“no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James moves back and forth in his book between the themes of an uncontrolled tongue, faith without deeds, treatment of the poor, and wisdom. What is the relationship between these themes that interweave in his letter? Does James’ view of spiritual life and maturity challenge you? In what ways? How is God addressing these issues in your life these days? It hurts to look deeply at our weaknesses Lord, graciously deal with us that we might reflect your image and glory.
“…faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.” Often this passage in James has been relegated to theological debate suggesting that James is opposed to Paul’s salvation by faith alone. Does engaging in theological debate itself sometimes keep us from taking action and doing good deeds? What kind of deeds would bring faith to life in us? What kind of deeds does the book of James envision for us? Lord, I don’t want to be on the sidelines, sitting the bench; I want to “live” the life you called me to. Holy Spirit, direct my actions today.
“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.