John Parker is the Lead Pastor at Summit Church.

I have to admit, I love the contrast between how Paul wrote his letters and James’ own letter. Paul gives thoughtful greetings and prayers that are often predictive of what he will address in the body of his letter. It is beautiful and brilliant.

James simply gets to it.

Hey you (the twelve tribes in diaspora).
It’s me (James).
Hi (because I have to say hi).

That’s it. No frills. He then just jumps into what he has to say. And where he jumps is in the deeper end of the pool. Trials. Temptations. Position. Religion.

In its own way, James’ letter does exactly what he is teaching—it gets to the action quickly. And actions matter.

James makes just that point beginning in the 22nd verse of chapter one. Don’t just listen, do. In fact, if you only listen and take no action, then it is pretty much the same as forgetting what you heard in the first place. Merely knowing isn’t the good that God has in mind for us. In the heart of God’s desire for us is the reality that our knowledge leads to transformed hearts, transformed actions, and ultimately transformation for others as well (my very paraphrased summary).

In the heart of God’s desire for us is the reality that our knowledge leads to transformed hearts, transformed actions, and ultimately transformation for others as well

I think James knows where we all struggle. Rarely is the struggle in our lack of knowledge; our struggle is in the actual action that knowledge should lead to.

For example (and this is purely hypothetical, of course), if Brandy and the kids went to visit family over the Memorial Day weekend and if, before she left, Brandy indicated that she would appreciate it if I painted the entry wall while she was gone, I would have just acquired some potentially very useful knowledge.

If then, (in this very hypothetical and outrageous example) Brandy returned from her travels and found the wall unpainted, what value would the knowledge that the wall should be painted hold? That knowledge would mean little to her or to myself. The reality is that the knowledge was intended to lead to action (hypothetically), and it was the action that would have made the world a better place.

To punctuate this point, James points out that pure and incorruptible devotion to God cannot be found merely in words. Rather, as a result of what we know, our devotion is shown in pure and unselfish action on behalf of the vulnerable in our world, and in the rejection of the things that would dilute or pollute our sensitivity to what goodness actually is.

James begins his letter not mincing words. Why? Because words are not how the whole story is told. The story is told in transformed lives and transformed actions.


 
 

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