Tuesday, December 9, 2008

James Isn't Bitter Is He?

"You adulterers! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility with God? So whoever wants to be a friend of this world is an enemy of God. Or do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says that the Spirit that God caused to live in us jealously yearns for us?,  But he gives all the more grace. And so he says,

“God opposes the arrogant
 but gives grace to the humble.”

Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable, mourn, and cry. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James 4:4-9

Now there is a red carpet welcome. It’s stuff like this that keeps the Bible fresh. In what other book would you find the author calling the reader an adulterous, double-minded sinner who needed to mourn his own depravity? I haven’t read many lately. If I did come across one, I don’t think I’d give it a favorable review. But this is our book, the centerpiece of our existence, and we have a mandate to like it, so I’ll stay positive here.

James was writing to some church goers who had become a bit contrary with one another. He takes the tone of an old man reprimanding some neighborhood truants who had just thrown a rock through his window. We have to believe that he isn’t all bitterness and guile, that deep down inside he loves those kids – he just has a funny way of expressing it.

I feel like he’s a bit over the top here, a bit brash, a bit uncool. But I have to admit he makes a strong point. The kids have screwed up royally; they have crossed one of the most ominous of lines in the cosmic conversation – the line where humility meets arrogance. James witnessed this misstep and came unglued for the entire world to see. He understood that this is one of the most fundamental issues in the God-man relationship. When arrogance creeps into the heart of man there is no grace. Grace, the cornerstone of Christianity, gives humanity access to God. But where there is arrogance there is no grace, thus there is no access. James was justifiably upset.

The centerpiece of this passage is conveniently off set for us, it is a paraphrase from Proverbs 3:34.

“Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he shows favor.”

To scorn is to mock. God doesn’t care for those who take shots at him or his kids, nor does he like know-it-all’s and rule makers. He has a heart for the broken.

Remember, James is a church elder writing to his church goers, not a street preacher screaming at innocent shoppers. This message is for Christians more than it is for the non-believing. Be mindful of your heart.

I have been thinking about this for some time. Pursuing humility is absolutely central to a healthy relationship with God. A lot of things can get us into trouble in life, but this arrogance thing is a pretty big deal. When it comes down to it we don’t have much figured out, we definitely don’t have it all together. In truth, we are really doing the best we can with what we have. It is a rare thing to come up with pocket aces, but when we do let us not forget that God has stacked the deck and he’s playing with a royal flush every time. Humility, pursue it at all costs and you’re sure to stumble into the favor of God.


Ben McBride said...

Good read...sobering stuff.

Ben McBride said...

What happened to James Hates You! I liked that title better!

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Skeeterbob said...

Wow, the word says seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened up to you. I stumbled upon this blog because it was attached to another blog that I am a member of. This information serves to remind us to check our hearts and our motives. Thanks for your courage.

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