Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 29

JesusJames*.jpg I wonder how many Christians, especially since the Reformation, genuinely believe what James — in powerful adaptation of his brother — says in James 1:26-27.

If anyone considers himself religious and
yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and
his religion is worthless. 27 Religion
that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look
after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from
being polluted by the world.


The words are clear; the implications clear; the message nonetheless seemingly either hard or exaggerated. What do you think?

Jesus, too, put a big value on the limitations of what we claim (cf. Matt 7:21-23) and on the expectation of deeds of mercy (Luke 10:25-37). Here James is standing in the same water as the Master of Galilee.

And James pushes against the claim of being religious and pious and acceptable before God: the sketch of James is clear and vivid. This person stands in front of us and makes the claim that he or she is religious.

Claims without deeds are vacuous. What we think of ourselves may be self-deception. How do we know the difference? (Come back tomorrow.)

Gal 6:3: For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.

1 Cor 3:18: If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.

1 Cor 10:12: So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

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tim atwater

posted April 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Scot, in your commentary (or elsewhere) do you go into the history of interpretation of James much?
you hint at this in your remark above (since the Ref…)
If we are to take it entirely literally should it also apply to writing? (should we shut down both church and academia in other words) or
is James doing a little hyperbole to get our attention?
Either way James would appear to be sparser in speech (true to his own word) than any other NT author — no?
Can you bug Belief Net into getting back the follow-by-email function you used to run?
liked the Luke commentaries post too but by the time i got there i think any discussion was all over. Amen to Joel Green. Culpepper is good too even if he’s really a John guy. And Tannehill should be on the short list even with just one slim commentary, for Narrative Unity of Luke Acts.

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Dave Leigh

posted April 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Great questions! A couple more verses from Paul along the same lines:
“If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know” – 1Co 8:2 NAS
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Ro 12:3 TNIV

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Scot McKnight

posted April 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I don’t do the history of interpretation; there are those who have done that well. Luke Timothy Johnson comes to mind.
James’ concern seems to be teachers — James 3:1-4:12 is about teachers mostly — and he urges them to use their tongues for good things and not bad things. So, talk away … but be edifying (most of the time).

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posted April 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Good stuff …

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posted April 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Scot, much of this is pretty straight forward, and we’ve done both well and poorly at this at times in the church. What often gets more attention is that last line of not being polluted by the world. What do you make of what it means to “keep oneself from being polluted by the world”?

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Georges Boujakly

posted April 6, 2009 at 5:56 pm

As a recipient of pure and faultless religion from being orphaned very early in life I thank God some in the church took James and Jesus’ words seriously.

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posted April 6, 2009 at 6:38 pm

m (#5) asked:
“What do you make of what it means to “keep oneself from being polluted by the world”?”
I wonder if Romans 5:8 is a guide …
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” (NLT)
My paraphrase – we aren’t being ‘polluted by the world’ when our ‘raison d’etre’ really is to live for God’s Kingdom under the Spirit’s guidance.

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posted April 6, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I think too often we Christians sit around discussing what Paul said rather than getting out and doing what Jesus did.

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posted April 7, 2009 at 12:19 am

Well said Georgetta, though in this case we’re discussing what James said :). We should ban all Christian blogs since they’re only tempting us away from ‘doing’ God’s work. OK, I jest … of course there’s a need for both thinking and doing, so you’re simply reminding us not to think/talk/blog etc to the point that we forget about doing. That sounds rather James-ish :).

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Scott Eaton

posted April 7, 2009 at 9:14 am


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posted April 7, 2009 at 12:15 pm
link to article, Severing a Life Line… The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy.
To enforce some laws and deport undocumented immigrants, other laws about the best interests of the children are ignored. Children of raids are experiencing trauma and other emotional issues related to the way our country is handling this process. Read it.
I would be curious about how we might apply the passage in question that james wrote. That is where the rubber meets the road. Unless we can apply such texts to real world issues that we are actually facing, what good is our religion.

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posted April 7, 2009 at 12:33 pm

one more thing to add…. i think that when an issue such as this becomes a political issue, the actual people are in some sense objectified and dehumanized in the debate.
I think James would call us to see the people and think about how we might love them well according to the kingdom of God and the heart of Christ.

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Cardiff by the sea Hotels

posted September 17, 2014 at 7:44 am

Thank you, I’ve just been looking for information about this subject for ages and
yours is the greatest I’ve came upon till now. However, what concerning the bottom line?
Are you sure about the source?

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