“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James is very pointed. There are deceived religious people and there are religious people with worthless religion. Why would this assessment focus so much on control of one’s mouth, language, and words? What do our “words” reveal about us? Help us O Lord, to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger. Amen.
“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…and sin gives birth to death.” James shares an anatomy of sin, how it works in us. Perhaps God would rather transform our desires than simply work at changing our behavior. Is temptation best dealt with at the point of desire or later in the chain James describes? How is desire transformed? Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Part of the normal and growing Christian life is a testing of our hearts, our thinking, and our actions. When is the last time I prayed this prayer and took some time silent before God to hear His findings? What might I be missing by avoiding such times with God? Search me, O God…
“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; your name is near. People tell of your wondrous deeds.” Psalm 9:1-2 (last week’s devo) speaks of the individual worshipper giving thanks, but the Psalms as a whole testify that there is a “we” in giving thanks as well. The heart of the individual joins with the heart of a “people” and acknowledges God’s love and goodness together. How is your corporate praise and gratitude these days? Are you part of a grateful, thankful congregation praising God? Be near to us, O God, as we together give thanks to you!
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” The content and attitude of our hearts are revealed through what comes out of our mouth, both in words and songs. What are you talking about these days? What are you singing about? How does this reflect your heart? Lord, so much noise and so many words each day; let my mouth be filled with talk and songs about You.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Our modern consumeristic culture may find a contentment that confesses, “I have all I need,” impossible to believe in. How is claiming the shepherd related to the contentment from wants and desire? What do I want these days? Am I content? Have I discovered, “the Lord is my shepherd?” Jesus, be my shepherd; that I might be satisfied and find that I lack nothing. Amen.
“Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…but their delight is in the law of the Lord…” Certainly, everything is not a simple black and white, but our lives, with all their complexities, do reveal some of us with a bent toward good and goodness and others toward evil and the wickedness that flows from it. These motivations of the heart produce different results. What is your fundamental orientation toward life? How do you look to flesh that out in the particulars of life? Purify my heart and my behavior as I follow you O Lord.
“Which of the two did the will of his father?” Read the passage. Talk is cheap. Saying the right things and giving the right answers come easier than living a life that embodies “not my will, but Yours.” Does my faith show up more in my words than my actions? Let my actions speak for themselves as I live out Your will for my life today and every day. Amen.
“They grumbled saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us…’” “It’s not fair.” I remember my mother hating this parable. Every time she heard it she said, “It’s not fair.” What’s not fair? Equal wages? Equal treatment? Equal love? In what ways do I think God should treat me special? Is all my labor earning me a better grace, a better love, a better reward? Why do I serve and minister as I do? Forgive me for a grumbling heart that seeks special recognition over my brothers and sisters saved by Your grace.
“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” We live in a consumer culture and we have been formed and forged to be consumers. It is easy for us to produce more, store more, build more, hold more, and expect more than ample. Why does Jesus teach that this misses the point? In what ways am I similar to the rich fool? How does this focus keep me from life and ministry? Teach us Lord what it means to be “rich toward God.”