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A Reflection on “Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: James”

April 7, 2007 Leave a comment

Two things from this article spoke to me. The first was the section, “The Calls to Patient Endurance and Sharing.” I have always wondered at the meaning of James 4:17 which says, “So then, if you know the good you ought to do and don’t do it, you sin.” I got the gist of the meaning, but now that I have had time to reflect on it I understand it’s meaning in a fuller measure.

Davids writes in his article, “Thus sharing is not an optional part of Christian discipleship; persons who withhold the sharing of their goods with the poor show that they have not been grasped by the faith at all, though they may know all of its propositions (2:18-19).” And then later he writes, “Now in 4:17 charity is the difference between living in sin and proper behavior.”[1] Now I get it. When Peter writes if you don’t do it, you sin he is referring to how we show our works by taking care of the needs of others. In other words, if I know of a need and have the ability to meet that need and don’t do it, I am sinning. I am sinning because I am not exhibiting my faith by meeting that specific need. I may have the resources to meet that need, but instead I am worried about my financial well being and keep the resources to myself. In essence, I am saying I do not trust in God.

The second thing was in the application of James in today’s ministry. David writes, “People who adopt a lifestyle of worldly values while mouthing the orthodox confessions are only deceiving themselves.”[2] The thought that occurred to me was how we spend so much time and energy planning for the future. Only today my wife and I were discussing our retirement plans. James says in 4:15-16, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” We need to be wise stewards of our money, but not worry about it so much. Instead we need to trust God and live our lives in a way that brings glory and honor to Him. We need to be single-minded, not double-minded trying to live in this world on one hand while claiming to have faith in God on the other. “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (4:4b) “Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (4:8b, 10)

Thanks to God for His Word.

[1] Peter H. Davids, “Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: Discipleship in James.” In Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans), 236.
[2] Ibid., 244.

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