Category Archives: Tested Faith: A Study of James

James 2:10-The Law of Love Convicts

James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James chapter two is all about the subject of loving those in great need, an outgrowth of James 1:27 where they are encouraged visit (help) the widows and orphans who cannot defend themselves. He begins by pointing out their acceptance of people based on outward appearance or what they can give (2:1-3) therefore taking the place of judgment instead of God (2:4) and choosing to disrespect the very things the Lord loves to use for His glory (2:5).

Realizing that Christian would defend themselves by saying “oh I treat everyone with respect” James explains that the Law of Love (Matthew 22:37-39) is just like the OT Jewish law that demanded complete obedience.  And the person who breaks one part of the law (lying) in the eyes of God it’s just as if he had broken every one.

It’s interesting that James connects this command to love with the Mosaic law because the ten-commandments were never meant to be kept in the first place. Their purpose was to show our failure to live up to God’s standard of Holiness.  The Old Testament could be summed up with the words “God will send a Redeemer, and you aren’t him.

While James is speaking to our inability to love in a way God desires on our own, I believe he uses this verse to confront many believers (particularly Jewish ones) who wouldn’t accept certain people groups.

Jewish Christians were well-known for accepting a Gentile (non Jew) only after they became a proselyte which included circumcision, and adopting the Jewish way of life.  The Jews claimed to love everybody but James pointed out there was at least one people group (Gentiles) they definitely didn’t love.

The application for Christians in this verse is clear…we must love all people.

  • Not just the nice ones,
  • or the ones who agree with us,
  • or respect our opinion,
  • but the ones who treat us like garbage
  • and think they are better than everyone else
  • or attack our beliefs
  • The moment we treat someone in a selfish or angry way the law of love is broken

This brings me back to the idea that this law of love wasn’t meant to be obeyed in the first place, as least not in our own strength.  Instead it should lead us towards a God who can give us the strength to love those who hate or abuse us.

So instead of trying to keep the law of love (and failing) let’s focus on a relationship of dependence upon God.  For it is only then that His love can flow through us.

James 2:8-9 The Law of Love Doesn’t Mean You Get Everything

James 2:8   If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

One sad thing about living in St. Vincent is the poverty you are surrounded with.  It’s heartbreaking to see people who would view a poor American as someone who is incredibly rich.  However living in a culture like this has given me a better understanding of what it means to truly love others.

James in this passage refers to the law of love, which comes from the response of Jesus when a lawyer asks Him what the most important part of the law was (Matthew 22:37-39, Luke 10:25-27. Christ here commands the person to “love thy neighbour as thyself.”  We know this today as The Golden Rule-treat people the way you want to be treated.

Originally this law of love had to do with giving people respect and dignity (James 2:1-7) while genuinely caring about their needs (Christ follows the Luke 10 passage with the parable of the good Samaritan).  Today however it’s defined very differently.

Last month some children from down the street came by and asked for water.  I happily gave them that along with a Bible story, and even some soap they needed.  The older sister then asked for cooking oil and when I refused put her hands on her hips and asked “John doesn’t the Bible tell you to share?”

Now she was just giving me a hard time, but clearly illustrated the world’s view of love which goes something like this;

  1. You must agree with everything that I say
  2. Give me whatever I want
  3. And accept me unconditionally

Not only is that different from the law of love, it’s different from the love of Christ (Kevin Deyoung wrote an excellent article last week on love being more than unconditional acceptance).  This is just selfishness.

Instead it’s our responsibility as Christians to portray a true Christ-honoring love to the unsaved  For me it looks something like this

  1. Any time someone comes to visit I drop what I am doing and help them
  2. They are always offered water, a comfortable chair, and a listening ear
  3. If there is a particular need they have (they want something)then I take into account a.) whether I have it  b.) how many times they have asked me for things this week and c.) how they respond when I tell them no
  4. If the thing they want can’t be spared I offer something else (I can’t give you hamburger but I can make you a sandwich)

Quite often step four doesn’t come into the picture because they make it a habit of asking me for things, or I can’t offer what they want.

In those moments however I remind myself showing the love of Christ doesn’t mean meeting every need a person has.  Instead it’s about showing them hospitality, offering kindness, and sharing what you can.

James 2:5-6 Why We Will Never Have Justice Till Christ Returns

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James 2:6-7   But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 

Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

A few days ago I spent some time with an unsaved friend named Steve who is almost always found sitting outside his house with other people from the community on cool afternoons.  His street is one of those places were men and women gather to discuss the worlds problems, and maybe even try to solve a few.

That afternoon they were discussing the upcoming St. Vincent election which in the town I live was a controversial subject.  The individual and party who had been in power for sometime so there was a growing group of individuals who felt the time for a change had come.  Since I’ve only been on the island a few months instead we ended up talking about American and Australian politics for a half-hour.

Towards the end Steve held out his hands and tried to articulate the frustration in my his mind about the current political situation.  I said it seemed as if he was seeking justice and Steve responded “yes that’s it!  I want justice!”

While I understood Steve’s frustration (and had felt it myself before) in my heart I knew his desire for justice would go unfulfilled.

Part of the reason for this is the way humans view justice is flawed in itself.  The way we see it “justice” equals getting whatever we want, or more than everyone else.  Sadly though that’s an obviously selfish viewpoint many of us don’t see a problem with it.

The real problem though is the fact that true justice is impossible in this broken world apart from Christ our true king  A big part of this brokenness is the fact that power corrupts people.  Those who have true character or morality will give into the lure of power or riches eventually.  This is just God’s way of reminding us true justice cannot come from human leadership.

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with a Believer about how Christians can help the city of Barroaille, and his answer was to have new national leadership.  This frustration stemmed from the fact that individuals who were part of a political party not in power were having a hard time finding jobs, while those who followed the one in power were always offered them.

I agreed that this is an injustice, but asked what would happen if there was a change of power.  Things would then be reversed so those who had jobs now lost them.  He finally threw his hands up and said “well somebody has to come and make it fair” to which I smiled and asked “who is going to do that?”

Sadly justice…true justice won’t be experienced while we have fallen human leaders.  It’s easy to become bitter and angry about this fact, but personally it creates a stronger desire for Christ to return and set things straight.

So as we encounter a word that cries out for justice, may our response be “even so come Lord Jesus.”


 

James 2:5 -The God Who Uses Us As We Are

IMG_0069James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

Its been over twenty-four years ago, but I still vividly remember the night God transformed my life in a powerful way.

It was Easter Sunday night 1992, and my pastor preached on the need for men and women who would take a real stand for the Lord.  God through the Holy Spirit touched my heart as an introverted 9th grader and challenged me to become one of those people.

My response to God (though I’m not proud of it) was that He needed to find someone else since I wasn’t talented enough to be used by Him.

This led to spiritual argument with God on the way home (never a good idea by the way) that involved my listing all of the things required of someone who would be used by Him.

  1. They had to be an extrovert
  2. and good looking (great physical condition)
  3. Extremely intelligent
  4. And able to have a conversation without making themselves look like a moron
  5. Of course I didn’t fit any of the prerequisites so I expected God to simply find somebody else

I am so glad He didn’t 🙂

My argument ended later on that night when I knelt beside a white chair on my parents patio, and gave God control of my life. That moment was a turning point for me because I truly understood I wasn’t worthless, but also that God chooses to use us just as we are.

Of course there is a need for spiritual growth in a persons life.  However God didn’t come to me that night and say, “okay John once you become confident, popular, and learn to slam-dunk a basketball come back and see me.” instead He chose to use me for His glory as an introverted non-athlete.

Often we find people who like me have an idea in their mind of the person God will use….and the Lord takes great joy in choosing the ones we don’t expect.  The reason for this is of course God looks past a persons personality or abilities and focuses on their heart. 

The Lord could see that past my anxiety and inability to hit a three-point shot, and saw a heart that was submissive to Him.

A heart that would willingly leave everything he knew and share the Gospel in other Countries

A heart loved to call children off the street, for a glass of juice and a Bible story

A heart that would take great joy in proclaiming the truths of Scripture

There are many lessons God has taught me over the years, but perhaps the most important is the one He taught me Easter Sunday night 1992…It doesn’t matter what you can or cannot do, what matters is whether or not you have a close relationship with God.


 

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