Thursday, January 28, 2021

January 28 - James 4

Today's reading in our daily plan is James 4. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • This chapter warns of selfish pursuits that can destroy us personally, as well as the church at large.  We are all controlled by these selfish desires. They cause us to fight and judge others, while boasting about ourselves. The good news is we don't have to live this way. Verse 7 tells us that if we come to God for help, he will help us resist selfishness and live more selfless lives.
  • James makes it clear that we should not be friends with the world -- or, more specifically, the things of this world (money, possessions, popularity, power). When we care more about these things than God, we are actually committing adultery against him (verse 4)
  • This chapter also reminds us once again about the dangers of the tongue from chapter 3. Christians were "judging" one another in a very slanderous, derogatory way. The word "judge" here does not mean to discern right from wrong; it means to condemn or despise. They were judging one another without mercy, in an effort to feel superior and hurt each other. 

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We must make God (not self, not others, not things) what we worship. To put anyone or anything before God is adultery. But, with God's help, we can resist this.
  • In a culture of excessive social media, everyone's a critic. We criticize everything from clothing to intentions to character.  With tv shows like Fashion Police and Real Housewives of Whatever, and with an increasingly hostile political culture, it has become "normal" to openly condemn and despise one another. Some of our judgments are petty, and others are serious. But the Bible warns us to be careful. God does not give us permission to judge or condemn others. It's not our place to do so. If we do, we disobey God and we put ourselves in a dangerous situation spiritually.
  • It is so easy to get lost in our daily planner that we forget to invite God into our day, our week, or even our year. But no one really knows what tomorrow holds. Only God does. James reminds us that our life is short, and ultimately, everything we do is by the grace of God. 

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • We all struggle with selfishness in different ways. What way do you put your personal desires above God's? What are the ways you put "things" above God? Whatever they are, ask God to forgive you, and commit with his help to change.
  • Do you find yourself constantly criticizing those around you? Do you feel better about yourself when you look down on others? Maybe you don't say it out loud, but you think it. Let God help you let go of that bad and self-destructive habit. Remember, you are a sinner who is totally reliant on God's grace, so you are in no place to judge others. And you're not in a place where you can really know someone's story and heart, so you're not capable of being a good judge. That's why judging is  in God's hands, not yours. 
  • Do you wake up every morning and plan your day? That's not a bad thing, but don't forget to invite God in. Take some time each day to talk to him and submit your day to him.