By what WE do, as well? (part 9)
James is writing about the blessings we receive in this life now for trusting God through tough times, which is good to know, because there’s one test God puts us through that must seem as mind blowing to us as God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son.
James hints at it early in his letter, that “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak” (1:19), and “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (1:26). And in chapter 2:12, “Speak and act as those being judged by the law of freedom.”
To quote one writer on this verse, “God is going to judge us on the basis of how we have loved and reached out to people, regardless of who they are” – a point to ponder for those in chapter 2, because they were speaking respectfully to the rich, but disdainfully to the poor. When it came to loving their neighbour as themselves, therefore, they’d become “lawbreakers” (verse 9), for “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point (in their case, favouritism) is guilty of breaking all of it” (verse 10). It’s all or nothing; there’s no room in God’s law for any unloving word or act.
Which would include James 3:2, that “It’s only the person who can claim that he never says the wrong thing that can consider himself perfect (in keeping the whole law), for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality.”
So here was a real and very practical test – and especially for those who “presumed to be teachers” (3:1), thinking they were qualified to teach because of how “religious” they were (1:26) – because, as James reminds them, “we who teach will be judged by a much higher standard” (3:1). And as Christians aren’t we all held to that standard?
In which case, what James is saying is facing us all with an extraordinary test, of never saying the wrong thing to anyone – and having that kind of control over what comes out of our mouth at all times. It would seem as impossible for us to do as it was for Abraham to kill his son.
And yet this is what makes our faith complete (2:22). It’s doing what God requires of us, believing God has a wonderful purpose for it…(more on this tomorrow)