Jamesby Douglas Estes
After several critical questions and answers that have surely put his readers on the defensive, James now changes his tone and speaks, with encouragement, of a series of expansive adjustments they can make to get their lives back on track (James 4:7-10). His words are almost melodic, as he uses similar phrasing for each one to enhance his rhetoric effect.
More than a list, these instructions are intended to be a course correction after the hard words that came before. We are to:
Individually, each of these could be read, reflected on, and discussed at length by the readers of James' letter. Each one represents an important step for believers to take as they commit their lives to God. Yet it is also James' intent for us to hear them together, as one great, encouraging challenge calling his readers back to God. Together, they are part of a larger strategy for eliminating double-mindedness in our lives.
Together, these challenges amount to a deeply personal, deeply emotional call for readers to reconnect with God. The God whom we are to embrace tearfully is a living and faithful God (Genesis 28:15; Psalm 23)-an incredible contrast with what James' readers would have experienced with entirely stone-faced, impersonal idols (Habakkuk 2:18-19) or with a cold, uncaring world (Ecclesiastes 1:14; Ephesians 6:12). This is not a list of commands as much as a list of commitments. Only a God who is invested in us, and who is faithful to the end, would encourage His people to this depth of commitment.
There are two kinds of wisdom in this world-one that says, ″Make yourself king,″ and the other that says, ″Submit yourself to the King.″ Yet, to gain true wisdom is really to lose one's self-established status and privilege by swearing allegiance to God. From there we leave our past with true sorrow and repentance, and become serious about our faith. May God grant us the heart and strength to do as James exhorts!
What emotions do James' list of challenges evoke in you?
Which of these challenges do you most or least resonate with, and why?