Abram and Lot came back to Canaan from Egypt with wealth. However, because of the wealth the land could not take both family anymore. It was the time to make a decision. At that moment, Abram conceded his right to choose to his nephew Lot. This was not avoiding decision-making out of fear. It was an action based on faith. Abram believed that God would keep his promise of land. In previous chapter Abram made a decision by sight and went to Egypt to avoid the famine. There, He learned that it was not the circumstances (land or water) but God who kept Abram safe. Through this lesson, now Abram made a choice to give his right to Lot. His principle was he put the relationship first. This decision was not to keep his flocks or possessions, but to keep the relationship (v.8). He was confident (v.9) because he knew that whether he go right or left, the promise of God will come true (Will of God) as long as he puts his faith and seek God first (Isa. 30:21). Based on his faith, he did not follow his culture and gave up his right. It was a decision made by faith not by sight.
On the other hand, Lot who experienced same thing with Abram on the Journey to Egypt and back to Canaan still made his choice by sight not by faith. He chose the well-watered land (Gen. 13:10-11). It was self-focused and greed-based decision.
So when we made our decision, we are to put our purpose and principles on God (Glory of God, Fear of God, Will of God), not on ourselves, and we need discernment, wisdom and temperance instead of polluted judgment and greed.
James exhorts believers to 'show no partiality.' The reality of partiality is that we all have it in our relationships. We tend to deny that we have partiality but James did not hide or cover up their issue. Instead he points out that they are showing partiality based on people's wealth (v.2-3). As he did, we should be able to admit we have partiality, too. Moreover, we should know that it produces bad fruits. We have many examples in and out of the bible. It hurts people's heart and distorts the relationships.
The root of partiality is our evil thoughts and judgment based on those thoughts (v.4). Therefore, it is a sin because having partiality means that we are sitting on the God's position and judge people with our thoughts which is evil or not enough to judge others. Also, partiality is against the royal law, 'love your neighbors as yourself' (v.8-9). And this sin is relatively considered as a small sin, yet James compares it to murder and adultery (v.11). It's because no matter which law breaks, we found guilty of breaking all of it (v.10).
Then, what is the remedy of partiality? It is mercy. It is love. Not showing partiality (passive) is not enough. We should show mercy instead of partiality (active). That is the goal of the law, and that is the best way to get rid of partiality in us. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (v.13).
James is talking about godliness but he used a different word which usually refers the religious actions. And by using this word, he was trying to make his point clear that our religious life is not separated from our daily life. In this sense, he describes godliness in three categories-how to speak, how to treat others, and how to act in the world.
Our godliness is not only our warm feelings about God when we are in the church. Rather, it should determine how we live in our daily life. If our word, comes from our hearts, is not tamed, our religious actions-no matter how much we are devoted- are worthless (v.26). And if we are religious, it will be shown through how we treat our neighbors, especially the weak-who cannot survive without others' help. And this requires us to sacrifice what we have-time, money, and emotions. Moreover, we are to keep ourselves from the stained world because this world we are living in is ungodly. According to Jesus' prayer in John 17, we are sent to the world so we are in the world, yet we are not of the world.
Then how can we live a godly life? The answer is the word. James 1:22, we need to receive the word with meekness. It means that we should put down everything we have in front of the word of God and to examine ourselves through the words. We tend to examine the words and modulate them in order not to change ourselves. However, we are the one who needs change. If we listen to the words, but not to receive the words with meekness, we are the Pharisees, who only used the words. Then, we can be religious, but we cannot be godly. Jesus prayed for his disciples who were sent to the world. "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17) Let's be honest and humble before the words of God, so that the words of God can changes ourselves!
1. Welcome the high school seniors!
2. We will have EM summer Retreat on Aug. 11th-12th.
Be doers of the word is a repeating theme of James. In previous verses James emphasized on hearing and told us that we are to hear the words!! And this week he goes one step further. If we hear the words, we now should do what we hear. It means we should follow the words and have the change. And these changes can be either our action or our knowledge and emotion.
The reason is that making change is the purpose of hearing. If we don't do, then there's no point of hearing. Also, God's words are always true. It's because either God speaks truth, or what God speak becomes true. Therefore, following the words of God is important. If we don't do, we have nothing to do with God.
And James explains this deceit as a mirror. At that time, the mirror was dim, and people saw their image quickly and go away. It is as same as merely listening the words. We listen and do not stay in the words but go our own way. This is not doing but deceiving.
However, those who looks into the perfect law and perseveres, are the ones who keep thinking the words and live out. In Matthew 21, Jesus gives a story of two sons. When their father told them to go to work in vineyard, one said yes and didn't go, while the other said no and later changed his mind and go. Jesus asked a question, 'which of two did the will of the father?' And I will add one more question, 'which of two deceived the father?'
One of the distinct human characteristics is a language. And it is fundamental to the society. Our faith, therefore, is related to it. And James gives a practical guides in our texts, which is be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. This is not about the speed of our conversation, nor about the skill of it. Instead, it is about our stance (attitude), which can be described as humility. In order for us to be quick to hear and slow to speak and anger, we must admit that our thought - basis of our hearing and speaking - might be wrong. Otherwise, we won't listen, and won't need to slow down before speak.
The reason why we should do it is, first, because we are the servants of Jesus. James as a half brother of Jesus considered himself as a servant (v.1). And he is writing this to his fellow Christians (v.19). Also, we are to do it because it leads us to the righteousness of God, not the anger of man.
How can we be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger? It is possible when we take off what we have inside (filthiness and wickedness) and put on the implanted word with meekness. When God's word come into us, we can listen to it first, before we speak and get angry.
James tells us not to be deceived in the context of our temptation because we have strong tendency to blame God for the cause of our temptation. However, James gives us three reasons that we cannot think God is responsible for our temptation. First is his character (v.17). God is the source of every good and perfect gift. These gifts are for our salvation. Also, God does not change. And it doesn't make sense for immutable God who gives good gifts to tempt us. Second is the will of God (v. 18). God worked not arbitrary, but according to his will, which want to save all who believes. And the purpose of temptation is not to save but to destroy. Therefore, God is not supposed to be the cause of our temptation which is the opposite of his will. And third, God is not tempting us because of what he has done. His work reflects his character and his will. And he gave birth to us (v.18) and became the father of us. And we can surely know that God never tempts his children who brought them through his precious son's blood.
James told his readers to count their trials all joy because it will bear perseverance, get them wisdom and change their perspectives. And, here, he steps further. He asks his readers to know that bearing the trials is a blessing. And this promises the crown of life to those who remains steadfast during the trials. Why the crown of life matter? It's because we are all in death as a result of our sin, and we need life.
In order for us to remain steadfast during the trial, we should always remember that God is not one who tempts or be tempted. It is so easy to blame others during our trials because it gives us a way out to avoid our responsibilities and we can remain blameless. However, that's not right.
James clearly points out that it's not God but us who is responsible. God is not tempting us, but we are lured. This words carries the image that a fish takes a bait. It's not a bait or fishers faults. It's the fish's fault, if it gets caught. In this way, all our failures during the trial, it's not because God planned in that way, but it's because we chose to do it.
Also, our evil desires in us lead us into sin, and which will bring death. Therefore, we should not to have evil desires in us. Especially under the temptation, we are not supposed to change our view or faith in God, but need to look inside, so that which desires in us is working.
Scripture: James 1:12 and Matthew 4:1-11
Incarnated Jesus was baptized to be like a sinner. And he was tempted to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). While he was under trial in this reason, he remained steadfast. There are three ways for us to remain steadfast under trial. First, we should know the nature of trial. Second, we need to know the purpose of trial. And thirdly, we should know the words of God.
The nature of trial is that it comes when we don't expect, as it came to Jesus after his prayer and fast. So there's no safe moment. Also, right after one failed, the tempter tried another way, which means that trial is not one time thing. It comes again and again. And the tempter approaches. It happens near me.
The purpose of trial is to break the relationship by making us doubt about God and His promise. That's why he asked 'if' you are the Son of God, although he was the Son of God. That's the tempter's purpose. However, God's purpose to allow the trials is to prove the relationship and to make the relationship deeper.
Every time Jesus was tempted, he used the Scriptures to stand against it. It is the same way for us to remain steadfast under trials. When Satan asked Jesus to make bread so that he can solve the physical problems of human, Jesus came to resolve the problems of spiritual hunger (Deut. 8:3). When the tempter asked Jesus to jump off from the top of the temple so that he can test whether God's words are true or not, Jesus did not listen to him because Jesus' purpose is not to survive on the earth but to save his people from their sins, by obeying the words even to death. Our attitude to God's words is supposed to obey not to doubt and test (Deut. 6:16). When Satan ask Jesus to worship him by promising to give all the world, Jesus refused because God is only one who is worthy of worship and worship is not for us to get something (Deut. 6:13).
James says that those who stood the test will receive the crown of life. And Abraham father of faith is the example of this. Even though he failed here and there, he passed the final trial by obedience.
After God led him to Shechem, he was told that God would give him this land. However, when he met the severe famine, he decided to go to Egypt. There, he was able to avoid the famine. Not only that, but also he became rich by telling a lie. It was a smart decision, yet it was not the way of faith. He seemed to succeed, but he lost the promised land. In the place where he fail, God intervened. And Abraham was able to come back to the land of Canaan by the grace of God. Abraham's fail was not God's fail. And God used his failure to the test as means of his revelation.
In his last test, God told him to sacrifice his only son - everything - as a burnt offering. Although it contradicts God's character and promise, Abraham obeyed. Heb. 11:19 says that he reasoned that God could raise the dead. It was shown in Gen. 12:5. By obedience, he was able to stand the test. The angel of the Lord told him, 'Now I know that you fear God.' This doesn't mean that he never knew before. It means that it was known (proved) by this event. His faith was proved through this trial. And Abraham was molded into the carrier of God's blessing to the world. This is the example of standing the trial by obedience.
James asked the believers to count the trials as all joy in the midst of trials in the previous verses, and here, he said that the poor should take pride in high position, while the rich ought to boast his humiliation. To make it happen, we need to reform our perspectives.
No one takes his own perspective by studying, nor choose theirs out of many perspectives. It is naturally formed by our knowledge, experience, and frame - repeated practices. Considering trials as joy is having a different perspectives on trials. In this way, both boasting one's high position in poverty and delight in humiliation in wealth requires new perspective - reformed perspective. How can we reform our perspective? We can change our perspective through knowledge, experience and new frame. (Knowledge - By knowing the fact that poverty and wealth are the means not the end for Christians, Experience - going through the time in want and the time in plenty, Frame - by exposing to the situation that you have to do it by force)