James 1: 19 – 27 NLT
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
As we read through James, I find many of these verses make me uncomfortable, and I expect you will too. These 8 verses today make me stop and think. Sometimes I hesitate to write about Bible passages like this one because in commenting it sounds like I have my Christian life all together – but I know I don’t. James is very direct with his instructions to me, to you
“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (v. 19) You can’t be more direct than that. Listen and shut up. With social media today, we have a tendency to want to be heard. We make comments about others’ posts. We make comments about articles posted on Facebook. We come up with our own opinions on what is going on in our world and post them. Last week, in the United States, we saw the terrible result of angry words and social media egging people on. It is so easy to think those people were just dreadful, but we need to stop and think about what we say. How quickly do we respond? During this pandemic time, my Facebook page is often filled with opposing views on so many issues, and I understand the frustration that life today brings. Are politicians making the right decisions? Are the local medical people getting the vaccine out fast enough? And on and on we go …
Was Jesus a patient person? Think of all the crowds pressing around him as he travelled through Israel over his 3 years of ministry. Think of all the broken people who wanted his attention. Think of all the times he faced the Temple leaders who were out to “trip him up” and kill him. The only time we see Jesus angry was when he knocked over the tables full of merchants making a profit on people looking for God’s forgiveness in the Temple. Righteous anger.
“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” How well do I listen? When people start expressing their opinion about whatever, how quick am I to jump in with my viewpoint? When I realize I’ve made a mistake, how quickly do I admit it, or do I get angry and upset? “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”. That is quite blunt – God doesn’t want us to be angry people.
“Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.” (v. 22) Another arrow straight to the heart. Do I read my Bible, close it and feel good because I’ve made time for personal devotions? Just happy that I’m doing what is expected of a Christian. Do I attend church every Sunday, and come out feeling I’ve done the right thing – and now, on with my week. If the non-Christians in my life looked closely at me, what would they be thinking. Am I just like them – except for going to church? James compares that to looking in the mirror and ignoring what we see – or even forgetting what we’ve seen. If we’d stopped and looked carefully, we might had seen something that needed to be fixed. As we read our Bibles, or attend meetings at church, or listen to religious programs on TV, do we think about what we’ve heard? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting that maybe we should do something, change something?
“If you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. … Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (v. 25, 27) Have you ever experienced God nudging you to do something, and you’ve hesitated because you knew it would be difficult, or would interfere with your schedule, or would put you in a situation that made you nervous? I have. Sometimes I’ve ignored that prompting. Sometimes I have followed it, and when I have done so, I’ve never regretted it. That makes me wonder why I tend to want to ignore those promptings so much.
God wants us to be “doers”. He wants us to care for all those around us. In preparation for this devotion, I listened to Francis Chan’s comments on James on RightNow Media. When he talked about areas where we could be ‘doing’, he mentioned a situation in the US that made me look up the data for Canada. Chan talked about the number of children in foster care, and said that if 1 person in 2 churches in the US took in a foster child, there would be no children in foster care. According to Stats Canada (2011), there are 47,885 children in foster care. Ontario has 11, 375 of those children. In Windsor alone, there are over 120 churches of various kinds. Now, I’m not encouraging you to run out and take in a child from foster care, but this is just one example of hurting people in our country where Christ followers could make a difference.
There are so many people who are struggling in our world, our country, our city. God wants us to do something! God loves each one of us, and cares for us. We need to share God’s love to those around us. So … that has me thinking and praying. Is there something God wants me to do? Is there something God wants you to do?
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Our song for today is Do Something by Matthew West