Words With Purpose

5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose … (James 4)?

The Scripture “speaks” because it is the Word of God, who never utters a single word without it having a divine “purpose” to it. Like a faithful echo in a sound chamber, His spoken word always returns to His ears, having accomplished everything it was designed to do (Isaiah 55:11). To read the Bible is nothing less than to hear the Almighty speak.

There are some people who speak just to hear the sound of their voice. Their only purpose in utterance is to please their own ears, and it matters not what effect the words have upon others who hear them. To be sure, God’s words always please His ears because they are righteous and good—yet they are also meant for the ears of others to hear and heed.

Lord, may we hear You speak to us This Day through Your Word, and may we also heed those words so that they fulfill their divine and loving purpose in our lives. Amen.

Little, Divine Houses

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” (James 4)?

Which is better, to have your house full of stuff, or to have your “house of clay” (Job 4:19) full of God’s Spirit? If we are friends with the world we will desire only stuff, but if we are friends with God we will desire His Spirit—for this is God’s “jealous desire” for us. Nothing else matters to Him.

Not long ago Suzie and I visited the Biltmore Estate, built by George Washington Vanderbilt, heir in the richest American family at the time. With 175,000 sq. ft. and sitting on 125,000 acres, it is the largest residence in America. Yet more impressive than its size are its contents and furnishings. Priceless one-of-kind pieces of furniture and artwork adorn the home from the basement to the top floor. As we meandered through the sublime edifice filled with fortune, I was sobered by a gentle reminder from God that one day, along with the rest of the world, every single atom of it will perish. And yet, my little house of clay, filled with His Spirit, will live on forever and ever.

Lord, we thank You for Your divine Spirit who lives in our little houses. Help us This Day to live like the royalty we are. Amen.

Choosing Sides

2 …. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4).

The world system revolves around selfish pleasures and spends its money on them. On the other hand, God’s economy is built upon personal sacrifice and service to others. Like oil and water, the two just do not mix. Unlike oil and water, a reaction between the two is far from mere passive separation—it is all-out war, and we must choose sides.

The world would have us dispel any notion of personal loss for the sake of others, while God would have us dispel any notion of personal gain at the expense of others. This world would have us believe that it is at least as important as heaven and will last forever, while God’s eternal world, having invaded ours long ago, is overcoming this created world day by day.

Lord, help us This Day to choose sides once again—Your side, the winning side. Amen.

A Lot and Aright

2 …. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4).

These are our two problems—not asking at all, and not asking aright—neither of which is a good thing. Either through laziness or unbelief we don’t ask God to supply our needs, or through selfishness we ask Him to spoil us. 

Why don’t I ask God more? Mostly because I just think since He’s God and knows what I need without any asking, and thus, well, there’s just no need to ask. But in not asking, I rob Him of blessing and glory. You see, He is a God who likes to be asked for things by His children. He takes joy in and receives glory in the asking itself—especially when the motives are pure and unselfish. 

Lord, help us This Day to ask—to ask a lot, and to ask aright. Amen.

Sandwich Signs

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel (James 4).

James uses two different words, both of which are translated “source:” the first comes from the word meaning “a drink” (as in a ground source of water), and the second means “from this place.” It is the same imagery he used in verse 11 in the previous chapter concerning “fountains” as sources of water.

James is telling us the ground source of the bitter water of “quarrels and conflicts” between people is their “pleasures” vying for fulfillment, as each person gets in the other’s way of getting what they “envy” and “lust” after. It’s as if we are all walking around with huge sandwich signs reading the same thing: “Just stay out of my way, and no one gets hurt!”

Lord, help us This Day to wear sandwich signs which read: “How can I help you?” Amen.

Peaceful Seeds

18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3).

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is sons of God who have been made righteous, and who thus sow seeds which produce righteousness. If there is one thing we should be known by as followers of the Prince of Peace, it is that we are a people of peace.

We see discord, and instead of joining in and taking sides, we try to make peace. Instead of digging in and holding our ground, we try to find common ground. Nowhere is this more needed in our day than in the political arena, where anything but peace is taking place. Indeed, it seems our country is being pulled apart by those sowing seeds of dissent and discord.

Lord, Help us This Day to be peacemakers. Amen.

Wisdom from Above

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3).

While the wisdom from below is described succinctly in verses 14-16 in terms of simple self-centeredness, “the wisdom from above” requires much further elucidation. Should it be any surprise that the wisdom of God runs far deeper, broader, wider, and higher than that of the devil? 

The only way he can keep up is to push for the opposite, which he does with full fury. Thus, his self-centered wisdom becomes foul, warring, coarse, obstinate, full of wrath and rotten fruits, fickle, and duplicitous.

Lord, help us This Day to walk with wisdom from above, not below. Amen.

An Evil Wisdom

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing (James 3).

All of us succumb to “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” now and then, the source of which is “earthly, natural, [and] demonic” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Our flesh, the world, and the devil all press in upon us to promote ourselves in order to rise above those whom we envy. It only follows that when everyone is doing this at once, social “disorder” becomes the order of the day.

Evil is always on the heels of envy and self-promotion, pushing them along to conform to the Evil One himself, who is the very embodiment of them and who introduced them into both the heavens as well as our world (Isaiah 14:13-14). We are never more like him than when envy and self-promotion rule us. Those who are “arrogant and so lie against the truth” refuse to acknowledge this evil wisdom in their lives whenever it pops up.

Lord, help us This Day not to envy others and promote ourselves, but should those errors befall us, help us also to admit to them quickly and cast them aside. Amen.

The Gentleness of Wisdom

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom (James 3).

“Gentleness of wisdom”: what a beautiful phrase! True wisdom and understanding are marked by the gentleness with which they walk among people. They are devoid of arrogance and pride which would be a cause of poor behavior. They are far greater than mere knowledge and intelligence, the likes of which even the devil himself knows no lack, and which have served to author the worst kinds of evil.

Mankind is no different, in that all our increased knowledge and intelligence have merely led us to more sophisticated ways of killing one another. And on the other hand, for lack of godly wisdom and understanding, we have proven ourselves to be no better in the art of gentleness than our distant forefathers were.

Lord, help us This Day to demonstrate true wisdom and knowledge, showing ourselves gentle in our walk with others. Amen.

Legal and Natural Laws

9 With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh (James 3).

James’ argument is both “ought not” and “cannot” its unfolding. As to the “ought not,” there is simply neither excuse nor argument for “the same mouth” to issue forth both blessing to God and cursing to people who He, as Creator, has made in His image. Such a thing cannot and will not stand in the courts of God’s law.

Thus, because of this legal “ought not” there exists a natural “cannot” as well. For the laws of nature do not permit a fountain to spout both fresh and bitter water, nor a fig tree to produce both figs and olives, nor a vine to produce both olives and figs, nor an ocean to produce both salt water and fresh water. 

Lord, we thank You that Your laws, both legal and natural, forbid a duplicitous mouth. Help our tongue This Day to speak neither illegally nor unnaturally. Amen.