Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 25

JesusJames*.jpgWe will look this week at James 1:22-25, and I want to begin by quoting these most important of verses:

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 a man 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
the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and
continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he
will be blessed in what he does.


Once again, James — the one to the right — looks like his brother.

Any number of texts come to mind, but what first comes to mind for me is the ending of the Sermon on the Mount: those who are the true followers of Jesus are those who follow him by doing what he says. The parable of the foolish man and the wise man, at its heart, is a parable about saying vs. doing, a parable exhorting his listeners to follow him by doing what he says.

A “doer” of the word is one who both listens and does and the counterpart is the one who listens (and knows) but doesn’t do.

Inherent, evidently, to the second group is self-deception, as if listening brings with it an air of congratulations for the knowing. The self-deception is not a major issue for James, but it is clearly present in this text: James, like his brother, expects his readers to do what he says. Not because he is God but because what he utters is truth and authoritative.

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posted March 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Thanks for this series. I’ve thought about some of the similarities of the texts in James to Jesus’ statements in the gospels, but I’ve never thought of how much James thinks and talks “like his brother.” Good, helpful thought. I didn’t read your book on Mary yet, but did you talk about her as the common link on some of this (particularly the rich/poor teachings found in the both Jesus’ and James’ teachings)?

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Scot McKnight

posted March 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Yes, I do a little connecting of James to Mary in the James Commentary. A little, also, in the The Real Mary book.

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posted March 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Wow – a post here where I neither push back nor feel an urge to push back. Good stuff – I agree with T, reading James in context of the message of Jesus with the magnificat thrown in is enlightening.
One thing I find interesting in the sermon on the mount – just before the wise and foolish men in Mt 7:21-23 – is that doing the will of the father isn’t religious practice or signs – it isn’t enough to acknowledge Lordship, cast out demons, prophesy, or perform many miracles.

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posted March 30, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Thanks Scot, for your very thoughtful series. I think generally we all could be much better ‘doers’. Of course in saying that I think it’s very important to acknowledge where the power to ‘do’ comes from otherwise we get muddled with pride and legalism and it’s ultimately wasted human effort rather than doing the will of the Father. (I personally need to pray more so that I’m ‘doing’ more that’s more effective for the kingdom and doing less that isn’t.)

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posted March 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Tough book James; Luther wondered if it should be in the Sacred Canon; but you handle it well and show us exctly why it is indeed inspired Scripture. You make a connection in a way I never have before; knowing James as the brother of our Lord, and reading James as indeed he is places much in James in proper perspective. Thank you for the insight. And God bless as we do the word together.

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