Over the next 5 weeks, we shall be reading James’ letter. Today we start with James 1:17-27 (or read the whole chapter?) and begin to discover a practical faith which has much to offer.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above” verse 17. God is good, and that is something to celebrate. But what do you mean, can you justify that? Well James points the way. v19 Everyone should be quick to listen and v25 “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it”. We need to listen, to pay attention, to go on learning. In what ways is God good, what has he done – what is he doing now, what is he like, would you want to know (and could you avoid him if you didn’t)?
I wonder, does every Christian go on learning; do I remember that I need to?
It’s not enough just to listen, you must also SPEAK. Not too fast – let what you understand shape your words. v26, and there is a warning about anger v19b,20 There is a lot of anger around, often from wrong expectations (the obsession with me and my way, rather than a concern for all the community). Anger can motivate us to put things right for other people, but too often, like so much speech, it is just selfish. (If you also read the lesson from Deuteronomy, you will have heard about the need to pass on God’s Law, another aspect of the need to speak). James will have more to say about speaking , but let’s remember our need to speak well, and use speech to help us learn the way of Christ.
Listen, and then speak, and then DO. We have a problem today: some Christians want to do as they like (not listening), some get deeply into theological argument (and don’t act). But when we do something, we find out how good our understanding and motivation really are. James lays it out for us. Don’t just “go to Church”; Listen, so that you can learn and grow closer to God; Speak – speak well, to help your learning, and to help the people you speak to; and act on what you learn.
Christians have been observed over the years; the present generation has found us wanting. They do not believe, from the evidence of our lives, that God is good. It is a fair challenge, which we need to answer in practical ways.