February 5, 2023
“Receiving Much in Order to Share Much”
I have loved so much the time we’ve spent in the first chapter of James, that it’s hard to move on. But move on we must.
Let’s look at the final nine verses of James 1 once more:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
As we’ve seen…and we’ll finish up today…the primary purpose of this section is to keep us properly and correctly dialed in to what God is telling us in His Word. In other words, we must not become an impediment for the way God is showing us to think, understand and believe about Scripture. That’s the primary instruction in verses 19-27.
What we will discover is that, secondarily, how we hear and receive God’s
Word directly impacts how we live out of God’s Word. It gives direction to how we become the people God created us to be. From right hearing
comes right living. Here’s something you might want to write down:
DOERS OF THE WORD DEMONSTRATE IN THEIR ACTIONS THE
GROWING IMPACT OF GOD’S WORD UPON THEIR LIVES.
James gives us the final impediment to faithfully hearing and doing God’s Word in verse 21. “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
Here’s a head’s up for those of you with sensitive constitutions. James uses a rather graphic word here that’s translated “filthiness.” Remember, the point of this section is properly hearing the Word of God so we can properly understand the Word of God. Physiologically, what would get in the way of properly hearing something? What in your ears would get in the way of clearly and accurately hearing something? The word James uses, filthy, is used for dirty, filthy clothes. It’s also used to indicate moral vice. But here’s the deeper meaning, and more applicable point. The Greek word translated filthiness, “rhupos,” at its root means wax in the ear. This
really is brilliant, both graphically and symbolically.
Here’s the thing about earwax. It does perform some important functions. It mixes with dead skin cells, loose hair follicles and dust and slowly sweeps the debris out of the ear canal. Because the ear canal is constructed like a cul-de-sac, a build-up of dead cells, earwax and debris could become trapped if not for a unique type of migrating cells. These cells are continually moving from the interior of the ear canal to the exterior. They are, in a sense, self-cleaning. The cells embark on weeks-long migration bolstered by the natural movement of the jaw; as we eat, talk, sneeze and cough, we help move the cells of the ear canal along their path.
Nevertheless, in spite of this efficient process, sometimes earwax can build up. It is greasy and oily and disgusting in large volumes. That’s the point James makes. There is grime in our lives that keeps us from growing in our faith. As the old technology cliché puts it, “Garbage in…garbage out.” This wickedness…kakias in the Greek…can keep us from hearing the Word of God which is meant to produce fruit in our lives.
If something is preventing you from clearly hearing and doing the Word of God, then get it out of your life. You need the right kind of ears, both literally and figuratively, for the Word of God to transform your life. Here’s something else to write down:
YOU HEARD IT…YOU LISTENED…IT CHANGED YOUR LIFE.
Finally, as the Word of God is firmly rooted in your life, there will be evidence produced by your attitudes and actions. James says you will have a teachable spirit. That’s the meaning behind the word translated “meekness.” You will live without anger…without resentment…without pride. Why? Because you know that the most important thing has already happened in your life…you have been saved through Jesus’ death on the cross to live eternally with him. So why would anything in this life defeat you or discourage you or steal your joy? With the knowledge of salvation rooted in your soul, your life is going to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can hear the intersection of James and Paul. “Faith without works is dead.”
Here's one last thing you might want to write down:
TRUE BELIEVERS SPEAK AND ACT IN WAYS CONSISTENT WITH WHAT THEY BELIEVE TO BE TRUE.
This truth is seen in how meekness is lived out in our lives. Remember, meekness is not weakness. It means that, because we know we are saved, we bring a joyful, persevering, unflappable attitude to life. Because of our coming glory in Christ, we move through life in a quietly confident way. To put it another way, those who trust in God live like it.
These final verses in chapter one lead us to a wonderful mindset. This is a huge closing point:
WE BECOME SPIRITUALLY AND EMOTIONALLY TOUGH PEOPLE.
We become people who persevere through all kinds of difficulties, challenges, trials, and troubles in life.
Here are my top three traits of people who persevere:
People who persevere don’t take things personally. In Christ,
as the Word of God penetrates their hearts and minds, they know who they are and whose they are. Human nature is to internalize things. We think it’s all about us. But many times it’s not. That person who snapped at you or was rude to you? Who knows what they’re going through? Who knows what happened earlier in the day? Perhaps it had nothing to do with you. Maybe it wasn’t that he or she didn’t like you as a person. Rise above it. Don’t take it personally. Instead, keep doing what God has called us to do…leave evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit wherever we go.
People who persevere give of themselves. Again, in verse twenty-five, James says, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” We become the best of ourselves when we make a substantial, positive difference in other people’s lives. As I like to say, we leave our little corner of God’s world a better place. All acts of true kindness will build up your emotional and spiritual strength.
People who persevere do things they didn’t think they could
do. I like to call this growth through small victories. For example, if
you struggle with anger, the next time you feel anger welling up inside, go with James’ advice and bridle your tongue. I love this observation – “Remember. No One Makes You Angry. You Decided To Use Anger As A Response.” With each small step, controlling your anger becomes a fixed habit. This principle works with every manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit. For me, one of my struggles is with patience. I’m getting better. While I’ll never become a perfectly patient person, every small victory gets me closer to where I need to be. I hope that makes sense to you. The best way toward becoming an emotionally and spiritually tough person is to do those things you think you cannot do.
We can tie all this together with a final question:
ARE YOU A RECEIVER OF THE WORD OF GOD OR A REJECTOR?
You will know that answer by how you live your life.
HEAVENLY FATHER, WHAT A PRIVILEGE IT IS TO HAVE YOUR
WORD, THE LIVING WORD, AS OUR TREASURE AND GUIDE. GIVE
US A WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN…SLOW TO SPEAK…AND SLOW TO RESENT WHAT CONFRONTS US. HELP US TO HEAR WITH A PURE HEART, DESIRING TO DO WHAT IS GOOD IN YOUR SIGHT. HOW GRATEFUL WE ARE TO BE HEARERS AND DOERS OF YOUR WORD. IN CHRIST’S NAME WE PRAY. AMEN.