Reading for Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: James 1:17-27
Peace be with you!
Do you know anyone who says they are a Christian but does not act like one? Some people go to church and say the right things, but they do things contrary to God’s love. Maybe you have met people who say “love your neighbors,” but will spread hate in the church. Maybe you have gone to a new church and felt like an outcast.
We begin a five-week series in the book of James, which is attributed to Jesus’s brother, James, an early church leader in Jerusalem. Unlike Paul, James is more concerned with practical theology than theological theories. The main goal for James is to have people examine their lives and to seek to live out their faith in Jesus Christ.
James has witnessed people act contrary to their faith. In the opening chapter, James answers two questions:
- Who is God?
- Who are we supposed to be?
As he engages these questions, James challenges his readers to examine their actions through the lens of their faith.
Who is God? God is the creator of earth and heaven (Genesis 1) and the Father of the lights (James 1:17b; cf Genesis 1:3, 14-17) who gives us life through the true word (James 1:18). Unlike the devil, God does not live in the shadows. Instead God is the light of the world who gives life to all things. Every time God creates living and non-living things he says, “It is good” (Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). After God created part of creation, he said, “It is good.” God does not have two sides to him—good and evil—like the Force in Star Wars. God is just good, and therefore we are good as his creation.
God is so good that he shows us the truth and gives us the good news through Jesus Christ. God makes it possible for us to be in a relationship with him by sending Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins and be raised to new life. Because he is the light of the world, Jesus gives us the word of truth. He gives us new life with God the Father when we are born again through our baptism. Jesus invites us to walk in the light and to be the light in the world to share his good news (John 12:36a).
When we see all the darkness in the world and battle with our own sinful nature, it’s easy to forget that God has made us children of light. It’s easy to forget to live into that reality that God has created for us. We get consumed by the busyness of the world. We forget to pause and to look for the light. We forget to thank God for the gift he gives us for free. Instead we keep working toward the empty promises of the devil—wealth, power and authority, and envy. We are never happy with what we are given and always want more—bigger houses, better cars, latest technology, and the next promotion. We speak and act against our neighbor. We judge people based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, economical standing, and more. However, when we walk in the light, we express God’s love in the world. The light makes it possible to look pass people’s differences and to care and love them for who they are and where they are. We can then care for people’s needs. God’s light and love knows no boundaries.
James says, “Stop saying you are a Christian and acting otherwise. If you are going to say you are a Christian, love your God, love your neighbor, care for the needy, and feed and clothe the poor. Stop serving the devil, and start truly serving the Lord.” When we speak out of anger, we go against God’s righteousness (James 1:19-20). Wickedness does not serve God’s purpose for us as his creation.
James challenges us to really look at ourselves in a mirror (James 1:23, 25). Do you act like a Christian? Do you speak with care and love? Do you lend a hand to the needy? Do you advocate for social justice? Do you feed and clothe the poor? Some people forget who they are as soon as they leave church and go back to doing things their way. These people turn their backs to God, even when they claim to be Christians. However, when you live out your faith, you bring God’s righteousness and light into the world. God commissions us to care for his creation—to care for orphans and widows.
When we share God’s forgiveness, grace, and love, we bring a little bit of heaven to earth. This allows us to strengthen our relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (James 1:18). God brings us to new life with Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for being in a relationship with us. Help us to cast away wickedness and to walk in your light and ways. Lead us to care for the needy, the poor, and the widows. Thank you for giving us new life through Jesus Christ. Amen.