We need God. It’s plain and simple, lest we fall into the traps set in this world and become enemies of God. Only God can transform us from the thrill seeking, self-serving, humans we are by nature into humble servants dedicated to pleasing God.
James’ counsel here is a bit over the top when he talks about our envious desires leading us to killing someone. It appears his audience needs the “wow factor” to get their attention. I can just hear someone saying, “God doesn’t listen because he didn’t give me what I wanted.” That’s a great example of having the wrong motives. God knows our heart. He knows why we ask for what we do. Is what we’re asking for merely for our own pleasure?
One of the basic themes of James’ letter is that God exalts the poor and humbles the rich. Why does he do that? It’s so only the humble can boast. Think about that for a second. When we allow God to work in our lives and give God the credit for what we have accomplished, our whole mindset shifts. Who gets the glory? Certainly not us, and rightly so.
Even Paul was clear on this. He told us he was glad to boast about his weaknesses because that showed God at work when he overcame times of adversity. Our text here in James is using the example of being poor and rich. James may be recalling Psalm 49:6 which reads, “They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches.” Think about some wealthy people you know. Do they humble themselves before God and give God the credit for their abundance? Or are they more like the one described by the psalmist?
Yes. Yes. Yes. And, yes! I would say those are my answers to Paul’s first four questions. He seems to be urging his friends into spiritual unity. When we can all work together, caring for others and putting others first, we move closer to becoming more like Jesus. Selfish behavior can ruin a church while humility can restore and rebuild. Think about a situation in your church or community where grace and respect would have been the better answer.
Read these “warning” words from Paul again, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” If you’re like me, you immediately pictured yourself in the “reprimand.” Now read this message again and picture Jesus and how he lived and interacted with others. How cool is that? Jesus totally lived out these words!
Have you ever been mad at God? So mad that you turned away from him and started “acting out” like a rebellious child? Maybe you’ve even yelled at him for something he allowed to happen. It just wasn’t fair. I can relate and think of time when I felt disappointed and let down only to look back and realize God was there all along. Life lessons are not always enjoyable.
In God’s message through Micah in this reading, we see God pleading with his people to tell him their innermost secrets. God wants them to verbalize what he has done wrong. He quickly points out several examples of great deliverance and provision. God wants to understand, and he wants to hear it in their own words.
Who is Jesus? That’s the theme we’ll be exploring for the next few readings. This passage is certainly full of clues. Jesus has even given us an example to follow, just as he did for his disciples. What stood out to you today?
Jesus as our servant has always been a powerful image for me. Foot washing was done by the servant in the house. You can imagine the disciples’ surprise when Jesus was making this offer. Peter can’t get over it. Jesus told him, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”