The book of James could be interpreted as one of those “picky fussy epistle”. In fact the contents are actually picking on our personal character and behavior, but for a godly and holy cause.
People do not like to be picked on, people do not like to be targeted, thus the book of James could be the least referred to by pastors and preachers. In comparison the most popular verse ever preached and read about should have been – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
If we were to endure in faith and look beyond those picky subjects and daily issues St. James wrote about, we could find an important piece of treasure that is going to give us the upper hand against sin, forces of darkness and mischief of the devil – especially dealing with offenses and stumbling.
Remember the warning of our Lord Jesus – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)– The devil will do all he can to make people lose faith in God. Provocative offenses have been one of those unscrupulous underhand strategies of the devil.
If we were to examine very carefully our Christian life in general, one of the saddest truths is when we discover sincere believers leaving the faith due to offenses and stumbling. One of those situations extremely difficult to deal with is this – “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! (Matthew 18:7).
Yes, Jesus warned about it. But people still wonders why bad things happen to good people? Truth is everything and anything can happens to anybody – so Jesus warned ‘watch and pray’!
Have you encountered people who are habitually provocative? On the other hand, were there situations when you felt so offended you lost your mind and went into a rage? You look yourself in the mirror and wonder which one of you is Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
Offenses and stumbling are very damaging to our spirit and convictions. The devil seeks to destroy through offenses but Jesus is providing us the way to ‘have life and have it abundantly’.
For all the pickiness in St James message, there are clues he was helping us to deal with unwanted offenses in daily life –
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:16-21)
St James was simply asking us to be prudence. Be careful. Be careful with ourselves and be careful with people at the same time. Remember Jesus said ‘watch and pray’!
Apparently by the world system, believers are at the disadvantage. The world have ditch all restrains while we as Christians had to bear the code of Christ-likeness. Can we seek any wisdom and justifications in this? It is in our understanding of God’s will and our future and hope in the kingdom of God.
If we lost sight of our life vision and purpose in the Lord, we lose our hope and expectation in our heavenly Father. In Christ we are in pursue of something which the world can never offer – eternal life and glory with God. The world may see us in disadvantage but we see our future glory in the Lord.
St James being a prominent leader of the Jerusalem church during the times of Acts, he must have had to deal with lots of complex issues with regards to human relations and offenses, some of which sensitive and touchy.
The enemies of the cross are actively at work and Jesus warned about very troublesome and complex human related offenses – Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1) – There are people who will constantly keep watch over you just to find fault. There are people who are critical and negative; all they wanted to do is to condemn you. These are the very people who failed to check themselves in the mirror!They walk around with a mirror facing away from themselves but reflecting into everyone else. Everywhere in society you get people like that! How annoying!
Offenses from strangers, best we could do is to walk away from it as far as we can. The more annoying and sensitive forms of offenses usually happens within family settings – Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21).
Blood relations offenses are the most damaging because within the family it is almost impossible to draw a fine line who is right who is wrong. In such relational circumstances it is so easy to take things for granted and family members can be forced to live with suppressed anger against one’s will and choice. Therefore Jesus’ response to Peter – “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”– Now that might seems like a trick question and answer response in getting Peter to do his maths. Imagine Peter started counting with fingers, then using his toes as well, and finally give up counting how many times his brother and sister sinned against him.
The point is – Let it go! Forgive and move on! Peter was destined to do greater works for the Lord but un-forgiveness will destroy everything. The funny thing about life is that things we should remember we often forget, and things we should forget about it often get stuck in our mind. Now we get an idea why St Paul was confused – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
Jesus made His point, do we received it?
The devil knew the best options to destroy humanity is to attack relationship. When God created Adam, God created within Adam the full capacity and potential to reign over the affairs of the entire earth. The devil launched his attacked via Eve smearing relationship between Adam and Eve and between human and God. It was a ‘one stone kill two birds’ kind of strategy.
Marriages are broken, relationship breaks apart, and the devil is having a good laugh. Human relations are clouded in darkness. There are family relational issues only God can help, submit to God in prayers.
Jesus said ‘watch and pray’!
In all the temptations the devil launched against Jesus Christ it was clearly a focused attacked to break Jesus’ trust and good relation with the heavenly Father.
In all the victories of Jesus Christ, it was His focus on believing trusting and acting on the will of God. This is how Jesus defeated the devil and this will be the same conditions for us to overcome the devil.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
As according to the teaching of Jesus and in the opinion of St James, the wise men are those who check themselves in the mirror – check our own lives as according to the word of God reflect upon the word of God and remember to walk and live Christ-likeness. Live according to the will of God.
Be careful, be patient, be wise in the Lord, seek the will of God in all matters. St James knew, as human of fallen nature we are lacking in our full understanding and knowledge of God. Therefore it is better to constantly seek the council and wisdom of God on a daily basis and to submit our will and sense of judgment unto the Lord.
Can we trust that God is a better judge then us?
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