James 1:26 – 27
Apostle James had his attention on the Old Covenant Law of Moses and as such, he couldn’t speak beyond what he knew and had to maintain his presentation on it. According to his presentation to the audience (predominantly the Jewish sect), they had to base their walk with God on works. The amount of work you put into obeying the Law of Moses determined how much blessings you were going to get from God. The picture presented here was such that when anything bad or evil happens to anyone, they were quick to judge that such a person(s) must have broken the Law in one form or the other.
A vivid example was the story of Job and the ordeal he went through; his three friends representing the Law, Tradition and Legalism came out shooting at him from their three perspectives and drawing conclusions that Job had done something wrong (he had broken the Law or offended God). This was true of the Old Testament order but we have since gravitated from the Old order to the New because of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ; so we are free to worship God as children and not from the standpoint of fear.
Is it right to do what the Law stipulates? Yes, it is good not to steal, covet and the many other things highlighted by the Law. The problem we have with it is that we might inadvertently base our blessings on the many things we are doing right through the works of the Law. This is the line we need to draw, our salvation is not based on whether we do wrong or right but that we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and as such there would be no place for boasting. Apostle Paul puts it right when he said, “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” – Ephesians 2
When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. The people can then boast about the works of their hands as responsible for the many things they have or have acquired. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. This is the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament; we are not going to be made righteous by the works or obeying the commandments but that our righteousness is as a result of the finished work of Calvary.
We have also accidentally associated the many challenges we go through or are going through (as a result of the plan of God for our lives) as coming from the Devil, hence you see many of us Christians asking why we have to go through the so many things we are going through today. We participate in many prayer meetings aimed at praying against something that is believed to not be the Will of God. We have indirectly associated the blessings of God, which could come as a result of His plan for us to the many things we are doing right when we use the Law as a benchmark or as a metric for our walk with God.
If that is right, then Apostle Paul never did right in the sight of God and hence the many things he went through. The fact that you are going through a challenge does not mean that you have done something wrong to God. Jesus said persecution would arise for the sake of the Word not because God has to punish us. It is therefore possible to be a Christian and be sick terminally, we can have genetic dispositions as Christians and also have trouble with our eyes – many who wear spectacles today have one form of defect with their eyes and there is nothing wrong with wearing specs.
We can learn a lot from the Book of James as I have mentioned but we would need to look and learn more about God from the perspective of the New Covenant and not from the Old. For example, it is very advisable to tame the tongue, not only as Christians but also as fellow human beings having respect one for another. Learning to tame the tongue is not a criteria for becoming a Christian, which would be works, we are said to be Christians because we have responded positively to the message of Salvation through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ.
From James’ perspective (again he only had the Old Testament writings available to him), not visiting the fatherless and not caring for the orphans and widows in their distress makes ones religion worthless. It is very good and benevolent to visit the fatherless, the widows and the orphans but these things are not a criterion for the Salvation we are talking about. How do we quantify or describe the many people and organisations that have outfits for the widow, fatherless and orphans but are not Christians.
The word “RELIGIOUS” used by James is thrēskos in the Greek, which stipulates ceremonies in worship, piousness and legalisms all pointing to the Old Testament way of worship and Judaism.
Could James be highlighting the many things that he feels his people are doing wrong and as a result the consequence is the many trials that they are going through. He has mentioned the fact that they were quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to wrath/anger. He has also mentioned the fact that the rich are like the flower that would fade away and now he mentions the fact that they couldn’t tame their tongues, nor made visits to the fatherless, widows and orphans.
Apostle Paul in tackling the saga in Acts 15, as he looked resolute in taking the Gospel to the Gentiles told them at the Church at Galatia that, “I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of my earlier life when I lived in the Jewish way. In those days I went all out in persecuting God’s church. I was systematically destroying it. I was so enthusiastic about the traditions of my ancestors that I advanced head and shoulders above my peers in my career”. Many were held back because the Jews in those days claim that no one could be a Christian unless they kept the law and were circumcised.
“Although works do not justify a man before God, they do justify a man’s profession before his fellows.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Keep it right here and be refreshed!