- James 1:1-5:20
- Jude 1-25
At the same time Paul and other apostles are working to spread the gospel, other important leaders within the church are also working and writing. Two of these men are James and Jude. These men are generally believed to be the James and Jude who were brothers of Jesus, which were referred to as leaders within the early church. However, both refer to themselves as simply servants of Jesus Christ and Jude adds that he is the brother of James.
Uninspired writings and tradition tell us that James, the Lord's brother, died in 62 A.D. and, if this is accurate, this likely places the letter between 50 to 60 A.D. James' letter is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, referring to the persecution of the Christians. Jude's letter is addressed to those who have been called, referring to Christians everywhere. Estimated dating of Jude's letter ranges from 60 to 80 A.D.
For today's devotional, I want to focus on two important lessons taught by James.
Be a Doer
Life is full of people who hear things and gain knowledge about something, such as about how to live a godly life, but GOD loves those who are doers of His will. James writes:
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
(Jam. 1:22-25 NIV)
It's not good enough for us to listen to GOD's word and then go back to living a sin-filled life without changing or obeying the message. That angers GOD. Instead, when we read GOD's word, it's like we're looking in a mirror because we are assessing what GOD says with how we live. If we match up well, we look pretty good. If we aren't close to the picture GOD paints for how He expects us to live, then we look ugly. The huge blessing is that we control how we look. We have the ability to choose to look good when we look into this mirror. We can't do it alone, but we can—and must—decide on our own and then ask GOD to help us.
Beware the Danger of the Tongue
2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
(Jam. 3:2-10 NIV)
Controlling our mouth is perhaps the most difficult challenge for the Christian. We are too quick to speak and it gets us in trouble. We need to really work on controlling our mouth every day because it isn't something we ever completely conquer. Each situation is its own unique challenge where we are tempted to say something we ought not. GOD expects us to work on controlling our tongue and using it as a tool for good and not evil. If you need help doing better in this area—and who among us doesn't?—then pray and ask GOD to help you overcome this deadly poison.
Lastly, there are just certain words that we should never say. We call them curse words. GOD says that we need to put off cursing and stop doing that. This is a big temptation for some people, and it usually follows anger. We get angry and these words leap into our heads as a way of expressing how angry we are to other people. Jesus didn't speak that way, though He got angry, and He expects us to control this also.
One final verse on this subject:
8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
(Col. 3:8 NIV)
How we speak is really important, and GOD will take into account every spoken word and every thought we've had when we stand in judgment. Thankfully, in Jesus, we can confess these sins to GOD and He'll remember them against us no more.