For some it may sound ridiculous – James’ command to be joyful when things get painful, but that’s exactly what James teaches us. We can praise God for the problems and the pain, only because we can trust God for the purpose He has behind it, He wants to work in us and through us. God allows troubles, trials, and tribulations not to impair us but to improve us, or as Sandy Adams said, “Spiritual maturity sprouts from the soil of suffering.”
I’m grateful for God’s promise to grant wisdom if we need it – because not only do I lack wisdom, I lack common sense! We just have to make sure we believe this promise in order to receive this promise – otherwise we become doubting disciples driven by the waves of wickedness, for “Faithless prayers are futile prayers,”said Sandy Adams
Being rich is not a sin, it’s just “hard” for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom, Jesus said in Matthew 19:23; it requires extra effort not to trust in those riches or be distracted by those dollars and the purchased possessions which follow that can very easily possess us. James said the godless rich man must consider his future humiliation, and the godly poor man must remember his future exaltation.
James promises blessings and even crowns for those who “endure” temptation, when you don’t give in! Satan comes with that lie he tries to sell you, packaged tightly with that solicitation to sin, and by God’s grace you win. You don’t need that drug or that drink; you’re empowered to turn the other cheek; some guy or gal tries to lead you astray, but you stay faithful to your spouse, to your God. You’re frustrated or humiliated, you might even be angry, but you don’t sin (Ephesians 4:26). The opportunity arises, the devil woos, and the flesh feels like falling, but you don’t go down. Praise God for those times we “endure” temptation. It’s not a sin to be temped – even Jesus was tempted, but He didn’t give in. I remember hearing somewhere that, “Temptation is not a sin, it’s simply the bell that rings, telling you it’s time to fight.”
I must confess that James 1:19-20 is one of my favorite Scriptures; I believe it’s one of the most important principles in all of life! God gave us two ears and only one mouth to emphasize listening more than talking. If only we’d wait to speak, truly listen to that person sharing those words, and then listen to the Lord – BEFORE we speak. Sometimes we speak foolishness – it leads to a fight – next thing you know there’s arguments and yelling – anger and wrath. Nothing good ever comes out of that! James will have more to say about taming the tongue as well as the temper. (see also 1:26)
The Word of God is used by the Spirit of God to conceive a child of God and conform us into the image of God – therefore, we are to ask God to soften and open our hearts, to receive with meekness, the seed of His Word. But when we hear that Word, we can’t just be hearers of it, we must be doers of it. We can’t just be “talkie-talkies,” we need to be “walkie-talkies.” Some people deceive themselves into thinking it’s sufficient to hear the Word of God, or to know the Word of God, or to even teach the Word of God (I think that sometimes). No way…God wants us to LIVE the Word of God! We must guard ourselves from mere profession, we need to DO all we can to help the helpless.
I like to tell people that, “God loves everyone, but I’m His favorite.” JAnd although God loves me as if I were the only one to love, the truth is, God has no favorites, He loves everyone equally. With that understanding, God has called us to be like Him and show no partiality, and yet it can happen at any church. What if a millionaire strolled into the sanctuary, a famous actor or actress, would I treat him or her better than the poor man, or the one I’ve known for years (the common man)? James wants us to check our hearts and just make sure we love everyone equally; let’s not bend the rules for some because of the fact that they’re more wealthy or friendly – it’s sin.
James reminds the recipients of his letter that the rich often times oppress the poor, dragging them to courts. Generally speaking, the rich don’t realize their need for Jesus, but the poor do, which prompted James to ask, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom…?” (v. 5) James dealt with this earlier in (1:9-11) and repeats himself for emphasis, that the godless rich man should beware of his future humiliation, while the godly poor man should look forward to his exaltation.
Getting back to the poison of partiality, James alludes to it in his comment on the Royal Law, how we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves, if we do this we do well, it’s the fruit of salvation…partiality is completely contrary to love.
Some might categorize partiality as a minor sin, but James teaches us that sin is sin, that all sin is against God, that we might keep the whole law, but if we stumble in one point, we’re guilty of all and therefore in need of a Savior. When I read verses 10-13 I’m reminded that the law can never save me, it only proves my guilt and need of salvation. Thank God for Jesus and the merciful law of liberty. The Bible teaches us from Genesis to Revelation – salvation by faith (not law), faith in Jesus, the shadows and substance Who shows us mercy and sets us free.
In closing out the chapter, James reminds us, however, that faith works and faith without works is dead. Imagine someone comes to you, a brother or a sister, naked, and on the brink of starvation, and rather than helping them in a practical way, we say, “God bless you, I’ll be praying for you,” and leave them there to die. The pitiful prayer doesn’t profit. James teaches us that such “faith” is dead.
The key to this section is v. 18, “…I will show you my faith by my works.”How do we know from a human perspective that a person is saved? By their works. Wiersbe put it this way, “James and Paul do not contradict each other (Rom. 4:1–5; 5:1); they complement each other. We are justified (declared righteous) before God by faith, but we are justified before men by works. God can see our faith, but men can see only our works.”
We can’t be saved by acknowledging the gospel intellectually, (belief in the brain – the demons believe and tremble), no we’re saved by faith in the heart (Romans 10:9) such faith will lead to works of benevolence, obedience, and love, there will be no partiality. “Your faith is not a faith that saves, unless it is a faith that works.” – Sandy Adams
James issues a heavy warning that a teacher of God’s Word will receive a stricter judgment, therefore such a “title” and even task must be pursued with caution and care. I agree with Sandy Adams who said, “A Bible teacher must be accurate and authentic.” So this warning has to do with my entire life, and my every word.
We all stumble, (which is different from falling) but we need to stop that tendency to stumble in speech. The person who does good in this area, manifests spiritual maturity.
As a teacher I need to make sure that Godhas tamed my tongue, for no mancan tame it. The tongue is a relatively small member of my body, but boy does it pack a punch! It’s like a bit in the mouth of that strong stallion, so small but used by the rider to steer that stallion. Or that little rudder under that massive ship…is it controlled by the captain? If so, it will reach its destination. The tongue can do so much good, but it can also do indescribable evil. James compares it to a little spark (just a few uncontrolled words or sentences) that in the end…burns down an entire forest. L
I’m getting a little older now, and it never ceases to amaze me how every conversation, every teaching, every WORD is vital, and not only whatI say but howI say it, the tone of voice is a critical part of communication.
It’s such a terrible thought to think that with this mouth we can bless God and then with the same mouth we can curse people created in the image of God. If this happens frequently, consistently, unapologetically, James calls that person to check their heart (their salvation). Can the same spring give both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits…” (Matthew 7:16, 20).
What a clear contrast James give in 3:13-18 between the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below. James returns to the concept that if we’re saved it’ll show. Such ugly characteristics are listed in v. 14 – “bitter envy,” and “self-seeking.” Lord, do I have any of this in my life? Do I get jealous when others get blessed? Do I have a hard time when someone else is acknowledged, complimented, or appreciated?” How ugly is that? That’s not only earthly evil it’s downright demonic. The wisdom from above is so beautiful – it’s pure, it wants peace, it’s gentle, willing to yield (surrender our rights).
I like the way the NLT translates James 3:18,“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” Am I a peacemaker as Jesus called me to be? I hope so (Matthew 5:9).
The wars around us take place because of the wars within us. Our flesh fights for our rights, we long for our lusts, we pout for our pleasures. This is how all wars begin, whether it be a battle at home or World War III, it begins in someone’s heart because of “world-war-me.”
How can we expect God to move if we don’t pray, or if we pray amiss, with marred motives? (James 4:2-3) Wiersbe said, “If we are not careful, even our prayers can become selfish!”
May God give us that heart for holiness, to be set apart for Him, but may He also give us that heart for the lost, to “go out” for Him. When James condemns friendship with the world, he’s not saying we can’t have any friends who are unsaved, he’s speaking about loving and living for the fallen world system (1 John 5:19). It’s okay for the boat to be in the water, but it’s not okay for too much water to be in the boat, otherwise it sinks. Beware of worldliness, the enemy is doing all that he can to conform you to this world (Romans 12:2) – to make you an enemy of God!
James’ quote from Proverbs 3:34 is repeated in 1 Peter 5:5, emphasizing this point with a three-fold witness – how God resists (stiff-arms) the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, we are to humble ourselves. If we humble ourselves, God will lift us up (give us victory and use our lives). To humble ourselves includes submission to God – which also means resisting the devil. Warren Wiersbe asked a probing question, “Are you resisting the devil or resisting the Lord?”
What a promise! If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us! Truth be told, some people are closer, (nearer) to God than others, because each of us are as close to God as we want to be. As we draw near to God we cannot come with dirty hands, dirty hearts and double minds, we need to do our best to come clean, solely devoted to Him.
How sad it is when we speak evil of people who are loved by God. We can too flippantly shoot the lip and judge others and in doing so, we consider ourselves above God’s law which forbids such carnal conversation. What’s good for the Proverbs 31 woman is good for us all, wouldn’t you say? Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”
It’s okay to plan fortomorrow, but it’s not okay to planontomorrow, for none of us have tomorrow guaranteed. Jesus might come for His church globally and take us in the rapture, or Jesus might come for me, individually, today can be the day I die. We read in Job 34:20, “In a moment they die, in the middle of the night; the people are shaken and pass away; the mighty are taken away without a hand.” Let’s cherish each day as a gift but not take tomorrow for granted – this should change our ways as well as our words, “See you later…LORD WILLING.”
There are sins of commission (things I thought, said or did that I shouldn’t have) and there are sins of omission (things I should have done, but I didn’t) “God help us to be on a mission, to do what You bid, and not do what You forbid…in Jesus’ name amen!”
Once again James warns the unrighteous rich that the day is coming, when they will be judged for the way they exploited the poor (see also 1:10-11; 2:6). The temporal days of living in air-conditioned luxury would give way to the eternal judgment Jesus describes as being cast into fire that shall never be quenched. God sees all that they do, how they condemn and murder the just, how they reject the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, who gave to us an actual example of this in Luke 16:19-31.
Beware of the temptation to pursue riches, to focus on finances. Warren Wiersbe said, “To live only to get wealth is to rob yourself of true riches (1 Tim. 6:6–10, 17–19). It is to worry instead of worship (Matt. 6:19–34). God knows you have needs, and He will meet them if you practice Matthew 6:33.”
James knows that between now and the coming of the Lord, there will be many, many trials, injustices, and persecutions. He repeatedly encourages us to be patient, establish or settle our hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Whenever we complain, we’re actually complaining about the way God is overseeing our lives, so let’s not grumble or complain against one another. When we consider all that Job went through – even though he lost all his wealth, all his health, and worst of all, all his children, he never lost his faith. He was honest with God, pouring out his heart and asking questions, but he committed to trust God. Job 13:15a,“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”God help us to do the same, for there is a plan in the pain, God really does have good intentions.
James reminds us that we shouldn’t need to swear so that others would believe us. I thought it was interesting that he prefaces his prohibition with the words “above all.” How important it is that our words carry weight, that our yes means yes, and our no, means no, and people know it – they know we’re true to our words, without having to promise, or swear to God, or on our mother’s grave, or anywhere else. Jesus, the half-brother of James, also dealt with this in Matthew 5:33-37.
James tells us what to do if we’re suffering, cheerful, or sick. Very detailed yet basic instructions. After that James points to the power of prayer – through any person. Allow me to pass on two helpful quotes. Wiersbe said, “Many kinds of prayer are named here: prayer for the sick, prayer for forgiveness, prayer for the nation, even prayer about the weather. There is no need that prayer cannot meet and no problem that prayer cannot solve.”Sandy Adams commented on this passage that, “When we get sick, the first person we usually turn to is the doctor. Do not stop going to the doctor. God uses modern medicine to heal but remember, the healing itself is always God’s work. Doctors are called practicing physicians. Jesus does not need to practice. He is an expert. Perhaps we do not see more miraculous healing because we had rather spend thirty dollars to sit in the doctor’s office than spend an extra thirty minutes seeking out the elders for prayer. The precise, passionate prayer of a pardoned person is powerful.”
The last two verses are a warning to wanderers, and an urgent revelation for us to go get ‘em, and search for them and lovingly bring them back (see Luke 15:1-7).