2. The Power of the Word
The theme of chapter one is living in faith and the victory of faith over the circumstances of life. The theme of the second chapter is living under the word of God. It is not dislocated, it’s totally united in its theme which we will start at verse 19 of Chapter one.
Fear of Man
James 1:19 – ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’
The thing about James is that you can’t miss the point. If it had been Paul or somebody else, he would have wrapped that up in two chapters and we would have been able to squeeze out of it by the end! But James comes right between the eye-balls!
‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ It hurts a bit, doesn’t it? I sat and pondered on that and thought – that’s me! – ‘…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’
That is absolutely true. There is nothing that more prevents holiness and righteousness and goodness in God than a spirit and a heart that is torn apart with disruption, with malice, with jealousy and with anger. I guarantee that there is not one person who has been able to walk in holiness at the same time as live in human anger. I know in my own heart the disruption that takes place within my personality. When we live in anger, the first thing that happens is we lose the peace of Christ. Paul in Colossians 3:15 says – ‘the peace of Christ is to guide you in every decision that you make’.
I don’t know if you find this, but when I am angry I lose my reason. The kind of reason that God wants me to have. When I am angry, I run like a steam engine out of control, as though there is no-one to shut the valves down. I go charging down the line, mowing everybody down in my track, I go through the level crossings, I don’t stop at the stations, I just go straight on, I steam ahead until I run out of steam and when I am finished, I sit there fizzled and frazzled and think that was useless! Don’t you ever feel like that about your anger? When anger gets you going, it’s pulsating, like a great and powerful steam engine pulsating down the track, full of power, full of noise, full of fury and full of movement, full of motion but it does nothing. It doesn’t stop at the right places, it doesn’t take the right care, it doesn’t look at the signals, it goes through people’s lives, it doesn’t help people in the right way. It charges down the track until it runs out of steam and it sits there shivering and useless. There is nothing more pathetic then a steam engine without steam! It’s a great hulk of metal that is only good for the scrap yard – rotting and rusting. That is what anger is like in the soul.
If you are living in anger, you cannot live the righteous life that God desires.
v21-27 – ‘Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion 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.’
The thing that strikes me about the epistle of James is how pithy the statements are when you take them out and stand them up. The old Authorised Version says, ‘religion … that is pure and undefiled before God and the father’, not as though God was different from the father, but I believe there is a reason for underlining that it is God and the Father. The two things that James stresses here are firstly; compassion – ‘widows and the distressed’ and secondly holiness – ‘to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’. It’s the God of holiness and the Father of compassion. Religion that is pure and undefiled is this. How many of us will take this to heart today?
I believe God wants to come through us with a bulldozer because three-quarters of us would be saved from our own needs if actually the Holy Spirit was being able to write the agenda of other people’s needs on our hearts. Consider the men who preach the living gospel; people who minister the living power of Christ; (the late) Mother Theresa in Calcutta had far too little time to consider herself of her own needs because she was consumed by the compassion for orphans and widows.
There are churches today that are wrapped around their own spiritual navels, when all the time God needs to be motivating us to become kingdom people in a dying world. We would get sick of that kind of diet that is all sugar and no meat in it. The reason why some of us are continually falling into the middle is because we are not being pulled out to the edge. It’s God’s central frugal force that is keeping us in balance. This is religion that is pure and undefiled.
Even when the world gives, it is actually fulfilling a principle of the kingdom of God and they get a blessing in that. I am not naturally a giver; I’m a Scotsman!