Justice in the Book of James, Day 4

 

Bible Gateway

Today’s reading is drawn from James 1:9-11, James 2, James 5, and James 1:27.

Since James has been primarily read from the point of view of the “faith and works dichotomy,” many readers fail to pay attention to a very important concern of the epistle—the relationship between the rich and the poor, and the book’s denunciation of the abuses of the economically powerful against the poor and powerless. In many ways, the book’s teaching concerning the preferential option for the poor (e.g., 1:9–11; 2:5), solidarity with the weak and the oppressed (1:27; 2:1–26) and condemnation of the luxurious life of rich oppressors (5:1–6) is silenced by a kind of reading that is not attentive to issues of justice.

James, regarded as a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15), addresses the epistle to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” This refers to the early Jewish believers pushed out of Judea because of persecution (cf. Acts 8). As scattered migrants or refugees their life was difficult. They were marginalized and hence could easily be subjected to many forms of discrimination by the economically and politically powerful. In a way, this epistle is like a letter of a Filipino pastor to Overseas Filipino Workers scattered around the globe and exposed to many forms of abuse. Judging from chapter 2, this discrimination was also happening inside the community of faith. Even in church services the wealthy are given preference over the poor, even though the rich are the ones persecuting the community.

James offers the message that God has taken the side of the poor, choosing them to be his heirs. He says that God has already begun to judge their oppressors. Because of this, the poor are encouraged to be proud of their new status before God (1:9–11), to be actively patient in facing their trials and to be confident of the future (chap. 5). At the same time, the rich people are reminded to be humble (1:10–11), to apply the message of the word (2:8–9) to their lives, to avoid trusting in their riches and to be just in their treatment of their laborers (5:1–6).

James calls the believers toward a life of social justice, a radical life that is shaped not by the utilitarian and oppressing powers of the world but by the liberating gospel of Christ.

— Noli Mendoza, Philippines (Excerpted from the book introduction to James)

 

Unsung Heroes

“Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom…. Wealth and honor come from you.” 1 Chronicles 29:11–12

As a society, we are inclined to honor heroes and high achievers. We award a Purple Heart to soldiers wounded in action. We admire All‐Americans who excel in college football, basketball, or baseball. We celebrate winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. We applaud students who graduate magna cum laude. We fawn over movie stars at the Academy Awards. But who takes time to honor the wives and husbands who diligently fulfill their responsibilities each day? Who cares about these unsung heroes who give of themselves, sacrificing for their children or caring for each other? Most often, the only cheering section for such couples is themselves—but when one partner doesn’t seem to notice, it’s pretty tough for the other to feel valued or motivated.

Scripture is clear regarding this matter. The apostle Paul says, “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). There’s no better place to apply this verse than in your home—with the husband or wife sitting next to you.

Just between us…

  • What do you think honoring each other means in the context of marriage?
  • Do you feel “honored” by me?
  • Do you know, without a doubt, that I hold you in highest esteem?

When in our marriage have you most felt this way? When have you not?

Dear Lord, in our rush, to admire and celebrate the achievements of others, help us to remember the loving life partner right beside us who most deserves our appreciation and respect. Open our eyes to simple but meaningful ways we can show honor. Amen

 Bible Gateway

Doctrine: Atonement; God’s Forgiveness, Day 2

Today’s reading is drawn from Leviticus 6:6-7 and Leviticus 4:26.

On August 7, 2007, baseball slugger Barry Bonds hit career home run number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron’s record. However, many questioned whether or not the new record should count because Bonds was alleged to have used steroids. Sports buffs said if his name is listed in the record book, it should be accompanied by an asterisk to indicate that the record is a sort-of record, a tainted record. In 2008 Mark Ecko, the man who bought the ball Bonds hit to set the record, branded the baseball with an asterisk and donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not unusual for Christians to imagine we have an asterisk by our name. We may be destined for that Hall of Fame called heaven, but aware that our lives our tainted, we’re left with a sour taste in our souls. We’re grateful to enjoy eternal life with God, but we wish there wasn’t that sense of being tainted. The gospel is hard to believe at just this point, but it is nonetheless the great truth. There is no longer a need for sin offerings. The forgiveness we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just make our sin null and void, it also erases the asterisk. God doesn’t see a fixed sinner, but someone righteous and pristine. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are a new creation. The old has passed away — so much so that there is no need for an asterisk — and all things have become new.

Bible Gateway

The God of Empathy, Day 2

Today’s reading is drawn from 2 Samuel 22:26-28.

Observation

God accepts everyone regardless of their season of life or the state of their maturity. He isn’t a one-size-fits-all God but rather one who knows us inside and out: “The LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13 – 14).

If we come to God with humility, he will respond with compassion, but if we come to him proud or thinking we are right and everyone else is wrong, then he will humble us.

The Pharisees came to Jesus proud, and he pressed hard against them. On the other hand, the woman caught in adultery came to Jesus with humility, and he forgave her with kindness.

Application

Let us be careful as to how we approach the things of God, for he is holy. Ecclesiastes 5:1 – 2 tells us: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

Prayer

Lord, thank you for reminding me of your holiness. I am privileged to relate to you in honor and fear. You are a great and awesome God, yet you are merciful and kind. Thank you for allowing me to learn your ways in order that I might cooperate with you each day.

 
 Bible Gateway