinguished from the worldly leagues except by name.
Barnes further mentions that he does not know of any reason that James would have singled out this particular sin, but I think the Holy Spirit moved him to include it for our society. Well, not really though it relates well to us, I’m sure that James had a good reason for setting it up this way.
Barnes ends his comment by saying that "Whatever love, or zeal, or orthodoxy, or gift in preaching or in prayer he may have, this one evil propensity will neutralize it all, and show that there is no true religion at heart."
He seems to say that the person that does not control the tongue is one that is not really spiritual. Not that they are lost, but that they are not living the life that God would have them lead.
I might apply this one step further. The preacher/teacher must control his tongue in the pulpit. He must guard against offending people by his terminology, he must guard against false doctrine, and he must guard against anything that might distract from the Lord Jesus Christ.
9. Unspotted seems to be the criteria. Not a little smeared, not a little faded, not a little dirty, but unspotted. I know about unspotted. When we eat meals at home it is often in the easy chairs, which is more convenient than trying to sit at our small kitchen table. Invariably when I am finished I am most spotted. A nice clean shirt can magically turn into a dirty napkin in a moment when it is part of my attire.
Now, think of me coming to church with that napkin/shirt on - not something I would ever do, yet so many believers come to the Lord with spots on their spiritual clothes as if they were freshly dressed from the clean clothes closet. I might remind you that one of his attributes is not blindness - come only in unspotted condition, or seek forgiveness first so that you are in the appropriate attire.
Isaiah 1:16 seems to relate well to our study in this section. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
10. I wish Gill could have been more forthcoming with his comments - NOT - he really blasts the man under discussion here. "But deceiveth his own heart; with his show of religion, and external performances; on which he builds his hopes of salvation; of which he is confident; and so gives himself to a loose way of talking what he pleases: this man’s religion is vain; useless, and unprofitable to himself and others; all his preaching, praying, hearing, and attendance on the ordinances will be of no avail to him; and he, notwithstanding these, by his evil tongue, brings a scandal and reproach upon the ways of God, and doctrines of Christ."
I have to wonder what our church in this country would be like if pastors/teachers were more forthcoming in their messages. So many are so afraid of hurting feelings, or stepping on toes, and of making waves that they seldom get specific about sin, about wrong living, and about doctrine.
While in college, a fancy speaker came for a chapel session. He read a verse as a "springboard" to his message and that is all it was. Something to make it seem like a message from the Word rather than what it was, a bunch of fuzzy tales strung together on a wish and a promise that they related.
After chapel the school was abuzz over the great speaker. I got to my next class and the talk was about how great a preacher he was, the place was filled with excitement. I simply asked what the message was about, what text he used and what relationship it had to God. The classroom became very quiet and no one had an answer - they realized that it was a bunch of fluff, and they were calling it great preaching.
All too often in our churches we call fluff preaching, we call boring platitudes the Word, we call many things preaching when they are not. We need the Word preached clearly in the church today, not just the feel good stuff that won’t help our spiritual walks one bit.
We were recently in a service and the sermon was a good five or six-point message that was quite appropriate to a new convert that had never been in church before. This was from a guest speaker and I am not saying he was wrong, for he might have thought that is the level he was preaching to, but the kicker was the interim pastor, a friend of the speaker, got up and declared what a great message of meat the congregation had been served. Milk, yes, meat, never.
11. I would like to help you consider how special helping widows and their children might be. Trust me, I have never been a widow, or an orphan, but I think I know a little bit about how they might feel about being helped by the church.
We were living in the Midwest for awhile and I was working for a man that could not give any benefits. One Sunday morning I came down with a kidney stone and in those days it was operation time. I was off work for six weeks and no income. My wife was working, but her income was far from what we needed to make ends meet. We had no medical insurance so the costs were going up quickly.
Our church was very small, but out of that tiny group came some cash, a lot of groceries, and a lot of little things that saved us spending money. They came to our rescue without knowing of our real situation. What a joy it was to see God working in peoples lives as they assisted us in our time of need.
The giver as well as the given to, miss out on great joy from the giver not doing what God would have them do. I trust that you will watch for opportunity to serve your Lord in this manner in the future. He will certainly bless you for your efforts.
12. Deuteronomy 14:29 makes it clear that God was interested in the widow and fatherless even in the Old Testament. James calls us to the same standard as the Jews of old - to care for those that can’t care for themselves. "And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."
We have mentioned how difficult this can be in our society, but difficulty does not negate our need to do it.
I will include below a deacons fund policy I developed for a small church. You might find some items you could use for your churches deacon fund, to bring it into the day in which we live.
Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1996
PROPOSED DEACON’S FUND POLICY
In that the Scripture is very clear that we are to be in the custom of assisting other believers in need, and in that the Scripture is very clear that we are to be in the custom of assisting widows and orphans, and in that the Scripture is clear that we are to be in the custom of assisting strangers, we hereby institute this policy to assist us in this ministry to those in need. (See footnote at end of policy for references.)
Each person seeking assistance will be interviewed by two of our deacons/elders and their concurrence will result in help. There is no need to INVESTIGATE a request for help other than to talk with the person involved to gain a sense that the need is valid. (We will trust God to guide us in our decisions and allow Him to deal with those that misuse our ministry.)
1. The fund shall be financed by an offering taken in the missions bowl after the Lord’s Table service each month.
2. The fund shall be dispersed under the guidance of the deacons.
3. The funds will be distributed by gift certificate as much as possible or by cash/check if the need is not available via certificates.
4. A grocery closet will be maintained at the church via the donations of the membership. It will contain sealed goods that can be stored for extended periods of time.
5. If the fund is depleted, and a seemingly valid case exists, the deacon and pastor may go before the church for special offering/general fund expenditure for the assistance.
6. A list of social service agencies will be maintained and a copy of that list shall be given to each person requesting assistance. (It is assumed by this policy that much of our tax money goes to support social services, so we should make use of those services for the assistance of those in need.)
7. A total value for each assistance shall not exceed $50. (Groceries need only be approximated.)
8. The above is not to say that every person that requests assistance is to be helped. It shall be at the discretion of those talking with the person that may or may not determine to extend help from the church family.
9. If there is a choice between church family members and those outside the church, then the church familys needs should be met first.
10. In keeping with James 2:15, 1 John 3:17-18, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 we feel that there is a different relationship between the church and the church member that is in need than between the church and a nonmember. We therefore set forth the following guidelines for the church member in need.
a. It is assumed that most of the needs will be met via the church membership before there is need to go to the deacons fund. All should feel a responsibility to voluntarily assist in any manner that they can. (Some possible examples: Repair people assist in repairing items needed by the family, doctors/ dentists /other professionals giving minor services, etc.)
b. If there are needs over and above that which is forthcoming from the membership the deacons fund should assist as possible. Within 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 is the responsibility for the church to assure that the need is real. This is usually quite obvious, but if the obvious dims into a habit, there should be intervention by the pastor/deacons. The person that is failing to do all that they can to resolve their situation should be counseled. If there is no change then the pastor should be brought in to institute steps toward church discipline.
c. If the need is real and the deacons fund cannot relieve the need, then it should be considered by the pastor and deacons whether the need should be brought before the church for action by the congregation. This step might be eliminated if the congregation were to vote a sum of money be set aside to be given at the discretion and unanimous agreement of the pastor and deacons.
(2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count [him] not as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother.")
Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
1 Timothy 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty , and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty , and gave [thee] drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.
RESOURCE LIST FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE:
Insert here any nearby social service centers. Most communities have federal, state, county and city services that are funded by tax payers and they should be a resource for the needy. Many cities have centers that have representatives of all these services under one roof.
Nave’s topical Bible references for further study: De 15:7-18; Leviticus 25:35-43; Psalms 41:1; Psalms 112:9; Proverbs 3:27-28; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 25:21-22; Proverbs 28:27; Isaiah 58:6-7; Isaiah 58:10-11; Ezekiel 18:5; Ezekiel 18:7-9; Matthew 5:42; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 25:35-45; Mr 9:41, 10:21; Lu 3:11, 11:41; Acts 6:1-4; Acts 11:29-30; Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 13:3; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Galatians 2:10; Philippians 4:10-18; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:16; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.
All right, all you folks that want to know what God wants you to do in life, here it is. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this," He is about to tell you directly just what He wants you to do, this is the undefiled truth of the matter directly from God.
"To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world." Two things you are to do, visit the fatherless, or the orphans, and to visit the widows and keep yourself unspotted or pure.
Simple enough, visit the kids and widows and not sin. And just how many of us do the first two, won’t ask about the last one because we don’t do too well there either.
Many of us visit the widow when she is first grieving her loss but how many of us get around to visiting them six months after? One of the joys for my wife while ministering in the last church where we were interim pastor was to visit one of the widow ladies. The woman had been a widow for many years, and was kind of an old snip, but after visiting a few times, my wife and the widow became great friends and we fellowshipped with her many times over a few years before she died.
This could be a great blessing for any of you if you would just seek out one that could use some company. The same would probably go for an orphan. Orphans may not be as readily available to us in our society, but there are many single parent families around that aren’t far from being without parents. Big Brother/Sister agencies could match you up with someone I’d guess. It might even be a chance to share the Gospel with a child. I’m not sure you should go with that being the goal, but it couldn’t hurt to have it as a minor goal of your ministry to the child.
From our text one might assume, and probably correctly so, that the fatherless and the widows might well be widowed mothers with children rather than two separate groups. I think in the area of application viewing them individually is quite appropriate, but I think James most likely meant the two as a group.
If you have an orphanage around, then you have a great opportunity to visit and maybe assist in the work of the institution.
Yes, this will take time, and yes, God would be interested in you doing it. Time and maybe a little cash now and then.
One of the fun times of the widow just mentioned is that one time she mentioned she and her husband always walked to the burger place near their home for a burger on Friday night. The wife and I were in the habit of having a burger now and then so we started picking up an extra and she would go to the widows place and have a burger with her on Friday night.
I don’t really know the reality of a widow or orphan in Biblical days, but I’m sure it was much worse then than now. The widow and orphans were probably about on the same social ladder and poorly thought of and even if thought of, less cared for. The family was to take care of the widow, but if there is no family, then there was no one to care for them.
The New Testament is clear that the church is to care for the widow that is in need. Again, something that we seldom do in the church today.
1 Timothy 5:3 Speaks to the care of the widow. Even in Paul’s day he did not expect the church to care for widows that had family, nor would I imagine from the text widows that had property or money. If they were widows indeed, widows that had no one to care for them and no way to care for themselves, then the church should step in and provide her needs. "Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. 5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and days."
I might add that "needs" probably had in thought the meaning of the word - needs. Today Americans expect everything. A recent letter to the editor was from a woman that was receiving housing, food and tuition from the state and it was clear that she thought she ought to get it as well. There was no indication of work in the letter and I doubt that the state requires it. This is not what Scripture teaches, it teaches caring for needs.
In the area of orphans, we might expect that maybe if there is need we ought to meet it. Needs, as has been indicated, has a liberal meaning today. With all of the social agencies I doubt that many widows or orphans are in need today though it may occur.
When pastoring many years ago we had four widows in our group. One was well to do, had property and money enough for her life and plenty to leave to her children.
The other three ladies were in very slim finances. They were on social security but at the lowest amount in their day. They also gained a little help for their heat/lights. They were getting along with their needs being met so there was nothing the church was "required" to do. I suspect had the church grown out of its infancy we would have attempted to do some for them. I did tell them all that if they had a need to let me know and the church would help.
No, they didn’t go to Arizona for the winter, they didn’t go to the big city to shop, but they had adequate to live on. This is not to say that the church should not assist them as much as they can in the area of company/fellowship and any other way possible.
Some ways that we might assist this segment of our church:
1. Assure that they have transportation if needed and don’t wait for them to ask you for assistance, the church should find out if there is need.
2. Possibly make special times for them to gather for a potluck now and then with the church providing the pot.
3. Find help for them if they need transportation to the store, the doctor or the dentist.
4. Be inventive. They have to do all the things you do, so be sure they can get it all done. If they can’t, give them help.
This all really comes back to the fact that there is a general concern for the welfare of all believers. We ought to be giving our concern to all believers, and being sure the widows and orphans are included, then on top we are to go and visit them.
Actually the term translated "visit" has the thought of looking to see, inspection or checking out. What a better time to see if they have need than when you go to visit them.
One of the things I have observed of the Mormon Church is the great care that they give to their people. Each person is watched over by someone in the church. There is contact from time to time to see how things are going. If there is a material need it is met, if there is a social need it is met, if there is any need, the church attempts to assist as needed.
This is something that we in American churches fail to do, all too often. Yes, there is a chance that we will be taken advantage of, but we shouldn’t stop doing it. Be careful and have more than one person in the mix making the decisions about assisting members. Care should be one of the hallmarks of the church!
Note that they are in affliction. They are having difficulties. Burden is another way to translate the word or a pressing together between. Between a rock and a hard place in other words. The life of a widow with children is a hard life; it is trying to keep both ends connected. Keeping the kids on track, keeping the job on track, and keeping the home on track. Not a job for the faint hearted for sure.
In New Testament times it would have been even harder for a widow, just to get along in society as a woman. Then to add the fact that there is no man in the house to assist and provide income. James sets this pressing situation and its alleviation as the epitome of true religion.
James adds a second item of "true religion" when he adds the phrase "[and] to keep himself unspotted from the world." The scope of this statement is quite far reaching in our day. Just how does the world tend to spot us or deface our character?
We have pressure to lie, to lust, to covet, to shirk, to sidestep responsibility, to fail our faith, to walk against God, to do anything and everything that is bad when God wants us to be good.
Our world is so full of the wrong of the Devil, and the sadder part is that Christians are often right in the middle of this wrong with the lost people that don’t know any better. The lost are depraved and don’t understand the requirements of God, but God’s people certainly do and yet many live as the world. They aren’t spotted by the world; they are indistinguishable from the world.
The world’s universities are now teaching ethics as a class that is for today’s businessman. In my early days ethics were taught in the public school system. Cheating was wrong in high school, the lie was not tolerated, yet today the lie is normal conversation.
The topics of television used to be set and all knew what the limits were; now we have directors/producers that proudly proclaim that they are pushing the limits, they are pushing decency out of our society and they are doing a very good job of it, sad to say.
We used to "not watch" certain programs because of the content, but you can’t watch commercials any more due to the same content. You can’t trust the rating systems that are in place because the standards have eroded since they were set up. G is supposedly for anyone, but there is now content that has no business in "G" rated shows.
Our society has taught our children that there is little that is out of bounds, little they can’t enjoy, and little that anyone should tell them as to right and wrong. You see, there is no wrong unless you feel it is wrong. Whatever you want as long as you feel it is okay.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on James 1". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter