Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Word for Wednesday -- September the Last

After today, no more September, right? Thought so.

To continue with James (chapter 1, verse 12 through the end of the chapter):
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God;" for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.
Let me interrupt this passage, at a paragraph break, to interject something related. James gives us a sequence or chain of causal events: lust produces sin, sin produces death. This reminds me of a similar construction from Paul, from Romans 5:3 - 5:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
These two chains run in opposite directions, more or less; Paul describes an upward path in which perseverance takes us from tribulation to hope, while James warns of a downward sequence in which a particular kind of sin (lust) opens us to temptations leading to death. James makes this lust a kind of reverse-side opposed to perseverance (echoing the endurance with which he begins the chapter); this same perseverance is integral to Paul's upward path. These, I would venture, are two aspects of the same truth.

Going on:
This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
That loud THUMP you just heard was, I think, the sound of the rubber meeting the road. What's the proper primary use to us of Scripture? Giving us ... no, wait, giving me a standard to which to compare my condition. How do I measure up? Yeah, you can guess; it ain't pretty. What are my options? They are two in number: obey, or distract myself with some foolishness (religious foolishness works well here). What does "obey" mean? Well, I can start by keeping quiet (ouch!), not indulging my anger (double-ouch!!), resisting my natural urge to play in mudholes (triple-ouch!!!), and looking after the practical needs of widows and orphans.

It ain't easy. But it's James.

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Rebecca said...

Ooo what a great post!!!! I love the way you compared the "downward" turn with what James describes, and the "upward" with what Paul describes! that IS so cool!

Queen of Pith said...

James was a bit of a downer. :)

Yeah, those of us who are so politically oriented and religious seem to have a bit of a problem with the tongue.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I could hear the same THUMP here in NY.

"for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God"

Early on in my walk, the Lord showed me that when I was angry, it often was a cover for when I really wanted to cry. As there's no crying in the world (or in baseball) getting angry was more socially acceptable.

Then I got saved. The first few months, it seems like I did nothing BUT cry, mostly out of gratitude. Then I started trying to fit in with the new crowd at church. When I started reverting to previous modes of anger and sarcasm, God would WUMP me (I think that's like THUMP) so I would resume crying, mostly out of repentance.

But of late, when I see injustice or people doing hateful things to one another, I once again get angry and sarcastic.


So ... care to join me as I weep for our nation?