October 24, 2011

Tuesday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 42, 43, 1 Kings 18:16-24, James 1:22-27
Evening - Ps. 39, Job 14:1-14, Mt. 14:13-21

Commentary
James 1:21-27

Verse 21 tells us what we all know, that hearing the Word of God is not enough. Those who allow the Scriptures to move them to faith and faithfulness are the ones who benefit from the Word. Not surprisingly, James pictures two scenarios; one of the people who merely hear the word, and one of people who hear and do the word.

Those who merely hear the Word will have different reactions. Some will dismiss it entirely to live in unbelief. They may be belligerently anti-Christianity, or they may be mildly respectful of it. Either way, the Word has no home in their lives. But these are not the people James writes to. He writes to people in the visible Church, and he writes to encourage them to live for Christ as He lived, and died, for them. Then, as now, many, maybe even most, who heard the Gospel and made some kind of response of faith in Christ, never really understood the Gospel, and never really had Biblical faith. They may have changed some of their ideas about religion, started attending Church, and maybe even put away some of their more obvious sins; but they never really made any attempt to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God, or to embrace God as their God and His ways as their ways. Like the Laodiceans of Revelation 3:15, they were neither cold nor hot about Christ. So they did their religious "duties" but remained unchanged in their hearts. They did not become Christians, they just added a little Christian flavouring to their lives. James describes them as looking into a mirror, but forgetting what they see as soon as they leave it (1:23-24). The Word, that is, the Scriptures, tells us about ourselves as much as it tells us about God. It tells us of our complete alienation from God due our willful sin. It tells us we are under God's wrath and without excuse, and that our very best works and deeds are but filthy rags compared to Gods' consuming perfection. It tells us of God's love, love so great it compelled Him to become a man and live and die to reconcile us to Himself. It tells us that He offers reconciliation to all who will accept it by faith and return to Him. Yet, those who are hearers only, see themselves in the mirror and walk away unmoved and unchanged.

Those who hear and do the Word, described in verse 25 as the "prefect law of liberty," and "continue therein" are the ones who are blessed. To continue therein is to receive Christ in Biblical faith. It is to confess and repent of sin, and to turn to a life of love for and obedience to God. To be blessed is to receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation.

The chapter closes with an example of hearers and doers in real life (1:26-17). The hearers only do not bridle their tongues. Instead of being slow to speak (1:19) they are swift to speak and bold about voicing their views and desires. Their tongues are not under the control of God, showing that their lives are not either. We will see more of what this means in chapter 3, the reading for this Friday.

The doers of the word are characterised by kindness, compassion, and charity. Visiting orphans and widows in their distress, refers to actively working to relieve their sufferings. Rather than causing hurt and strife by their words, doers of the Word bring balm and relief by their actions. The stinging words of those with unbridled tongues come from a heart ruled by self importance. The kindness that speaks louder than words comes from a heart ruled by the love of Christ.

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