Focal Passages: James 1:19-25; 2:14, 18-26
In the gospels, Jesus told a parable about a sower and his seeds.
In this parable, seeds were cast upon four types of soils: a barren, hardened pathway, a shallow, rocky place, a cluttered, thorny place and a fertile soil.
On the shallow, rocky soil, the seed is received joyfully, but because it has no root it quickly dries up.
Among the thorny soil, the seed takes root, but becomes choked and dies. Jesus likens these soils to individuals responding to the spoken word, or gospel.
Both are unfruitful and deceived because of troubles or worries. Both are hearers of the word, but not doers!
James writes to a people who were experiencing difficult persecution and were unsettled by the many concerns that were pulling them apart and causing them consternation as believers. How does one live out vibrant faith in Jesus Christ scattered among the nations (James 1:1)?
In our relationships with one another, James recommends, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
The Jewish Fathers had a saying, “There are four characteristics in scholars. Quick to hear and quick to forget; his gain is cancelled by his loss. Slow to hear and slow to forget; his loss is cancelled by his gain. Quick to hear and slow to forget; he is wise. Slow to hear and quick to forget; this is an evil lot” (William Barclay).
In our relationship with our Lord, James recommends looking intently (gazing at, perceiving into) and obediently into God’s perfect and liberating law, which is perfect and liberating because it rests upon the work of Christ who sets us free. In the words of classical writer, Seneca, “To obey God is liberty.”
James reinforces this truth by calling the believer to not be careless as if glancing at him/herself, then turning away and immediately forgetting what was seen (or heard). But, instead, to be continually doing what that word or law says.
James asks, “What good is it; what is the profit of it all if we say that we have faith and it does not produce righteous deeds?”
To what end do we arrive if we talk a good and impressive talk, but our daily lives prove barren and vain?
Have we succumbed to the deception that a careless and casual Christianity is what is required of us?
Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but there is also a sense that we must live out that salvation. Profession without practice and words without deeds is dead (Barclay).