James introduces this section by suggesting a problem he must have observed. “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” Certainly we’d all agree that faith should show itself through deeds of loving service.
In a recent Bible study discussion, I marveled at my pastor husband, David’s comment about this text. He posed an interesting scenario of observing a discussion about faith between our author here, James, and the apostle Paul. We’d see two very faithful men with two very different perspectives. Is that a bad thing? After all, the gospels all talk about Jesus’ life and ministry from different viewpoints. When it comes to understanding our faith, these differences can be confusing.
It was interesting to hear the story of the Rechabites and how they are singled out for God’s purposes. Apparently, the Rechabites were a small group of Israelites, related to the Kenites, living in southern Judah. They hadn’t let the corruption of foreign gods discolor their faithfulness. In fact, this passage illustrates how the Rechabites exemplify what it means to be faithful and true.
In the example we’re shown, this faithfulness extends to a rule they had been given by a loved one. I found it strange there was no direct mention of God or their devotion to him. Their actions point to a devout vow that must have been started to avoid being distracted by wine and spirits.
Do you feel like you just started a guided tour? Can’t you just hear the tour guide talking over his mobile microphone, giving you all the measurements, dates, and such so you can know the historical elements of the building? We are just beginning with the picture of God’s new dwelling place.
Am I the only one that got out a piece of paper and sketched what this might have looked like? I’m very visual, and often I try to create something tangible to look at using the description I am given. In this case, I have a nice narrow rectangle with a smaller rectangle jutting out from the front.
What is it about the human psyche that causes us to want to be like someone else? Why are we never comfortable in our own skin? In our business, I’ve been known to teach on the trap of “compare-itis.” That is when we find ourselves stuck in a pattern of looking at those around us, comparing ourselves in unhealthy ways. We find ourselves wanting to be thinner, younger (or older), better speakers, better musicians, have nicer clothes, bigger house, etc. We are always striving to have a better this or better that.
You’d be fooling yourself if you say you’ve never done any of this comparing. Paul is giving us some words of wisdom here. Instead of imitating another because of a physical attribute, Paul wants us to imitate those with greater faith than we have. I take it a step farther and remember the fad of “WWJD” – that is, What Would Jesus Do?
What is your first reaction when someone brings harm to you or someone you know? Is it getting even? What should we think when we read in the Bible where it says “an eye for an eye”? What’s that all about?
Paul is clear here in this verse. We should not repay evil with evil. I remember being picked on as a child. Hurtful words are certainly evil in my book. It was so tempting to lash back with more of the same, but I didn’t have the courage. Looking back, it seems my fear actually kept me from sinning in return.