Walk the Walk as well as Talk the Talk
Lessons from the Book of James
The short book of James in the New Testament is practical and down to earth. No messing around. It emphasizes that just saying that we believe in Jesus isn’t enough if we don’t try to obey Him too. James hammers away at people who try to talk their way to heaven instead of walking (obeying God, right actions) their way there. It is possible to have grand accomplishments and orthodox Christian beliefs but still lead a loveless life.
This book in the Bible was written by James, who tradition has it was the brother of Christ. James became the leader of the Christian church in
early on. (A.D. 44-62) (Acts 12:17, 15:13-21:21:18: Gal.1:19:2:9, 12) And the historian Josephus records that James was stoned to death for his Christian faith in the year A.D.62. Jerusalem
James calls us to have a faith that is alive with right actions. Let’s listen: “What good is it my brothers, if a person claims to have faith but has no good deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.” But you do nothing to help him out, what good is it? In the same way, faith without good deeds is dead.” (James 1:14-17)
Someone must have argued with James on this issue. They must have said that saying that you believe in God was good enough. No need to change ones’ lifestyle. So here he answers: “You believe there is one God? Well good for you! Even the demons believe that – and tremble.” (James 1:19) (In other words, your faith better be more than that of the demons!)
There are two kinds of faith –the fake and the real. Fake faith may repeat pious words but it won’t change our hearts. But real faith will make us want to do the right thing- the loving thing. Good deeds just naturally grow up out of real faith - like plants grow out of seeds planted in the soil. A real faith is where the action is!
James has condemnations for the rich who defraud the poor farm laborer. Let’s listen: “You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury: you have fattened your hearts as in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:3a-5)
He continues on about the rich stating that some Christian brothers are showing favoritism to those arriving at their church meetings by giving the rich people wearing the fine clothes the better seats and asking the poor people to crouch in the dirt. He insists that God is not partial to the rich and His children shouldn’t be either.
Next James teaches that as believers we need to bridle our tongue and develop the discipline of keeping our speech under close control. (James 3) Nothing can cause more damage than the tongue, he says. “The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire…” (James 3:6) James is teaching here that criticism, slander, backbiting, and gossip are sins that we need to stay away from. As believers we are to be humble and try to keep the peace! Do we do it?
The Lord is speaking through James in this little book and He doesn’t use flowery language. Let’s listen: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26) Oops! That’s heavy duty, don’t you think? God wants our tongues – He expects us to keep our conversations free of self centeredness and lies and gossip and malice.
James tells us that there are two kinds of wisdom – one that is “worldly” and unspiritual and one that comes from heaven and is spiritual. The definition of “worldly” wisdom here is pride, selfish ambition, envy and bitterness. James says that selfish ambition and bitterness and envy are not from God and can lead to “every evil practice.” (James 3:15)
As believers God expects us to run away from selfish ambition, envy and bitterness. We must refuse unnecessary arguments and do our best to keep the peace.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven (the Holy Spirit gives us this wisdom) is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) James encourages us to choose the wisdom from God that is peace loving and humble. And he adds:”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
God is speaking to believers through James to show us that we just have two choices. We are either for Him or against Him. James writes: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4b-5) Pretty strong words! And we can’t be double minded and have it both ways either! (James 1:8)
Some of my favorite Bible verses are in the book of James. Here is one of them. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7b) There have been times when I couldn’t seem to stop unkind thoughts from taking over my mind. But once I stopped what I was doing and actually resisted an attack of hateful thoughts that was filling my mind. I stood my ground and ordered these angry thoughts out in the Name of Jesus. And would you believe, I could feel those dark ideas leaving or “fleeing” from me. When you draw a line in the sand and resist the devil in the strong Name of Jesus, the temptation will have to go. Christ is stronger and greater than all of the dark forces on this earth and He will fight for us if we ask Him. Scripture says: “Greater is He (Jesus) that is in you than he (the devil) that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Another of my favorite scriptures out of James is: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) I like this verse because it is so simple. We never have to feel like God is far away. It is humbling to know that we can do something about our relationship with God. If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.
Some Christians (Martin Luther was one of them) have been upset with this little book of James since it stresses the doing of good deeds. And since we don’t get to heaven by our good deeds, they argue that we should only be concerned with faith and truth. Jesus paid the whole price of our salvation with His blood. We can’t add to that. It is cruel bondage when we believe that we have to earn our way to heaven by doing good deeds. And we are turning our backs on the grace that we have been given through Christ’s’ death when we believe we must pay money to make it to heaven or to receive a “merit”! Our salvation is done. Jesus did it all. We can’t add anything to it. Not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We are free-completely free in Jesus. No strings attached. Hallelujah! All we need to do is to have faith.
Yes, all of that is true. But the grace that saves us isn’t “cheap” grace. Our salvation was bought with His blood. And because of that, our faith shouldn’t be “cheap” faith either. I think James was trying to say that. He was encouraging us as believers to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”.