So I’ve been going through a Bible study of James, and though I’ve read it before, understanding the context and history behind it has been life changing. Honestly, I thought it was super boring the last time I read it and it confused me and I didn’t know what to do with it, so I kind of just forgot about it. But. This time! Oh, how it has been life-changing! James doesn’t mince words and cuts straight to the heart of those whose hearts are open and ready for renewal and molding from the Father. As I read, the words from Hebrews 4:12 prove to be oh-so true :
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
James’ words, poured out from the Holy Spirit, penned by his too-human hands, they pierce the soul and spirit and forces one to examine each thought and intention. James holds no patience for pretense and refuses to let his reader get away with it either. To read James with a seeking and open heart and mind is not for the faint. Nor is it for the arrogant – or maybe it is especially for the arrogant. I think my pride and know-it-all attitude got in the way of my heart last time; I wasn’t open to learn and be refined, so I put it into the “irrelevant” category and dismissed it. God has, thankfully, taught me humility – though it is an ever-present struggle that I don’t think will ever diminish in my life – and it has allowed me to be convicted, further humbled, and, most importantly, has convicted me to change in specific areas.
James harps on the tongue, the power of the tongue, and the harm in which it can cause with such ease. As a teacher, it can start fires that burn through God’s people and leave them with singed and disfigured theologies. It has forced me to examine my motives as a teacher and to make sure that I am teaching with the guidance and power of the Spirit instead of relying on myself and my own understandings.
James has forced me to examine how I speak to my family and convicted me when I speak too loudly or too harshly at my children. Or when I judge others – whether it’s spoken out loud or not – my evil thoughts that come through my sarcastic words or jokes that may be hurtful to another.
James has forced me to look at the way I can show partiality to those around me. The way I “lift up the face” of one and leave another face down on the ground, asking for my attention, as James implies through cultural context out of chapter 2. Though my motives may be unintentional, the result is the same and can be just as hurtful and exclusive.
Most of all, James hammers in the idea that faith and works go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot hear the Word of God, to love and serve each person before yourself, and not do it and still consider yourself faithful. As James repeats, “What good is [your faith]?” And he could not be any clearer than in 2:17: “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James refuses to allow us to live a “Sunday only” faith kind of life.
So I challenge you – if you are willing for God to convict you and refine you and mold you into a beautiful vessel through which He will do incredible things – I challenge you to embark on a journey through James with an open and willing heart. Be ready for Him to go to work in your life, it might hurt a little, but you will certainly be blessed a lot!