13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you cove something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
(James 3:13- 4:3, 7-8a)
The Epistle for this last Sunday and for the preceding weeks, and one more for next week are from the book of James. No book has been more hotly debated over the Christian era and even now there is not much resolution of those controversies.
The authorship has been questioned and that debate has caused an inability to accurately place a firm date of the writing; but late first century is commonly accepted.
Martin Luther did not like the letter and those scholars who debate the nature of the books of the Bible often suggest that it was kicked along from an early time because of the belief that the author was James the brother of Jesus. Although that thinking still holds for some, a later authorship is generally accepted by most scholars. Some historians suggest that it had been around so long that no one could recall when it wasn’t around and by the fifth century just sort of fell in with the others that were taken into the permanent texts (canon) of the Bible.
James seldom comes up in our common lectionary so when it does I cannot leave it alone. I really like the message of the letter. It is less about what we should believe and more about what we should do with what we know and believe.
In my years of teaching in Nampa, I was less concerned with students could know and recite back to me versus what they were able to do with what they knew. I think this is the approach we need to take when reading the Letter attributed to James. What are we doing?
During our worship orders we are good at our reciting of the creedal statements but not so good at the discipleship that the Gospel calls us to when we walk out the door and into the church parking lot. Are we the same people on Monday morning that we claim to be on Sunday?
We are all familiar with the Beatitudes and Jesus singling out of the peacemakers. In chapter 3, vs. 18, James supports that thinking and suggests that such deeds are right in the mind of God.
To back up a few sentences, vs.13 tells us to do good things and not be afraid to be seen, as the author tells us, such things which are done in humility come from the wisdom from God.
Some months ago in my writing here I suggested that it is the little things that can matter; to start small. This text seems to make the same call to action. In the times we live in there is no shortage of needs around us. Look for them and then act on those observations. Food pantries are in need as are the various shelters for the homeless. Support can be both monetary and your personal actions. But in the end, we are called to discipleship, action.
James seems to make no promise of any reward, only that it is the right thing to do.
Let us pray...
Help us to find the needs of our communities and let us be the servants that you call us to be.
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Right on, Bob with your devotional here. You have inspired me to re-read the letter of James. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we replaced the Creed in communal worship with the Beatitudes or First Corinthians 13? Or at least rotated those Biblical pieces in our weekly worship. For way too long Christianity has been understood as a system of beliefs rather than a way of living. Thanks for your reminder!!