(Reading List Theme 2.6)

I think the two main themes in this chapter are purity, and wisdom. Two things I think our world is desperately lacking in. As we read the Bible, I think we always ought to be asking ourselves how it applies to our lives. In this case, there are a lot of hard questions we could ask about the purity of our own words, heart, and attitudes.

PURITY IN WORDS

How well do you control your tongue? Are you quicker to praise someone, or to criticize or speak badly of them? How do you talk about people to their face? How about behind their back? “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do” (2:5). Well said, James. In public, I think I do pretty well at controlling my tongue. In private… a little less so. But the real sin of what we say is not just in the hurt it could inflict, or the unjust bias it may cause, but in the fact that every person is made in the image of God. Not every person reflects the image of God very well, but then we are all a bit damaged, aren’t we? Only God knows what the original was intended to look like, so only he has the ability to judge rightly, and only he can restore you. My job is to try to love you like you are, and guide you to the Master for restoration.

PURITY OF HEART

Just as someone else we dare speak ill of may be obviously damaged and sinning, so are we all. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be speaking ill of them. James 2:11-12 says if something is not INSIDE you, then it cannot come OUT of you. If there is bitterness, jealousy, or selfishness in your life, then that is what will come out in your words and actions. So the question here is, do you have areas of bitterness, unforgiveness, insecurity, or jealousy in your heart? Are they the source of your harmful words instead of positive words? I think we all have areas that are a little sensitive. Past hurts, biases we’ve felt against us, battles waged from which we still nurse wounds. We all have sensitive spots, but the goal is to give them to God, instead of throwing them onto others in negative ways.

Sometimes we talk about others because we like to show that we know something, even if it is not our story to tell. Sometimes we may talk about others in order to get a third party on our side, in case a conflict ever breaks out, or to make ourselves look better. Sometimes we may say what is not quite true because that will help us reach an immediate goal. Sometimes we may lie because we don’t feel like the truth is “safe enough.” Sometimes we might say something just to be funny, and it turns out to be hurtful. All these things reveal a brokenness of heart, something that God need to heal. Do you think you are fine? Listen to yourself… you might not be as fine as you thought.

PURITY IN ATTITUDES

The only way to have good things flow from your life instead of harmful and bitter things is through your relationship with God. This comes from realizing that the good you do is only because of God’s work in your life. It also comes from learning to love God more than anything else, and learning his perspective on life and on people. Sinful actions are basically evidence of selfishness and not trusting God, because they show that we think our own way is better than God’s way, or we think it would be worse somehow to follow God than to follow “everyone else.” In what ways do you act selfishly? In what ways do you need to trust God more?

WISDOM THAT IS PURE

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere” (James 3:17)

We so often judge purity by outward appearances and make snap judgments by what people do: drinking, smoking, gambling, sexual life, temper, apparent mental health, someone’s weight, smell, or appearance… Those things may not seem to evidence a perfect or pure life, but neither does spewing venom from our mouths in response to what seems like an obvious sin or weakness. In fact, hate in our hearts, and judgment at only a glimpse of the story, are also grievous sins.

Can you read 3:17 and insert your name in place of wisdom? Here, I have left blanks for you: _______ is pure. _______ is peace loving and gentle at all times. _______ is willing to yield to others. _______ is full of mercy and good deeds. _______ shows no partiality and is always sincere.

Oh, your name doesn’t fit very well in those blanks? Unfortunately, neither does mine. But Jesus’ does… Thank God that He sees me in light of the purity of Jesus, and not in light of my own purity and wisdom. No one is perfect, and really, God does not expect that. He knows we will fall. I don’t our goal really is perfection – but instead, as James 3:13 puts it, “a life of steady goodness.” Maybe that is something I can actually do, as I walk with God in my frail little human shell. Daily seeking, daily repenting, daily rejoicing in his perfection and grace.

Lord, today I ask you to forgive the times I have been selfish, impulsive, and have not ruled my tongue or my heart well. I ask you to rule my heart. You will do a much better job, if I will let you. Help me to seek you and listen to you each day. Help me deal with the things that keep my heart from being pure. Show me your perspective, and what your priorities for me are today. Though it may seem I have a mountain of things to work on before I really look like you, I know you walk with me day by day and love me just as I am… and you enjoy restoring me to that original design. Amen.

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