As James begins drawing his letter to a close, he encourages believers to persevere throughout three different challenges of life: waiting for the Lord’s return, dealing with those around us, and enduring through suffering.
While we can make plans for the future, we truly do not know what the next hour, day, week, or year will bring, and our commitment level to these plans does little to change that. For the believer desiring to follow God, it is much better to seek His will and include Him in our plans; failing to do so amounts to little more than practical atheism.
In today’s passage, James continues to address tough issues. We live in a world filled with conflict, and the source of this conflict lies within us. Our natural bent toward selfishness does not lead to peace. There is a way out of this conflict, though - repentance and submission.
This message deals with some of the toughest words James writes; controlling our speech is very difficult. In fact, James says that if anyone can do it, they are perfect! For the rest of us, though, we must learn that the tongue is powerful, can be destructive, and must be controlled - and the only way this can happen is through a new nature.
Those who claim that James and Paul disagree on faith vs. works are not reading either men’s writings closely. Rather than making a claim that we are somehow justified by works, James tells us that true faith results in action; faith without works is not a non-existent faith, but it is a dead faith.
James continues his instruction on being doers of the Word, and not just hearers, by correcting the issue of favoritism. Impartiality goes against our human nature, but it matches the heart of God, and replaces the sin of our own favoritism.
(Due to Hurricane Nate, we did not meet on October 8th. We praise God that we suffered no ill effects from the storm.)
When Jesus turned the Passover meal into what we call the Lord’s Supper, He called His disciples to do several different things throughout this meal. Today, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper should follow His model, where it is a time of sorrowful reflection, personal revelation, incredible sacrifice, and hopeful anticipation.
James cautions his readers to not presume positions of leadership in the church; rather, if they are called by God, they should faithfully execute their calling, realizing that they will be judged more strictly. He also reminds them that we all stumble; no one is perfect. This is good advice, both for the newly ordained and installed deacons, and the rest of us as well.
Knowing the Word of God is good, but it is not enough on its own. James explains that those who hear the Word and do not put it into practice are deceiving themselves, leading to missed blessings and unmet needs for themselves and others.
Tempation comes to us, and sometimes it seems that the only thing that would make it go away is actually giving in to it. James says some hard things about temptation, but leaves us with hope as well; God Himself can help us when we are tempted.