James 2:26 isn’t a very popular verse with advocates of the faith-only doctrine. But regardless of how translators may feel about the conclusion (to their detriment), none have the nerve (to their credit) to change what it says. As a matter of fact, nearly all major (and minor) translations say the same thing when it comes to the verse in question.
“But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 2:6-7 NKJV)
In a context dealing with faulty favoritism, James reproves any idea of treating someone any better, or any worse, than someone else simply based on that individual’s outward appearance or possession of earthly wealth. He then follows up the point with a poignant question (that I’ll paraphrase), “Why are you favoring someone who favors persecuting you?”
To me, an immediate modern-day application would be a Christian’s support of Hollywood. There are organizations, actors and actresses in Hollywood who constantly use their wealth, fame, influence and even clothing lines as a platform to oppress, persecute and blaspheme the very way of righteousness which produces one’s faith in Jesus, but yet these said individuals still receive the adulation, the re-tweets and the Instagram likes from the very people they seek to humiliate. As James would no doubt say to us – “Wake up!”
Don’t look up to people who look down on Christianity. We can love them without supporting their views with a social-media heart.
“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” (James 1:9-10 NKJV)
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 3:1-7 – NKJV)
To further his point on the shallow foolishness of favoring the rich over the poor, James says something that applies to today’s church as strongly as it did in the first century – quit fawning over those who suppress God’s truth!
Does this mean James didn’t want the rich to be invited to the church’s services or to be saved? I don’t think so. The point doesn’t revolve around whether or not someone should be saved. The point was about how the badly the saved (or at the very least an equal valued lost soul) could be treated because of a desire to impress the very rich (as well as lost) who made it their goal to treat God’s people with disdain.
James’ rhetorical questions were meant to make a spiritual point based on the foundation of common sense!
Today, Christian universities revolve fund-raisers around “celebrity” speakers who suppress God’s truth by endorsing things that are completely contrary to God’s righteousness. Today, Christians spend millions of dollars at retail stores with policies that allow individuals with confused and perverted minds to use the bathroom of the opposite sex. Today, we help to prop up the very individuals and organizations that criticize Christianity and the word of God that presents the gospel to a dead and dying world by going out of our way to secure and patronize those who promote sin and profaneness.
Am I saying we should completely withdraw from the world? No. That would prevent us from being salt and light we’re called to be. What I’m saying is that when the world makes it a point to blatantly ridicule the very standard of God for which Jesus died, then our support, as God’s people, needs to be withdrawn.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:8-12 – NKJV)
…and you are it: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
…and you are not it: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)
…and you are it: “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” (James 3:8-9)
…and you are it: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”” (James 4:6)
…and you are not it: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” (James 4:8-9)
…and you are it: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” (James 5:1-3)
and you are not it: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
For many reasons people love to play with scripture as if it were a game, and it doesn’t only happen to the epistle’s of Paul. Unfortunately, they say to themselves, and even more so to others, “I like what this verse says because it comes from God, but this verse was only the writer’s opinion.” Such a game is played by the rules of the individual, but each individual who attempts to play this game needs to remember that scripture comes from God (2 Peter 1:19-21), and playing a game like eeny meeny miny moe does no good, because at the end of the day, spiritual truth is not determined by how we want the rhyme to end (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
When I hear men pray in public, I like to hear the usual requests put into different terms. It is more thought-provoking to me if I am a bit surprised by the way something is said than if I can stay three seconds ahead of the “pray-er” as he treads down the ever-trodden path of “guardguide’n’direct,” “keepusuntilthenextappointedhour,” “happyrecollectionofthethingshehasprepared,” “keepusinthehollowofthyhand,” etc. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those phrases. They can be just as genuine as a newer, more creative arrangement of words, but I confess that I find myself being judgmental when I hear the “standard” phrases because I tend to use them when I have not been especially attentive to my own prayer life. God forgive me for thinking that way.
What made me think of this was either hearing someone begin a prayer recently or beginning a prayer myself with “Dear Lord, thank You for this day.” I sometimes give myself an internal kick when I begin a public prayer this way, because it rolls off my tongue unconsciously if I am underprepared. But it struck me a few days ago that I am silly for thinking that way. Just because that phrase has been overused a bit doesn’t mean that it has to be meaningless. After all, what more are we promised than this moment? We can’t thank God for tomorrow–Christ might return at midnight, or 30 seconds from now. When people are assembled with their heads bowed in prayer, it means God has granted them an opportunity to be together fellowshipping, studying, edifying, exhorting, encouraging, and basking in God’s lovingkindness with each other one more time. It means there is yet one more opportunity for those who have not obeyed the gospel to soften their hearts and make that decision. It means the Lord yet has some work He’d like to accomplish in each one of us, and He’s not done with us yet. Yes, come to think of it, “Thank You for this day” is no shameful way to begin a prayer. Perhaps there is a reason it has become one of our “standard” phrases. God help us not to let the rich meaning of those syllables be lost on us the next time we hear them uttered.
You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
Lord, thank You for this day. Help us use it to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.
A good study of the New Testament helps us to see there is a role for works and a role for faith. Without faith as the underlying foundation in place, the role for works would be useless. The significance of this point is found in relationship to the apostle Paul, James, and many in the denominational world.
Paul, in the context of his letter to Rome, argued that man is justified by faith apart from works (Romans 3:28). In this con-text, it is important to know exactly what Paul had in mind with the word works. It seems that some in the denominational world, reacting to Catholic teachings with regard to works, insert the word alone after faith, thereby giving us the unbiblical doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
One can turn the pages of the New Testament forward from Matthew to Revelation, start again and do the same, and not find anywhere where it is taught by the Lord (or any who represent Him) that man is saved by faith alone. What he will find, however, is that man is saved by faith apart from works (as Paul declared); the word works as used by Paul in Romans is associated with the Law of Moses. In other words, Paul is making clear that justification is by faith apart from the works of the Law of Moses.
In comparison with what Paul said, James said that man’s works bring about God’s declaration of “righteous” (James 2:22-23). The word “works” as used by James (2:14-26) is not the same as the way Paul uses it.
How do we balance the two ideas? To begin, we see there is a difference between the two men in how the word works is used. Let us not misunderstand what Paul had in mind when he said what he did in Romans. If one would be pleasing to God, under the old covenant, then faithful obedience to the Law of Moses was paramount (crucial). Without the foundation of faith in place, obedience to anything the Lord said would not actually be obedience at all, but a mere doing, acting, or complying with some outward requirement, not properly brought about as a result of loving God. This in no way pleases the Lord!
Note how these two ideas play a crucial role in one’s salvation. In Genesis 15, the Lord declared Abraham righteous as a result of his faith (Genesis 15:6), and in Genesis 22:12, the Lord said with regard to Abraham’s work (and faith) “now I know…” The idea is this: faith has a starting point, but obedience to the Lord’s will and deeds (works) of charity bring that faith to a completion, a goal. Thus, when the Scripture says that Abraham was justified by his works, it was in relation to doing the Lord’s will.
When you hear (or read) of a denominational teaching like justified by faith alone, you can be sure that it is not from Scripture, but one’s personal theology (opinion). Yet, the Scriptures teach that, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). One can’t go wrong doing such things as this. RT
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, NKJV).
This passage is properly interpreted in relation, of course, to that which James said previously, as well as to what follows. It has been customary to interpret the phrase “swift to hear” in relation to “God’s word.” One can hardly dispute the application of this, or perhaps even the interpretation.
On the other hand, the phrase “swift to hear” might be better suited to a person being swift to hear what another says, just as it is appropriate for one to be slow (and deliberate) to speak, and slow to anger. The Holy Spirit has expressed Himself: “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Proverbs 17:27-28). RT
In reference to the words we use, James asks his readers a rhetorical question – “Does the fountain send from the same outlet sweet and bitter water?” (James 3:11 BBE)
When James used the word “bitter” he was describing words that are harsh and used with ill intent. Bitter words destroy unity, morale and trust. One of the quickest ways to destroy unity, morale and trust in the church is with the bitter words of gossip.
How can we keep from using the bitter words of gossip?
1) When you hear about gossip address it. When you hear someone spreading gossip about someone else ask them if they ever talked to the person that they’re talking about. If not, there’s a very good chance that what they’re saying is wrong! If you hear about someone gossiping about you, especially if it’s a brother or sister in Christ, go ask them about it (Matthew 18:15-17).
2) Think about the way it would make you feel if someone were spreading whatever you’re saying about you or your loved ones. Some people have no problem with gossip unless it’s about them…and if that’s the problem we’ve got, then we need to keep the shoe on the other foot.
3) If someone tells you something personal, keep it personal! Don’t go around acting like the church “TMZ.”
4) Live in a way so when someone says something negative about you, nobody will believe it (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Some Christians love to give “impressions” and then get mad when the “impression” makes its mark.
5) Get busy rowing the boat and you won’t have time to rock it! I will always be convinced that if a person is truly interested in making the church a better place to grow, to learn and to help others, then they won’t make messes that they’ll have to clean up.
When James used the word “sweet” he was talking about using words that bless (vs. 9) and benefit the hearers. The word sweet is translated from the Greek word Glukus pronounced gloo-koos (can you hear glucose in there?). The basic idea is that sweet words are words that refresh and give energy.
How can we remember to use words that are sweet?
1) By being merciful with the way we talk. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV) Paul isn’t talking about the kind of salt that goes on wounds and burns. He’s talking about the kind of salt that’s let people know you care.
2) By strengthening others with the way we talk. “The lips of the righteous feed many,…” (Proverbs 10:21 NKJV) What would our words do to us if we had to listen to them all of the time? Would they pull the life right out of us, or put the life right in us?
3) By complimenting others with the way we talk. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11 NKJV) Do you know what it feels like to be genuinely complemented? Why wouldn’t we want to share a feeling like that?
We have all made mistakes with the words we use (James 3:8), but the question is are we learning from those mistakes and striving to do better? If we had to eat our words – or rather, when we have to eat them, how are they going to taste? (Matthew 12:36,37) James says we’re going to have to decide what kind of spring we’re going to have, so which will it be?
If you would like to check out more thoughts on James 3:7-12 (particularly verse 11) then continue reading here at http://keltonburgpreacher.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/how-do-our-words-taste
I am preaching through James and this Sunday morning, my text will be James 1:21, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
What a great passage! What thoughts do you have on the implanted word and this passage in general? Thanks! I look forward to reading your great comments.
Almost all of the sins I commit are related to the improper use of the tongue.
My class on the book of James was taught by Dr. Thomas Eaves at Tennessee Bible College. To keep from taking his notoriously difficult tests, he allowed the option of memorizing the book. This was a blessing for me.
James wrote, “So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell,” (James 3:5-6 ASV).
Memorizing this has kept me from making some really big mistakes. Forgetting it has also precipitated some of my worse gaffes.
“The tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members.” This advice is worth its weight in gold and is certainly worth memorization.
James merely says that the judgment of teachers will be especially strict because greater responsibility rests on teachers. The reason for this is that the teacher’s essential instrument – the tongue – which is so easily misused, has great influence.
Donald W. Burdick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: James, p. 186
Those who profess faith in Christ are in one of two categories. Either they are living out the message or they are merely listening to it (James 1:22). In order to know where we stand, we must peer into the perfect law of liberty and fix our attention there (1:25). (Read more by following this link…)
A few weeks ago, Randal introduced me to a chiastic structure of the Letter of James. In a recent study of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount, I also learned of at least two chiastic arrangements see Matthew 5:45 and 7:6. Then yesterday as I was preparing to discuss Revelation 12 G.K. Beale caught my attention by introducing a chiastic arrangement in chapters 12-20. Just below, you can read his discovery that might offer a more lucid picture of Act 2 of The Apocalypse:
The devil is the grand initiator of the trials and persecutions of the saints. He unleashes the “beast” and the “false prophet.” The whore Babylon is also his servant. In chs. 12-20 John chiastically pictures the four figures rising in this order and then meeting their demise in the reverse order, thus highlighting the devil as the initiator, from first to last, of all resistance (The Book of Revelation, 623).
Just a quick thought, as I’m outlining an Introduction to the Letter of James, “Spiritual maturity translates Christians into victors instead of victims!”