Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, November 11

The next chapter in James is the fourth. Here are verses 1 through 10:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
This passage reminds me of Psalm 37, verse 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." There, the promise of God giving you the desires of your heart can (and, I think, must) be read in two ways. The person whose delight is the Lord -- who loves Him and directly wants Him, as opposed to wanting what He might do or what gifts He might give -- will have right desires, meaning desires that are ordinate with the will of God. That's the first sense in which we may hope to be given the desires of our hearts: that our base, evil desires will be replaced with right ones. And then there's the second sense. To have right desires means that they will be fulfilled. If we really want God, we shall have Him; He will give Himself to us. If we really want to please Him, we'll be made able to do so. If we really want to serve Him by serving those around us, the opportunities will come our way, and we'll be made aware of them.

But the other desires, the sinful ones, go unfulfilled, and become the seeds of even worse things. What's pointed out here by James is an aspect of sin which is also brought out by quite a few other scriptural texts: sin as futility. We're intended to function very well, in the right way; the dysfunction that follows in sin's wake is a real shame to us. One of many, that is.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that our base, evil desires will be replaced with right ones.

What? You mean if I throw myself whole-heartedly into worshipping the Lord on Sunday morning, it won't get me that new car?

I think you need to watch some Christian TV shows, Jim, so you'll get this one right.