Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 18 2013 - James 1:19-2:17 – Close the gap

One of the key themes in the letter of James is that faith is to be reflected in the way we live. It's all too easy for us to speak fine words while failing to do the things which Jesus commanded.

This is a particular danger for me. Every morning I spend time reading God's word and thinking about it. Every morning I turn some of my thoughts into words; I tap them out and send them out into the wide world. I can sound wonderfully spiritual; but is it reflected in a life that is lived by the word that I have read? James writes, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). It's not enough to take in God's Word and to reflect it in fine words of our own; the Word of God needs to shape our lives, moment by moment and day by day.

James provides a powerful illustration of this point when he writes, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (2:15-17). It's all too easy to say "God bless you", or to promise to pray for someone while failing to reflect the love of God in costly personal action. Words are not enough.

But words also are important. Jesus told his disciples that it was not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, but what comes out of them. Words spoken in the heat of the moment or in an unguarded moment reveal the state of our hearts. We are to “bridle” our tongues – keep them under control (1:26). We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen (1:19).

We need the Lord Jesus to shape both the words we speak and the things we do, that they might reflect his heart of compassion (see 1:27). Most of all, we need him to transform our hearts and minds – to cleanse the spring from which our words and actions flow:

May the mind of Christ, my Saviour,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

The presence of Christ within us should make us distinctively different from the world around us. And that’s true not only of us as individuals, it ought to shape our shared life as the church of Christ. How tragic then when the church reflects the values of the society in which it lives – such as in paying more attention to the rich and powerful than to the needs of the poor (2:1-4). But it’s more than tragic, it’s a denial of the gospel; it’s as if Christ is no longer in that place. Our attitudes and actions are to make the presence and love of our glorious Lord Jesus visible and tangible so that others may be attracted to him.

Living God, thank you for our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. We thank you that he came not only to tell us about the way to life; he came as that life and to live that life. Help us by the power of his Spirit to turn away from the distorted values of this present age and to live transformed lives as children of the kingdom. Help us to close the gap between the words we speak and the way we live. Transform our hearts and minds that they might be the wellspring of a life pleasing to you and a blessing to others.

Peter Misselbrook