I’ve always been a big fan of James, the author of the book that carries his name. He is one of the guys I think I will most enjoy meeting in heaven. I don’t think James would have watched a lot of television, entered a lot of debates, or spent a lot of time protesting and complaining about the current issues of the day. James set high standards for Christians and taught us to live with those standards as our highest goal. He didn’t ignore the problems of his day, but he didn’t focus on the problems either. I think if James were alive today, he would use the phrase “That isn’t the point” on a regular basis.
James was probably the oldest son after Jesus and probably took the position as the leader in the home when Jesus began his earthly ministry. It’s likely that James led the family to confront Jesus when they thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). That is when Jesus defined his family as “whoever does God’s will” (Mark 3:35). James meant well; he just didn’t understand yet. James is a practical, straightforward book about Christian living. James cuts to the chase, and I like that.
The other day I happened upon one of the daytime talk shows and the topic caught my attention. I don’t remember what the women were “discussing.” I do remember that ten minutes into the conversation each had debated the issue, shared what they thought, and the conclusion was that no one really had a clear opinion at all. I clicked off the television and thought, “When did we start to care more about what a celebrity thinks in the moment instead of what an expert thinks after actually thinking?” James would have looked at each of those women and said, “You are missing the point.”
James had learned the difference between having an opinion in the moment and knowing the truth about a situation. Jesus was preaching when James and the rest of the family went to find their brother and “bring him home.” But Jesus wasn’t their brother; he was their Lord. Jesus could have looked at his family that day and told them, “You are missing the point.”
If I could preach a sermon today, I would preach James’s words to the Christian believers in his culture. James went straight to the point when he said, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:19–22). (If I could insert the mic-drop emoji here I would.)
Is the world right, or is the Word right? Should feelings be more important than facts? Should Christians shout our truth or show it? Should we prove it or believe it? Should we be angry or should we be righteous? James already answered those questions, so we shouldn’t complicate the obvious. Moral filth and evil were prevalent in James’s culture and in every culture before and after. Our anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires, so James tells us to simply get rid of it.
Let’s not complicate the obvious. If you are reading this blog, chances are you know what the Bible teaches on almost every issue our culture is facing. James would say: humbly accept the word planted in you. It isn’t complicated to know what the Bible says; it is just an effort to choose to believe it and live it.
I wonder how long it was before James realized that his brother was his Lord. I wonder how long it took for him to tell Jesus, “Hey, I’m really sorry I didn’t listen.” Maybe that is why James wanted to tell Christians, “Don’t deceive yourselves. Just do what Jesus said!”
There is no reason to complicate the obvious or debate the truth. If we do, we are missing the point. James told us to obey the word planted in our lives. If that is the only goal we have today, we are doing well.