Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
On this holiday weekend, many are less fortunate. We do not have the luxury of living separate and apart from the needs and challenges of our community. To be engaged in the Kingdom of God requires involvement in the world we live, with compassion and commitment.
James 1:26-27 26Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. These are benchmarks in life that we can use for spiritual measurements: There is no reason to shrink back from the goal of living in a manner that is spiritual and that pleases God. To date in James 1, we have learned that this requires testing, perseverance, honesty about our own failings, and remaining at the base of the cross for forgiveness and direction in living.
1. The Goal of Spiritual Living – Religion with Value. Self assessment is encouraged in the Bible. James 6 requires that we test ourselves. In this text, the goal is in front of us. Make it our goal to live in a way that is approved by God.
2. Taming our Tongue – Avoiding Worthless Religion. James does not mince words. We are warned that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and watching unmonitored speech’s sidekick – anger. An undisciplined tongue and life of anger leaves us worthless in our claims for growing spirituality and contributions to the Kingdom.
3. The True Measure of Pure Christian Living – Religion that is Pure and Faultless! Two standards for Godly living: (1) caring for the less fortunate and needy around us – here the widows and orphans, the ones who have no ability to help themselves, or demand the same from others. They are in each of our neighborhoods, the neighbors who are in need, struggling, older, ill, doing without. I am regularly moved by the ministries of Meals on Wheels, Good Samaritan Ministries, Salvation Army, Because People Matter; and (2) avoiding the pollution of personal sin in our lives. You can’t care for others without a spiritual life base here. And a spiritual and clean (not perfect) life necessarily must lead to caring for others more than ourselves, as in the example of Jesus.
So here we are. Christian Living 101. The first chapter of the first New Testament book to go out to the church scattered post-crucifixion and resurrection does not leave much for debate or challenges. Here is my challenge. Memorize this chapter – all 27 verses with me. After it is done, and you have recited it to another person to check your memory, let me know how you did, and the differences it is making.
– John Moore