I think words to be a marvelous thing! Mere sounds of speech; letters put together resulting in a brief remark, if they be few; in a promise of love when used in a marriage ceremony; a promise to ‘pledge allegiance’ to your country as a citizen, a soldier; words can encourage, uplift the down-trodden, comfort the brokenhearted. All these, just some of the positive ways to use words. And, on the other hand, words can do the complete opposite when the words are quarrelsome words; slanderous words; deceitful and insincere words, sarcastic and crude words.
How we choose our words, how we use our words, how we deliver them, also all are evidences of our heart, revealing whether or not they emanate from a heart motivated by God and His Word or from our own sinful inherent nature. Without speaking, God, Who is Omniscient, does know our hearts and sees it all, Psalm 139 tells us as much, but once those words come out of our hearts to the ears of others, then, they too know.
It will be my goal today to close out chapter one of James, beginning with verses 19-27. Perhaps before you leave today, you will take with you some thoughts from God’s Word to consider, to meditate on, that will bring you to a newer place in your journey Beyond the Strait Gate.
Assuming you have visited here before and have already been studying James with me (and if not, please read the previous blogs beginning with the first one, Gleanings from James, to catch yourself up), I begin with verse 19-21 of James 1:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” – KJV
“Wherefore” – 5620 – (insomuch) as, so that (then); therefore; to
“swift” – 5036 – prompt; ready’
“hear” – 191 – give audience to;
“slow” – 1021 – dull
“speak” – 2980 – tell; say; utter
“wrath” – 3709 – violet passion; indignation; vengeance
“worketh” 2716 – accomplish; perform
“righteousness” – 1343 – justification
“filthiness” – 4507 – filthiness (same)
“superfluity” – 4050 – abundance
“naughtiness” – 2549 – depravity, amlignity or trouble, evil; malice
“meekness” – 4240 – mildness; humility
“save” – 4982 – to deliver or protect; heal, preserve, be whole
“engrafted” – 1721 – implanted
“word” – 3056 – utterance
A long list, today, of Greek definitions, some being obvious, yet, I am one who needs to make sure just what it is that God’s Word is saying. For instance, as we look at the word, ‘naughtiness’, we might think of a child who has stuck his hand in the cookie jar in disobedience to his mother’s warning to not have a cookie before having his dinner. Yet, in the context of this verse, it is more than disobedience; it is ‘depravity’, evil, malice’. Would we have attributed so strong a word to the child’s disobedience to his mother’s word? Yet, it is not my opinion, but God’s Word that says this. With these definitions before us, let us review the verses 19-21.
Remembering that James is speaking to believers, those who are called by His Name, those who revere God and His word; His Word that supercedes all other words spoken, He says this:
“Be swift to hear”…Listen up! Pay attention!! Be ready to respond (properly and in accordance with God’s Word).
A believer’s speech, his every utterance in his interacting with others, should be “slow to wrath”, that is, ‘dull’, ‘without any violent passion, indignation or vengeance’.
The fact that we are saved believers doesn’t make us super-human, nor sinless. No. And, we are not able to comply with God’s Word to us by our own volition, sheer self-will, determination, or any other human means. No. To be able to obey God’s Word, takes a surrender of our own will to His will, and then, arming ourselves with His Word, burying it in our hearts and minds so that if or when provoked to respond in a manner that contradicts how it is God says we should behave as His child, we may in His power, respond properly. Oh yes, we have all sorts of excuses, reasonings, responses, why we cannot. Well, we can! God said we could! His Word says, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13. He prefaces this verse with “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (vss.11-12)
“OUCH”! Did that sting? Well, sometimes God’s Word, does sting us, but it is a good thing that it does. It stings us when we understand, we recognize where we are in relationship to God’s “engrafted”, implanted, Word, or where we are not. We see ourselves from His Word, as God sees us, and perhaps, it is not always a pretty picture, but the good news, is that this is not the end. We can get it right. We can clean up our act, so to speak. This is where we get instruction from God’s Word in verse 21.
God tells us to have a heart “transplant”, have a meekness of spirit and heart, a humility, if you will; give up your own sinful nature, our own self-will response and obey Him. Key, is that heart attitude: “meekness”. Our goal is to please God; not ourselves; not others. God’s Word tells us in verse 21 that when we respond properly and in accordance with God’s Word, it is then that we are able to “save our souls”; that is, heal our souls, preserve our souls, deliver our souls from sinning against God, and be whole.
In the next few verses: 22-25, we have God’s commentary on our response to these first several verses: whether we hear and do His Word or respond adversely:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth there, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” – KJV
“doers” – 4163 – a performer
“hearers” – 202 – hearer
“deceiving” – 3884 – deludes; beguiles
“forgetteth” – 1950- to lose out of mind; neglect
“manner” – 3697 – what quality
“looketh” – 3879 – to lean over so as to peer into; stoop down
“continueth” – 3887 – be permanent; perseveres; abides; tarry
In these verses, God is telling us to not just give Him “ear service”. Don’t just give Him a nodding assent to what He is saying. It is not enough. To agree, and do nothing with what we have heard is to not have heard at all. Hearing and agreeing without action simply is a deluding of ourselves to ourselves. Of what profit is that to our souls? No, having heard what God’s Word is, understanding it, is having received our “marching orders” and requires a calling to action! When we “practice what we preach”, take action on who we say we are, we do not delude ourselves, verse 22. We will not progress nor grow in our Christian walk of faith otherwise.
To have had a meal prepared for us and have it set before us and we do not eat, is an illustration of what God’s Word is saying here. The meal, unless eaten, is of no use to us. Our sensory organs, seeing it, smelling it, do nothing for us, and will not benefit in our nourishment nor strengthening, without taking it, eating it, chewing it and digesting it, that it will benefit us when we need it.
God’s Word gives us the example of the delusion of hearing and not taking action in verses 23 and 24, and reveals the kind of a man the hearer may be. What kind of a hearer are we? A careless hearer of God’s Word, who hears and then goes on his way, forgetting God, or an earnest hearer, who looks into the “mirror of God’s Word” and acts upon what he sees?
More evidences that manifest the kind of a hearer we are are found in the concluding verses of James 1:26-27:
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – KJV
The “earnest hearer” will respond in three ways, according to this portion of Scripture:
1. He will bridle his tongue: control it in every use of it. Otherwise, this verse says, his “religion” is in in vain. His religion is empty. His religion is not pure. His testimony is without value. His good works, nothing. He deceives his own self, if his tongue is not controlled.
2. He will visit the orphans and widows IN their affliction. Strong’s definition of ‘affliction’ – 2347- is “anguish; burden; persecution; tribulation; trouble.”
3. He will “keep himself unspotted from the world”. They are to follow in Christ’s footsteps, and not be a part of the world’s system; the world’s ways of doing things, but to live according to His Word. Christ suffered ridicule from those who rejected God’s ways.
This then, is what we are also called to do, if and when necessary. We cannot live with one foot on Heaven and another on earth. Remember what we learned in James 1:8: “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
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