I love this book. I need to heed it better, of course, but James just cuts through to the marrow in every chapter, yet in a way that convicts us without shaming us. When we read it we feel a deep sense of God’s beautiful goodness; his instruction reflects God’s character. Excitement and passion about the life God desires radiates from his exhortations. Two huge themes are not letting arrogance and selfishness guide us (favoritism, boasting, love of wealth) and controlling our tongue (gossip, mean-spiritedness, again boasting).
“Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently?…You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: ‘Love others as you love yourself.’ But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. . . For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly.” ~ James 2
Even if we struggle with it or want it for ourselves – don’t we love that God doesn’t show favoritism? He doesn’t care who’s the prettiest or the most talented or the richest or the hardest working – He loves us and He sees so much more than we can. It plays out in His Story again and again. No one is beneath His affection.
“A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it!” ~ James 3
I’m pulling these from The Message because it works so well with James – the straightforward, earnestness of his words. We should think about everything we say. Why are we so careless here? The first chunk of chapter 3 is devoted to our speech. And we really want this, don’t we? To be the salt of the earth – to speak with grace and love – not to lapse into gossip or complaints or even just wasted breath.
As James guides and instructs, he calls us friends. It makes the mirror he holds up easier to bear; even when his words are strong we feel that they come from a place of love. There is so much more about wisdom, faith and prayer in this short book. Read it with joy, not shame, “in simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” ~ James 1