James is known as the wisdom book of the New Testament. James is full of wise sayings also known as proverbs. Let’s take another look a few of the proverbs from James this morning: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness”. (James 1:19-20)
If I were to take a survey, I would guess that everyone in this sanctuary would like to do better at being “quick to listen, and slow to speak”, to have the patience to think about what you’re going to say before you say it, especially if it’s in a heated discussion. It’s a wise principle to cultivate and live by. “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness (nastiness or unpleasantness), and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls” (James 1:21)
The invitation to receive the implanted word with meekness is not an invitation to be converted. To receive the implanted word means to seek to live the teachings of Jesus and the early apostles, to be transformed to live your life differently, as confirmed by the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law within and I will write it upon their hearts”, (Jeremiah 31:33) and the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it”. (Luke 11:28)
James continues about the importance of being doers of the word and not just listeners. It is good to be quick to listen, but it does not stop there. “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they look like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, (the real mirror) and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing”. (James 1:20-22)
We have been talking the last few weeks from the teachings of Ephesians and the gospel readings about putting principles of the kingdom of God taught by Jesus and New Testament writers, and confirmed here again this morning in the proverbs of James, that we are called to be doers of the word, not just hearers. Sometimes there can be an overemphasis on the hearing and not enough emphasis on the doing.
James is saying to us that we need to allow the law of liberty; the teachings of the kingdom of God, as we are taught every week in in the reading of the gospels and the reading of other scripture are to be listened to, thought about, and then planted, embedded within our heart. It is then and only then that we can begin to practice that word.
This is what it means to look into the mirror of God, the mirror of truth, and then to actually allow that word, that teaching to transform your life, renew your spirit, change your world view, and give you that desire to live your life the way God wants you to do, regardless of what others do or teachings that go against what God teaches. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all”. Well, Jesus is of course, and when we put the teachings of Jesus into our lives we will begin to look like, talk like and live like He lives.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus says: “It’s not what comes into you that defile you, but it is what comes out of your heart that defiles you”. (Mark 7:15) James encourages us to put away the filthiness of the world and allow the embedded word, the implanted word change you from the inside out. In other words, get rid of the old wardrobe and put on a new wardrobe, a new way of living your life.
How does James describe true religion, true faith? He says that it’s good to clean up the way we live our lives, to seek God in a vertical pursuit, but do not forget the horizontal pursuit, In other words we are encouraged to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves, “to care for the orphans and widows”. We are called to care for those that society has discarded, to care for the down and outers. Who are the down and outers. We recognize them on the street, the hungry the homeless, the sick. But, look around you. Are we caring for the needs of each other, and are we caring for the needs of all people in our community in the best way that we can. This is true religion and true faith according the letter of James. (James 1:17-27)
The Way of the Cross
- To care for others—Horizontal relationship with God.
- To live a moral and upright life before God—Vertical relationship with God.
Looking into the mirror of God, means that we not look hastily or briefly, but look intently and allow the reflection of the word to become planted within us, and that reflection will continue to shine on us and reveal the way that we should live our lives on this earth.
Looking into the mirror of God!
Scripture references: James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23