Overall, I like the book of James. It’s very specific and action-oriented. It appears to be pretty straightforward in instruction. However, as with all study of Scripture, it is prudent to read closely and to remember what the rest of the Word says and use it as context.
Today’s selection from The Guide to Prayer is most of the first chapter of James.
I have a hard time swallowing this chapter. It sounds like the speeches I used to hear repeatedly from several different people, some of them in positions of leadership in the church and many of them relatives, to 1) belittle someone’s pain or sorrow and 2) justify to themselves why they were Right and others were Wrong.
The passage is not meant to be used for that purpose. When we read it alongside the other selections from recent days, it becomes clear that we aren’t meant to be so simple about it. Yet, as we all experience, people have a tendency to take pieces from the Bible out of context and twist them to mean something very different.
For example, I do not think that when the author says in verse two we should “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials,” he means we ought to throw a huge bock party. I think that the intention is more along the lines of “eventually, you can learn from this.” But, again, as we’ve seen, we often hear this quoted from someone saying, “See, you’re in pain because you’re such a Good Christian. Just keep on keeping on just as you are, and you’ll build treasure in Heaven.”
I know many people who have used this sentiment to justify their behavior, claiming that the fact that they aren’t getting what they want is proof of how righteous they are — when really they aren’t getting what they want because they are – how to put this delicately? – wrong. They are getting pushed back against because someone else is trying to show them that their expectations are not – how to be delicate? – reasonable/kind/good. I’ve seen a lot of bullies claim righteousness with this passage, when their “suffering” was self-induced by selfishness, greed, indifference, or a slew of other common misdirections.
So, behooves us all to examine carefully what our part in trouble might be. Often, we find ourselves in circumstances we didn’t necessarily create – but we still choose how we respond. The wrong response can make things worse, but the right can resolve trouble.
We need to avoid rushing to judgment, avoid assuming that we are right.
The next verses discuss perseverance, a topic we looked at a little a few days ago.
I need to acknowledge the human limit of carpal tunnel pain and request that you, Gentle Reader, just, uh, click on it. Sorry ’bout that. Gotta stop for today — but don’t let that stop you from reading, commenting, and most importantly praying.
You know, it’s often easiest to pray in nature, away from people. We go to church to find people; we go to nature to find God.