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Truth Telling Above All – James 5:12

As James brings his letter to a close, he insists that we watch out for one another, care for one another.  We are a redeemed and redeeming community.  And as James introduces the end of his letter, he sets the most important thing first.  “Above all,” he says, we must speak truth in love. Throughout history, some have thought this verse prohibited all oath taking.  But oaths have always had a place in the administration of justice, and God is…

Responding to Injury with Patient Endurance – James 5:7-11

A Warning and a Hope As James issues his stark warning to the unrepentant oppressors, he offers the faithful a word of comfort.  And the occasion for both is the same: Jesus is coming back soon.  And when he returns, it will not be as servant, but as king, as judge.  While we all need to heed the warning of James 4:13-17 lest we be condemned (James 5:1-6). We can also take comfort in the coming of the judge.  He…

Holey versus Holy

Those who refused to heed the cautionary words at the end of chapter 4 should anticipate the harshest judgment.  They are told to week and howl for the miseries that are coming upon them.  But who are these ‘rich’ people?  Is this a blanket condemnation of the wealthy?  What is the crime they have committed? Laid up Treasure At the most basic level, the crime they are charged with is ‘laying up treasure’.  But saving money is not sinful.  The…

Plan as God Wills

James 4:13-17 isn’t so much a condemnation of planning, as it is a condemnation of selfish planning.  The merchants’ words in v. 13 aren’t problematic in what they say. They are problematic in what the don’t say. Life is Short The merchants’ plans are, first of all, presumptuous.  Not only is the future uncertain, rendering all of our plans tentative endeavors at best, but the brevity of life and the impending judgment ought to set our plans in eternal perspective.…

Who are you to judge your brother?

In James 4:11-12, James warns us against passing judgment on others.  Obviously, he’s not against exercising discernment, nor is he against correction.  After all, he’s just called the congregation he writes to a bunch of adulteresses, correcting them for their rank idolatry. The 9th Commandment What James is concerned about, rather, is a judgmental spirit that holds itself above the law or above its neighbor.  Whenever we advertise the failings of our neighbor, we actually violate the law.  The 9th…

Friendship with the World: Ezekiel sheds light on James

James 4:1-12 is a rich passage.  It begins by tracing the origin of all conflict (literally ‘wars’ and ‘duels’) to our own covetousness. But then James draws us into the idolatrous nature of such covetousness. And he does so by looking at our prayer life.  We want. We don’t get what we want.  Frustration which arises causes conflict.  But why do we not get what we want?  James points to two reasons.  We don’t ask.  And we ask wrongly. We…

Kingdom Humility: Philippians 1:27-2:11

Paul has one concern for his Philippian brethren. He would have them live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Obviously, we cannot live in such a way that our lives would be ‘deserving of’, or ‘worth’ the death of Christ.  Paul cannot be meaning “worthy” in that sense.  All of our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before him, and as the most we could ever do would only be our duty (Isa 64:6; Luk 17:10).  Rather,…

Paul’s Kingdom Mindset

As Paul writes to his beloved Philippians from house arrest in Rome, he’s intent on 1) thanking them for their generous contribution, 2) dissuading them from further giving, since they are impoverished and he is well-supplied, and 3) addressing the divisions that are creeping into their fellowship. He does so by setting before them a self-less kingdom minded example to follow (Phil 3:17; 4:9). The kingdom advances In chapter 1, vv. 12-18a, Paul wants to assure the Philippians that he…

Jesus Clams Up: Luke 22:63-71

The Fear of Man Historiography is a selective process. We don’t know the names of many privates or corporals from the Civil War, and not every battle makes it into our history books. Like any historian, Luke had to be selective. Like any good historian, Luke chose just the right details to make his point well. He tells us nothing about the trial before Annas (John 18:12-24) or even the night-time trial before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57-68). Nor does he mention…

Following Jesus through the Valley

A Sharp Contrast The disciples wasted no time moving from “Who’s the worst among us?” … “Who’s the traitor?” … “Who could do such a thing as to betray our Lord?” … to jockeying for position, determining for themselves a pecking order. But if we read Luke 22:24 closely, we find that they aren’t even actually interested in being the greatest. At least not in this iteration of their favorite discussion. They are willing to settle for the imitation ……

How Could Judas Do Such a Thing?

Satan Conspires and Men are Culpable Have you ever wondered about Judas? How could a guy who spent the last 2 to 3 years traveling around the country with Jesus stoop so low as to betray him? The answer is only hinted at in Luke, but the Gospels as a whole answer it clearly enough. Luke only tells us that the priests and scribes “agreed to give him money.” (Luke 22:5) But Matthew informs us that it was Judas who…

Ready to Stand: Filtering the ‘Noise’ from the Olivet Discourse

When the Bible starts talking about Jesus’ return, it’s easy to get lost in enigmatic details, and it’s easy to forget what is really important. As we consider Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:5-38), one way to avoid getting all confused is to focus our attention on the commands that Jesus gives in that passage. Context The whole issue comes up in a roundabout way. Jesus had just finished condemning the hypocrisy of scribes, who are all about…
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