Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24
Listening and Doing
James, the younger brother of Jesus, is zealous for a faith profession (words) that matches up with faith expression (deeds). In this week’s text, James 1:19-27, he defines living out our faith profession looks like being ‘quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry’ and caring ‘for the widow, the orphan, and not being polluted by the world.’ These things bring about our salvation.
Now I don’t think this means that we earn our salvation by doing these things. James isn’t promoting a works = righteousness kind of salvation. He is after authenticity in our words and behaviors that demonstrate the human hearts response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ. It does seem true that if we were to engage in the behaviors that James promotes in these verses, we would ‘save’ ourselves much grief – the grief of hypocrisy, of criticism of others, and from our own rudeness, abrasiveness, condemnation and judgment of self and others.
In fact, if we practice what we profess in following Jesus, we will experience blessing and the culture around us will experience transformation as well. James teaching goes to the core of what it means to be ‘salt and light’ in the world. This emphasis of James is an echo of Jesus own words. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!…whoever practices and teaches these commands of mine will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven… Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person building their life on the rock. Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is a foolish one, building their life on sand.”
When our faith profession is lived out in faithful expression there is Kingdom transformation, for our own heart and life and for the world and culture around us.
James has a passion for followers of Jesus to be ‘in the world but not of it.’ We are to avoid ‘worldliness’ while at the same time avoiding ‘other worldliness.’ What does that mean? How does that look? It’s walking the line of being the world, but not of the world, engaged in everyday living under God’s Kingdom rule. We avoid being only concerned about current earthly affairs, pleasure pursuits and selfish lusts, human honor and fame, a heart bent on selfish gain. While at the same time, we avoid only being concerned with the inner spiritual world, that tends to live in the private spaces of solitude in the heart and mind, leaning always toward the ‘life to come,’ ‘pie in the sky when I die,’ being unconcerned or uninvolved with world affairs, being inattentive to the world’s present needs. We live as Christ followers in the space of being in the world, but not of the world. Christ followers are both world denying and world affirming. This makes Christianity quite unique to other religions/philosophies of the world that tend to lean one way or the other. We live in God’s world, called to avoid both tendencies to ‘worldliness’ and ‘other worldliness’ to pursue a life where God’s heart and our deep gladness in God meet the worlds deep need in life giving word and behavior.
Message for Sunday: Listening and Doing in Three Parts, James 1:19-27.
See you Sunday, see you soon – God’s Kingdom come and His will be done,Pastor Mark
Morgan’s notes from last Sunday’s message…