Welcome, Fellow Readers-Along! Week One is here already! I don’t have the time or space to unpack each verse of Chapter 1 (I wish I did!), so I’m going to focus on a handful that stand out to me, and hopefully, the rest of you will hit what I miss.
Just so you know, I’ll be using the ESV (with other versions sprinkled in). Not because I think it’s the best, but because I have a pocket-sized ESV Bible, and it’s the easiest thing to take with me as I work to memorize the whole stinking entire book of James (!!!). I started today, and I’m already struggling to get past the bits and pieces of NIV lingo lodged in my brain from years past.
Verse 2–Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. (consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds–NIV off the top of my head–see??)
I hadn’t planned on “borrowing” thoughts from David Platt’s sermons, but goodness, he’s got some gems in there (listen here), and I can’t help myself. Platt says (and I heartily agree) that this verse denounces the whole health-and-wealth gospel. Notice that James says “count it all joy WHEN you face trials,” not “increase your faith because trials must mean you’re not believing/naming-and-claiming hard enough.”
Trials do not equal insufficient/weak faith. Trials are part of God’s plan to reveal himself to us and to help us grow more like him.
So often we want to just “fix” our trial (or other people’s trials) as quickly as possible, and get back to normal, to comfortable. But if we view our trials as a catalyst to knowing God more truly and deeply, we can really, honestly find joy even while we’re walking through them.
“Trials are joy when God is our goal.” (DP) And by joy, I mean a deep-down confidence that God is in control, knows what he’s doing, loves me intensely, and wants what’s very best for me. Joy isn’t wishy-washy, happy feelings (although happiness can absolutely be a part of it). And joy doesn’t mean absence of pain. They can go hand-in-hand.
Verse 5–If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. This verse fills me with more comfort than I can say.
The God who knows everything–and has never, ever, ever made a wrong move ever–is offering to give me his wisdom. I just read in 1 Kings today how God told Solomon to ask him for anything and he asked for wisdom to rule God’s people. God went giddy over his request. It’s very, very cool with God for us to ask him for his wisdom, rather than try to wing things on our own.
And really, why would we try to do that?? Why, knowing what I know about God, would I ever try to figure something out by myself when he’s there ready and willing with all the wisdom in the universe? Yet I do it over and over. Sigh.
Verse 19b-20–let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
I’m just going to flat-out admit right now that I struggle big-time with this. Just today, I got frustrated with my little home-schooler, and I lashed out with some really, really unkind (and loud) words. It says in Matthew that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And my heart was exposed today as being black and ugly.
Whenever I’m tempted to think that I’ve pretty much got it all together and I’m pretty righteous and everything, it only takes one quick outburst of anger at one of my kids (or husband) to remind me that I’m no better than child abusers, brothel owners, people who treat others like they’re less than human. If I can spew hateful words just because someone pushes my buttons, then what does that say about my heart?
It’s filthy, and I desperately need God to create in me a clean one (Psalm 51). James 1:26 speaks to this as well. If I can’t bridle my tongue, my faith is worthless. Sobering, sobering words.
Verse 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.
As someone who’s in love with some very precious orphans, I love this verse. But as David Platt warns us, there are two parts to it–public/practical compassion and personal purity–and we each have a tendency to jump on one of these and ignore the other. The whole liberal left/right-wingers dichotomy thing.
But it’s a BOTH/AND statement, not EITHER/OR.
I need to care deeply about the poor while keeping myself pure in heart and my blasted tongue bridled. Tall order, huh? Good thing Christ gives me strength outside of myself.
Your turn, friend. Feel free to answer any/all of the questions below either in the comments or in your own post. And be sure to link to your post if you wrote one. I’m itching to hear what God said to you in this action-packed first chapter.
1. If you could remove one verse from James 1 and never have to deal with it again, which one would it be, and why?
2. What one verse would you like (or feel compelled) to focus on/live out in the coming weeks, and how do you envision it playing out in your life?
3. If you could ask James for clarification on one verse/topic, what would you ask him and why?