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James is addressing people who may be experience many big changes in their lives and are not copying or responding well, so he points them to the wisdom of God - its source, which is Jesus who is the wisdom of God; its character; and its outcome. We can bless the world around us by making peace because we have listened to Jesus.
Just as a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder can control the direction of the horse or ship, so the tongue has a great implication to the direction of our lives. We can try our hardest to control our tongue, but it cannot be tamed. James warns us that how we use the tongue is important, and although we are all judged by the same standard, teachers will be judged more strictly.
James gives us an encouragement - to love our neighbours whether they’re similar to us or not; a challenge - not to show favouritism, which can be a lot more subtle than in the example James gives; and an assurance - mercy triumphs over judgment, so we no longer have to strive to be accepted.
We need to change not just our actions but also our hearts, which we do by humbly accepting the word planted in us. We accept this by obeying it. True religion involves a change in the way we speak, a concern for the most vulnerable and keeping ourselves from being corrupted by the world.
There are four steps to dealing with our inner desires and temptations. We should keep our eye on the end goal; realise where the temptation comes from and where it leads; deal with our desire, not just our actions; and remember God’s goodness and good gifts to us.
What do we rejoice in? Jesus talks about the deceitfulness of wealth. We shouldn’t rejoice in our wealth or our lack of it, but in Christ and our position in him. Our hope is in Jesus, and we are living for him not for better jobs or better houses.
How do we respond to the trials of life? We are to respond with joy, not because the trials are enjoyable in themselves but because we recognise what God is doing through them. Let’s allow perseverance to finish its work.
We are reminded of the importance of being spiritually awake and alert. There has been a long wait for Jesus to return, and we need to be careful how we handle this wait - the reason for the delay is so that everybody can hear the gospel. We need to be prepared - we can’t rely on the spirituality or prayerfulness of others.
Jesus was the heavenly Son of Man of Daniel 7 and yet he came to serve. not to be served. He was glorified as he was lifted upon the cross, with a thief on either side of him. James and John didn’t know what they were asking for when they asked to sit on either side of him.
Salt is a preservative, and it brings out the flavour. We are meant to be different from the world, but our danger is compromise . We should be more defiant than we are. We should challenge things in the world that need challenging, even though we will experience kickback for this.
Perhaps we are meant to be experiencing the things we are experiencing. We might ask of this is the right time, but Joseph was faithful in the here and now - as a slave, as a prisoner and as a leader in Egypt. God is with us in all our circumstances.
Perhaps we need a wake-up call. A church can fall asleep by lying down (assuming a low profile), getting comfy (living for pleasure), and staying still (not acting on what we hear). A church can make sure it’s woken up by standing up (making it clear we’re with Jesus), getting dressed (getting rid of sin) and having breakfast (being sustained by God’s Word, not our own will-power). It is worth waking up because we get the opportunity to walk with Jesus and will be honoured by Jesus before the Father.
Jesus doesn’t ensure that bad things don’t happen but that they don’t separate us from the love of God. God’s plan for us is not that we don’t face danger but that we depend on his grace.
We should consider supernatural generosity, and not believe the myths that having more money makes it easier to give, that I don’t have the gift of generosity, that giving should always be spontaneous and that we should give without expecting something in return.
There are some things we have to wait for, but there are other we don’t have to wait for. We can celebrate what God has already done. We already have total forgiveness, ongoing transformation and a new identity and relationship with God.