Welcome Back to Journaling Through James, Week 2 (James 1:26-2:26)
Did it make anyone crazy that we didn’t finish out chapter 1 last week? The reason (in case you didn’t already figure it out) was that I really felt like Chapter 1:26 fit SO well with the themes found in Chapter 2, so I wanted to look at them together. Let’s dive in with this week’s overview, shall we?
1. It doesn’t matter how “good” a person you are, if you let your mouth run, unchecked, your religion is worthless. Words have weight and power. In the beginning was THE WORD. The entire world was created with WORDS (“Let there be…”) In the same way that words create, they can also destroy (lives, reputations, testimonies, relationships, credibility, etc.) Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Instead of running our mouths, our time is better spent focusing on the needs of others.
2. Take care of the helpless (widows and orphans) and keep yourself unstained by the world. I think it is no coincidence that these commands come on the heels of James’ warning about the tongue. Instead of running our mouths, our time is better spend focusing on the needs of others. Choosing not to engage in idle prattle helps keep us from becoming “stained” by the world. The longer a contaminant is in contact with a fabric, the more deeply the stain sets in. Steeping ourselves in gossip/engaging in a bunch of argumentative conversation (yes, I’m talking to you, Facebook) is detrimental to our spirit—like wallowing in our flesh. There are plenty of better things to do. Love/help others. You will win over far more people for Christ serving than getting on your social media soapbox.
3. Don’t show favoritism. Again, James addresses a counter-cultural concept (that is still completely relevant today). God has chosen the POOR in the world to be RICH in faith and heirs of the kingdom. (He sent his own son to be born of an un-wed teenager in a stable. As an adult, Jesus traveled around like a nomad with no place to lay his head. He was looked down upon by the “religious” Pharisees) It’s like James is saying, “Wake up! Stop pandering to the rich—they’re the ones who oppress and look down on you. Don’t appeal to them. They have their reward here on earth—impressing them will have no eternal reward. Instead, love your neighbored and don’t show partiality.
4. Whoever keeps the while law but fails in one point becomes accountable for it all. If you sin (no matter how “small”) you are a sinner—thank GOD for grace and mercy! You must show mercy in order to receive mercy.
5. FAITH without WORKS is dead. Claiming faith=WORDS. Empty words=No Action. Truth faith will be accompanied by actions that validate it. In other words, practice what you preach! It’s not enough to do good works (without the presence of faith). Faith should be the driving force that motivates our good works. (NOT: People-pleasing, scholarship pursuits, guilt, bribery, or personal gain) God sees our motives. He knows our heart and He desires a heart that serves out of an overflow of thanksgiving, not one that is seeking recognition and personal reward.
We recognize God as the Supreme Being; our Maker and Creator, but if our faith stops there, are we any better than the demons? They don’t deny His power or existence. What separates us is who we choose to serve with/by our works!
James uses the example of Abraham being justified by his works when he offered up Isaac on the altar. This ACTION was an example of obedience to a specific, direct command from God, as well as evidence of Abraham’s willingness to withhold nothing from God. James also sites Rahab as an example of someone who was justified by her works (for hiding the Israelite spies and misdirecting the king). This was a representation of following God at the risk of personal injury or harm.
6. In order to obey God’s voice, we must be open to it/listen for it. Based on the examples given by James, we can ascertain that God’s instructions might sounds crazy, scary, impossible, unbearable, dangerous, or inconvenient, at best. However, all are opportunities to prove our faith genuine by how we respond. James concludes the chapter by comparing faith without works to a body without a soul. Faith without works leaves us as empty shells.
When I think of Jesus’ time on earth, I can’t help but think of how his faith was proven genuine time and time again by his works—the way in which he lived his life. The way in which he spent his time. The people with whom he chose to associate. James’ instructions in this chapter and the previous seem almost as though they were intentionally pattered after Jesus’ life!
What about you? Did anything jump off the page at you this week? Please feel free to join the conversation/post photos of your own journaling journey from this week in the comments below!