righteousness (2)

Today's Question: Broadly speaking, what are the major issues James confronts in Chapter 2, and what is the gist of his arguments?

In Chapter 2 James discusses three important correlations that all Christians would do well to heed. The first (verses 1-9), addresses the relationship between the rich and poor. James scoffs at Christians who cater to the rich while ignoring the plight of poor people, and speaks of scoffers as unrighteous judges with evil thoughts. He also makes the point that such actions contradict the faith exemplified by Jesus, and redefines riches to no longer be based on material wealth, but on the priceless value of a poor person’s faith. James also teaches that even though it is the rich who oppress and blaspheme, true believers should still love them. Lastly, he informed us that those who put the interests of the rich ahead of the poor, commit sin by their actions.


The second correlation (verses 10-13), addresses the relationship between mercy and judgment, and those who fail to extend mercy to others will not receive God’s mercy during judgment! James informs us that it is a fallacy to believe that a Christian can get into Heaven based upon his/her own righteousness, because if a person breaks any part of God’s law, they have broken it all! Therefore, all must come before God’s judgment seat. The difference is the merciful also will receive God’s mercy because mercy triumphs over judgment!


The third correlation addresses the relationship between faith and works, and James nullifies any faith that is based strictly on belief (or mental assent), because true faith impels Christ’s true followers to address the prevailing needs of the downtrodden. That need may be food, shelter, or clothing, but if all a Christian does is pronounce a blessing on that needy person, when it is within his/her power to supply that which is needed, their blessing is meaningless because faith without works is dead! James gives examples of two Biblical characters who were rewarded for living out their faith through action: Abraham and Rahab. And just like a body without any spirit is dead, James teaches that faith without works is also dead, vain, and meaningless!

Next Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?

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Whose hand is in the cookie jar?

The following story is one of our favorites. As the mama returns after a few moments away, she is greeted enthusiastically at the door by little Tommy, who announces, “Mommy, mommy, Jimmy hit me back.” Let’s face it even when we are caught with our hand in the cookie jar and with crumbs on our face and hands, it is often very difficult to admit our own guilt. Today let’s do some thinking together about our common dilemma, and what can be done about it.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first  brief 108-minute orbital flight around the earth April 12, 1961 in Vostok 1, and reportedly announced (by atheistic Russian officials) in a presumptuous, cocky, arrogant manner, “I did not see God out there, so He must not exist.”  Gherman Titov said similar stuff. We might scoff at such shallow observations and conclusions, but maybe some of us are similarly guilty.

For example, do you think it is fair of God to hold us to a standard of perfection? He may be perfect, but we’re only human, right? Why wouldn’t He lower the standard, or at least grade on the curve? Even some stiff college professors grade on the curve.

But let’s consider some more questions. Could you really honor, serve, and worship a God who adjusted His standards to a societal norm, when that very society was rebelling against Him, His truth, and His character? Quite often there are two sides to the coin that should prompt questions beyond those that we begin with. I maintain that virtually none of us would respect a God who lowered His standards because His creation was opposing Him.

But if God holds mankind to a standard of perfection and holiness, but man generally falls way short of that standard, how can God solve that dilemma? To make matters worse, God tells us in the book of Romans that when we break one of His laws it is the same as breaking all of His laws since we become a lawbreaker. This sounds hopeless to me, and it is. But God specializes in hopeless and impossible situations.

Our failures to meet His standards and our willingness to disobey, rebel, and rationalize our stubborn sinfulness, are not a surprise to God. He knew about this and made a plan to solve it before He created anything at all according to the book of Ephesians. He planned for us to be holy and without blame, but how could that possibly be? The answer is His son Jesus Christ whom He made to become sin for us, sacrificing his perfect life to pay 100% for all our sins. Then He made Jesus to become four main things for all who would humbly receive him as their Lord and Savior: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. So now, all who have personally accepted Jesus and His payment for our sins are seen as righteous and perfect when God looks at us through the blood of His son.

God did not lower His standard, but instead He cleansed us and dressed us in the perfect righteousness of Christ so that we could stand holy and without blame or shame in His presence forever. Surely our magnificent God continues to solve impossible problems for our good and His glory, even when we judge and criticize him, totally devoid of understanding, appreciation, and reverential awe.

Are you still among the crowd of naysayers, judges, and critics of God like Gagarin or Titov, or have you bowed your knee to Jesus and confessed Him publicly as your majestic Lord and Savior?

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