James 1:19–25; 2:14, 18–26comment (0)
October 29, 2009
By Michael Wilson
Related Scripture: James 1:19–25; 2:14, 18–26
Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University
Live Your Faith
James 1:19–25; 2:14, 18–26
I remember summer days spent with childhood friends in my neighborhood. Sometimes we would find a flat spot of dirt under a cool shade tree and “shoot” marbles. My friends had better aim than I did, and my marbles were usually knocked out of the circle and lost. Since we played for “keeps,” I ended most games with fewer marbles than at the start. Albert Einstein once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Obedient followers of Christ recognize faith in Him involves a willingness to be transformed. Thinking and acting in ways consistent with the call of Christ are often incongruous with the prevailing thought and behavior in society. Many Christians find it convenient to practice a Sunday morning faith, showing little evidence of a life-changing relationship with Christ in the workplace or other contexts the rest of the week. Transformative faith changes who we are, how we think and what we do every day we are given to live.
Casual Christianity is not sufficient for our day. As children shooting marbles do, followers of Christ must “play for keeps,” or take their faith very, very seriously. Without such transformation, our lives make little difference for the cause of Christ.
Receive the Implanted Word (1:19–21)
Many people behave as if James’ proverb has been reversed — they are quick to speak and slow to listen. The admonition reminds readers that one’s proper attitude before God is “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” not “Hear, Lord, for your servant is speaking.” Why did James follow this statement with a comment on anger? Evidently “talk” was a problem in the church at the time. Perhaps unkind or untrue words were being spoken about others. Maybe language intended to hurt rather than heal was common. Regrettably a similar condition exists in many churches today. James called his readers to “get rid of” this evil talk — literally “lay aside” or “strip off” like removing filthy clothing. Cleansed appropriately, the implanted Word received with humility can take root, thrive and bring salvation of souls.
Do the Word (1:22–25)
“Doing beats talking every time.” These words were used in a full-page ad in USA Today the day following the 1986 flight of Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager in Voyager. Until their successful attempt, people talked about a nonstop round-the-world flight on one tank of gas but no one turned talk into action. Their unusual looking airplane now hangs in a place of honor in the main gallery at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Most of us are familiar with people who know and use the “words” of faith. Many of these people are quick to offer a superficial spiritual platitude, but their actions reveal the Word has not taken root in their lives. For true followers of Christ, “doing beats talking every time.”
Perfect Your Faith (2:14, 18–26)
Faith or works — is one more important than the other? This question has been a subject of conversation among Christians across the centuries. Some believe good works are sufficient to prove one’s faith. Others believe personal devotion and holy living are the best expressions of faith in God. James argued that Christians should not place greater emphasis on one over the other nor can there be one without the other. Both are essential in the life of the believer. He offered strong words to the “foolish” who think transformative faith occurs without works. Jewish thought about the physical body came from the account of the creation of mankind. God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. To the Jew, this life-giving force, or spirit, was essential for life. The body without the spirit was lifeless — dead. James used the analogy of the body to make clear his contention that faith without works is dead. A living faith by its very nature expresses itself in works.