It isn’t easy living in today’s world with all its pressures and tensions. However the people to whom James wrote lived in a much more difficult world than the one we live in. In this letter James writes to tell his readers how they could live healthy Christian lives in the midst of adversity and even persecution. He spelt out for them how they could win victory in spite of all the pressures around them. In chapter 1 he reminded his readers that they had to take control of their lives and submit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. GOD REQUIRES THAT WE BE IN CONTROL OF OUR LIVES. Jas 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
a). In Listening And Speaking. When James writes about being quick to hear, he means being eager to hear, ready to receive helpful input. He uses the terms to be “slow to speak”and “slow to anger”. To be “slow to speak” doesn’t mean that one has to speak with a slow pronounced drawl. Rather it means that we are to think about what we are about to say before saying it. The passage here is similar to Ephesians 4:20-32 which we will look at in a later article.
What damage has been done to you by people who didn’t watch what they said to you or about you? Older folk might remember the warning notice in the time of World War 2 about passing on confidential information by gossiping. The slogan “Loose lips sink ships” was prominently displayed in public places. The imparting of secret information can cause disasters to happen. Any sort of inappropriate speech can bring hurt, pain, division and destruction. Human enemies can be guilty of this. Certainly Satan will use available humans to use hurtful speech as a means of damaging God’s people.
b). In Controlling Anger. James 1:20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. We don’t help the cause of Christ by giving way to angry speech. It can be a way of intimidating someone or bringing them under our control. But the Christian way is the way of love. It involves bringing release into people’s lives not binding them or destroying them. We need God’s wisdom and His righteousness to have victory over our tongues otherwise they cause much evil, Jas 3:8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
Do you need to repent before God of the things that you said in anger that have damaged the person to whom you said it, and damaged you as well? If you have been guilty, then you need to confess it before God and ask for His forgiveness in Jesus. Then you need to pray that the person may be healed of the damage you caused them. If appropriate, you might need to ask for their forgiveness as well.
On the other hand you might have been the recipient of evil, angry, poisonous, hateful words and you feel contaminated, hurt, angry, bitter and terribly sad. If so, you need to do some forgiving of those who behaved towards you in these ways. You also need to ask God to forgive you of any bitterness and to heal you of the damage those words brought to you. Words have power. As the writer of Proverbs 18:21 put it, Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Human words can build people up and encourage them. Human words can damage and help to destroy them.
2. THE ATTITUDES REQUIRED TO RECEIVE THE WORD OF GOD. 1:21
a). Ceasing from evil. 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. To be removed are filthiness and rampant wickedness. These are the things that God sees as deliberate and ongoing evil. He sees them as repugnant and contrary to what He wants. If our minds are filled with evil or bitter thoughts we are not receptive to the word of God. If our hearts are not right with God and with one another we cannot receive what God would say to us through His word.If we deliberately speak evil or do evil, we are not open to God’s correction or blessing. All that is evil must be “put away”.
b). Receiving it in humility. 21. receive with meekness the implanted word….. “Meekness” is a strong word. It was used of the breaking in of wild animals. It is strength under control. It is submissive strength. Strong people are those who are humble, who learn to receive the word of God in their hearts and let it bear fruit in their lives. We need to get rid of all the rubbish in our lives so that God’s word can take root and bring changes to our lives. We need to be good soil as seen in the parable of the Sower as Jesus said, Mark 4:20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Hear, accept, bear fruit. The word that is received and acted on will bear fruit.
3. OBEYING THE RECEIVED WORD OF GOD
a). Hearing AND doing. (22-25). (The word as a mirror into which we look.) The word of God is described as a mirror. There are two ways of looking into a mirror.
i). A quick glance which brings no change. (Glancing /hearing). 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. It is like when we are going out and have a last look in a mirror. We quickly check to see if we put on all the clothing we meant to put on; whether our hair (if we have any) looks respectable. Just a brief glance but no more. Such a cursory glance at the word of God brings no spiritual growth.
ii). A deep search to see what is there and how to act on it in obedience. (Searching/ obeying). 1:25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. The word to “look” here can mean to stoop to have a good look at something. Eg., Peter and John and Mary Magdalene stooped to look into the tomb. Luke 24:12, John 20:5, 11. We are meant to be those who delve deeply into God’s word. Wee are to learn to understand what it is saying. We are to put it into practice in our every-day living.
b). Pure religion means self-control. (26-27)
i). In speech. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless). We saw before that the mark of a mature believer is that he can control his tongue. The tongue of the person out of step with God is an unbridled tongue, a restless evil, spreading poison.
ii). In concerned action towards others. True religion is not just focussed on oneself but in humility is focussed on the needs of others.
- 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.
- The supreme example of humility was seen in Jesus in Philippians 2 and verses 5 to 8. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. It is living for others, not simply living for our own interests.
iii). In separating from evil. James 1:27, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. We have to be squeaky clean! No stains, no spots, no mixed or hidden motives, but open before God as we seek to love and obey Him.
Healthy Christian living is not just an unrealistic ideal towards which we unsuccessfully strive. Rather it is playing our part in being open to the grace of God in every area of our lives so that He can be glorified in and through our lives as believers.
Blog No 111. Jim Holbeck. Posted Friday 8th February 2013