James 1:5 "let him ask"
Let's talk today about the subject of "asking" God for things we want Him to do. It is important that we approach this subject in a correct fashion. There is no need for us to beg the Lord to do things for us that He has already given us in Christ. For example, we do not have to come to God saying "please, please, O' God, give me wisdom" but rather use this approach, "Lord I know that you have told me in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Christ is "made unto us wisdom" etc and in Colossians 2:3. You have said that in "Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Since Christ is in me, it is my privilege to be able to access this wisdom any time I need it by simply reaching out in faith and taking it.
Our "asking" might be sort of like this. Mother has just made a large batch of chocolate pudding and has indicated that Johnny may have all he wants so he "asks" for a big bowl of it. It is more like reaching out and taking what already has been given.
An Old Testament example comes to mind. Joshua was told "every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon (that is, in the Promised Land beyond Jordan) that have I given unto you...." (Joshua 1:3. All that was required was the placing of the foot upon it and the claiming of God's promise.
What often stands in the way of our having the very wisdom of Christ (of God) is the fact that we instinctively turn to our own wisdom first which can be "earthly, sensual and devilish" as James later warns (3:15). When we confess the folly of falling into this pattern we can reach out and take the "wisdom that is from above" for surely it is as available as mom's chocolate pudding that she made especially for her little boy who loves it so.
James 2:12 The Law of Liberty
All the commentaries that I have checked agree that this term "law of liberty" refers to the gospel in contrast to the Mosaic law. James speaks of the "royal law" as being that of love (v.8) and here in this chapter is invoking that law upon those who are obviously breaking it by being respecters of persons when it came to making a distinction between the rich and the poor. He seems particularly concerned about this subject of the "rich" and speaks of it several times (1:10; 2:6; and 5:1-6).
Certainly the law of love demands that we be concerned for the poor, especially when they are members of "the household of faith" (Gal.6:10) and none of us would deny the rationality of verse 10. It is in this context that James talks about faith and works. Anyone who thinks that simply saying to a destitute person, "be ye warmed and filled" without recognizing the necessity of doing something to help them has a strange kind of faith. It is that ridiculous brand of faith that James has under the microscope here and there isn't one of us who are truly saved that would disagree with him.
Hopefully we will all be just as quick to judge as folly the first subject of this chapter, that of being partial. It certainly is just as wrong of us to do it as it would be for us to neglect the poor. The difference is, we don't have very many really poor people around us today because of welfare but the tendency for us to think more highly of some people than of others is certainly a problem we should be dealing with. The law of love demands it!
James 3 The Tongue
The obvious subject of today's chapter here in the book of James concerns the tongue. It brings to mind an illustration that I heard once that pictures the tongue as a bucket in a well. The well is our heart and the bucket brings to the surface whatever is in the well.
The real problem of having a tongue out of control is having at heart a fountain that is contaminated. The Lord Jesus spoke to the Pharisees of His day who were accusing Him of casting out demons through some alliance with Satan, saying to them that it is "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." He went on to say that "a good man out of the good treasures of his heart bringeth forth good things" and vice versa. (Matthew 12: 34-37)
In the case of James' hearers, there was an indication that there was bitterness at the "heart" of the matter (v.4) and I think we can always conclude, based on our Lord's words on the subject as mentioned above, that the tongue will expose what the heart is really like.
How can cursing or offensive words come from a heart that is right with God? We must realize therefore that fellow believers whose hearts are not fully yielded to Him may produce an inconsistent testimony, bringing forth both sweet water and bitter. We hear of this kind of confusion (v.16) a lot and though "these things ought not to be" the fact is, it is quite a revelation of the lack of wisdom to hear what Christians verbalize much of the time.
If we are daily drawing upon God for His wisdom as described in verse 17 and if we are in fellowship with His people as we assemble together we will be less likely to be guilty of stabbing fellow Christians in the back which is what the basic meaning of cursing men means. Recognizing that they are in God's image should also help us to respect His property. See if you can relate Matt. 22:20 & 21 and James 3:9.
James 4:10 Humble Yourself
Let us note that the Scripture here tells us to humble ourselves in the sight of God. We are not to expect Him to humble us though He could and might but rather we are being commanded here to do the humbling ourselves. In view of the fact that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble we should be quick to submit. We do this when we follow some of the advice given in this chapter. A humble person is one who has a scriptural view of who God is and an honest and Biblical evaluation of himself in the light of God's character. Anything less than the character of Christ is to be classified as being sinful because God intended us to be like Himself and the Lord Jesus is a man as God intended man to be.
If our hands are involved in any unclean habits or if there is impurity in our hearts (mind) there must be confession and a seeking for restoration. This is the equivalent of humbling ourselves. Spiritual adultery is in view in verse four. We should examine our interaction with the world to make sure that it is not drawing us away from being faithful to our First Love. The Holy Spirit is extremely jealous of our being true to Christ. If He convicts us on this issue we must humble ourselves and cultivate a contrite heart.
Doing these things cannot help but draw us nearer to God and though He is in us and cannot be nearer in one sense than He already is, yet He will be nearer in our thoughts and prayers and thus also the devil will be resisted. The suggestion that we ought to say, "if the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that" is a good test as to whether we are consciously acknowledging the Lord in all our ways as Pro. 3:5 & 6 indicates we should. Let us develop this habit which will also demonstrate a humble heart.
James 5:16 "Fervent Prayer"
Somewhere between "too much" and "too little" lies "just right." I think that our praying might be more effectual if we can just find our way there. We have all been guilty of praying perfunctorily i.e. in a routine and superficial manner. "Lord, bless the missionaries and be with Aunt Susie." May I suggest that He has indeed blessed us all and is doing so every day without our help and that if Aunt Susie is saved, He is actually in her and so can't help but be with her all the time. There certainly must be a better way to spend our time and breath than continually mouthing such phrases.
On the other hand, there are so many demands made on our prayer life that it may become burdensome and we either quit or lose our enjoyment of spending time in the presence of our wonderful and wonder-working God.
I think that the Lord's chief reason for urging us to pray is that He desires our fellowship. He already knows what we need (Matt.6:32) and what we will say (Psalm 139:4). I know that I need to check myself often to make sure I am not just "going thru the motions."
This verse indicates the place for fervency in our requests and Barnes says this word speaks of being energetic or earnest.
Perhaps we should choose a few missionaries, carefully reading their letters and praying more specifically for their requests. If we take on too many we will soon develop the habit of being general and impersonal. When praying for Aunt Susie we might ask that she understand God's will for her life and that she learn to be obedient to some new truth, etc.