James as “Wisdom Literature”



Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-20

Ah yes, the famous passage on the armor of God, a passage many know by heart, a favorite sermon passage and a favorite devotional passage rich with metaphor and meaning; a wonderful passage. I thought that I’d approach it a little differently this time. Accordingly, I’ll not really comment on the metaphoric aspect, but focus on the underlying strategic circumstances that all of us face every day.

The whole armor metaphor is a way of communicating an important issue that for most of us is not easy to understand, the issue of spiritual warfare. Over the centuries, people have understood this in various ways and many legends and ballads have been the result, both in literature and other art forms. There have been times when people in superstitious cultures have gone to bizarre lengths, burning witches, so called heretics and almost anyone who incurred disfavor in high councils; history is full of such insanity. I can’t help but wonder how otherwise good people couldn’t see where the evil one was really operating, but then maybe they forgot to put on their armor!

In our day, the idea of spiritual warfare is often limited to the oddball fringe, “nuters” as our British friends might say; you might hear a lot on the subject on radio talk shows that air in the wee hours, along with spacemen and such. Oh my, how clever our adversary can be!

Read the rest of Don’s blog at: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/armor-of-god-3/

Love is Active


Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:26-27

My first thought when it came to writing on these verses was that this would be a very easy post… and then I started thinking about it.  The “catch” here is the part about keeping a “tight rein” on the tongue.  My first thought was to go off on people within the church who abuse their positions of authority to say hurtful and ugly things to people from a position of self-righteousness.  Of course it occurred to me that having a tight rein on the tongue probably applies to the keyboard as well.  OK, I’ve heard the more traditional approach to this many times: watch your language!  Somehow however, that always has struck me as being just a bit shallow. Yes, we shouldn’t be tossing foul language around, but do you really need me to tell you that?  I have the impression that James had considerably more in mind, particularly in this context.

Great: Now what?

The truth is that I think we often make a mistake in passages such as these by taking them too literally. I doubt that James wrote this to give us the perfect verse to enable an annual sermon on cussing, nor do I think that he wrote verse 27 to give us the perfect verse to justify our annual message on helping the needy or to raise money for an orphanage. After all, the context is love in action, and that is far broader than either of these two applications. Of course followers of Jesus shouldn’t be using the filthy language of this wicked world, of course followers of Jesus should actively aid and protect widows and orphans; these are but examples of a larger truth.

In the larger context, it seems to me that James is giving instruction about the sanctity and sacredness of each one of God’s children. He wants us to recognize the fact that every single person is valued by God, that we must make every effort to respect, love and cherish every single one. We mustn’t be in the habit of denigrating anybody, for they are loved and cherished by our Lord, so much so that He willingly gave Himself up for them. Most of all, the little children who are innocent and helpless must be a high priority for us to love, nurture and protect from harm, as well as the widows who have been left alone and vulnerable… and anybody else who is unable to protect themselves from this harsh world.

This is what it means to love, to put that love into action, and to serve God.  This is what Jesus did, and this is what His followers are to do.

Comment: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/love-is-active-5/

Do what it says!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. ~ James 1:22-25

One of my very favorite verses in all of the Scriptures is verse 22, and I can’t help but notice that it’s almost never quoted outside of a study of James; not even by me! I really love this verse because it just brushes past all the arguments and excuses and comes right down to the bottom line: Do what it says!

We aren’t just to read the Word, we’re supposed to follow the Word, just like we aren’t just supposed to be in Christ, we are supposed to follow Him. So simple, yet so seldom done. If we just read it, we deceive ourselves because we get the idea that everything is great, after all, I read my Bible today. Then what do we do, go out and do what everybody else does? In the immortal words of Chef Gordon Ramsey, “That’s not good enough!”

There is more: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/do-what-it-says-3/

The Son IS!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Colossians 1:15-18

How can you read these few verses and not just fall into one of those “Wow!” moments?  Even if you only read the first sentence: Wow!

Read the blog: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/the-son-is-3/

This is the Gospel

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. ~ Colossians 1:21-23

Read the blog article: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/this-is-the-gospel-3/

Summing Up

~ Merrit

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:8-9

There is a principle in these two verses that I think people tend to miss, one that is critical to healthy and happy living.  These two verses are quoted often, I’ve even heard them quoted to “prove” that we shouldn’t use bad language, but to me, that sort of thing really misses the point. Let’s see if we can find a little more than meets the eye here.

Read more: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/summing-up-5/