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This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
So how do we know if we are truly hearing the word? When you’ve really heard the message of the Kingdom of God, you become a different person. You believe and are transformed. James talks about what it means to be a real hearer and addresses a few aspects of behavior that display this transformation: your words, your compassion, your standards, and your mercy.
I challenge you to ask yourself a few of the questions listed below and have the courage to examine your life.
Do you hold your tongue?
James 1:26: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
While I’ll speak more about the power of the tongue in my next blog, here I will say briefly that your words reveal the posture of your heart. While none of us is perfect, our words should be a reflection of the Spirit’s work in our lives.
Do you serve others?
In James 1:27, he says, “Here’s real religion….” James uses the word “religion” here in a positive sense. He means here is an authentic hearing of the Gospel.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is attentive to the poor and downtrodden. As believers we are called to live like Jesus, which means having lives characterized by compassionate service.
Have you shifted away from worldly criteria?
James 1:27 continues,
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” [emphasis mine]
In chapter 2, James says, “do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” Then James gives the illustration of a wealthy person who comes into the assembly of worshippers, and people respond, “Oh, here, you sit here. We will give you this high and mighty chair.” Then a poor man comes in and is told, “Well, you can sit at my feet or go sit in the corner if you want.” In this illustration, worldly criteria determine the hierarchy of the church, and that’s living by the standards of the world.
But Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God. James 2:5 says, “Listen, my beloved brethren, did not God choose the poor of this world?” Do you remember that the good news was to the poor in the Gospels? It’s good news to the outcast and the humble. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. A physician does not come to those who are well, but to those who are sick. The Pharisees didn’t think they needed him and thus he couldn’t save them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
As it turns out, the poor, the outcast, the adulterers, the prostitutes, the religiously unclean, and the tax collectors are the ones who came to Jesus.
So in the church we sometimes make this assumption that a person has to have a position of power or influence or have money to be a great Christian. Why? You say, “Well, she’s rich.” No. I’m not saying being rich means you can’t be a Christian, but wealth is not a criterion for being a Christian. We shouldn’t, therefore, draw that criterion into what it means to be a servant in the church of the living God. We cannot value what the world values inside the fellowship of believers. Our measures are different. Our goals are changed. Our purposes are eternal.
No person in the church is better or more important than another person in the church.
Do you show mercy?
James 2:12: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”
“The law of liberty” is another reference to the Gospel. Live and act as people who are going to be judged by the Gospel. The Gospel has shown us mercy so we ought to show mercy to others.
Do you remember this same theme in the Sermon on the Mount?
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).
In the Lord’s Prayer, which is in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also speaks about this.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
We have found the mercies of God through Jesus Christ. So extend them to others. That’s the point.
James is echoing Jesus when he speaks about judgment, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty [by the Gospel]. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12-13).
Is your life changed?
If you receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it changes your life. The will of God through Jesus Christ means that the values of this world no longer dictate to us.
James 2:14-26 is a different set of phrases, but it means the same thing. Faith isn’t by itself. Faith that doesn’t do anything, that’s not expressed, is dead. If your faith isn’t expressed, you were an inauthentic hearer.
So let everyone “be quick to hear.” Let the Gospel come into our lives. Let the word of the living Lord change us. Be doers of the word. Let’s have faith that expresses itself in a lifestyle. Let’s walk, as Paul would say, in newness of life. Let’s love one another and not allow the standards of the world to influence the behavior of the church.
- What does it mean to walk in the newness of life?
- James 1: Are you quick to hear?
- James 1: Christian Wisdom Starts with Christ
- How do you know you’re a Christian?
Blog edited by Joannah Buffington