James 3

This chapter looks at words and wisdom. James continues to explore the idea of the tongue being dangerous. Words are powerful, as it tells us throughout scripture. The universe was born into creation by God’s word, and this power to use our words, although obviously not as strong, is shown in us. Therefore, we must be extremely wise in how we use our words.

However, our tongues are evil and hard to control. We gossip, lie, bad-mouth people. These people we are gossiping about or criticising are inherently praiseworthy, because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, we should seek to encourage, bless and build with our words.

If we produce evil from our lips, then that is the fruit of what we are. Our praises to God are tainted and defiled by this – as the same lips that produced words of evil are attempting to produce pure, good words. It reminds me of Isaiah’s lips being cleansed by the hot coal. We all need that and to humbly come before the throne, asking for our lips to be purified.

We also need to be humble in deeds, as this reveals our wisdom. Wisdom is not merely an academic pursuit, but one that results in goodness, unity and others being encouraged too. Therefore, we need to make sure that our wisdom is used to build the church, not to bring each other down.

1 Thessalonians 4 and 5

Both chapters 4 and 5 of 1 Thessalonians are relatively short, so I decided to combine them. Also, I need to make up for lost time, as I slid off the wagon for a week or so. Many people’s lives have been turned upside. My change in routine has been minimal, which has been enough to sideline my Bible-reading habits. But I will press on.

Verse 1 and 2 of chapter 4 asks the Thessalonians to do more of the same. They’re doing the right things, so Paul simply tells them to do it more and more. I pray that I can do the right things more and more as well. Hopefully, as I do the right things more, it’ll crowd out the opportunities to get it wrong.

Verse 3 says that it is God’s will that we are sanctified. One (correct) reading of this is that we should be obedient to this. However, it also reminds me that God is on my side with this – he wants it to happen and will make it happen if I cooperate and submit myself to him. Therefore, let God’s will be done!

Our purity is rather significant, because we should pursue it and “anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” This is somewhat trouble and a good reminder of what disobedience to his word actually is. It is an unwillingness to accept God and a desire to reject him.

Verse 11 is somewhat interesting too, especially in the light of megachurch pastors and Christian “celebrities”. God calls us to have a quiet life. Not an outrageous and a loud life. That’s something interesting to think about. It is this that wins the respect of outsiders, not the loud trumpet call and the soap-box evangelism. There is (probably) a place for this and a Biblical reasoning. I’ve yet to wrestle with this idea further. (This is something I love about reading the Bible: when you don’t actually know what it fully entails or means. It just fires up my curiosity.)

The last section of chapter 4 is about believers that have died. These words were meant to be an encouragement to those in Thessalonica. However, they can be an encouragement to us now, especially with the global tragedy of coronavirus.

Chapter 5, again, is relevant to today, but perhaps less encouraging. It talks about how suddenly destruction can come. Christians, however, are to be sober, thoughtful and proactive, even during times of suffering and even on the Day of the Lord.

The final instructions are helpful reminders of what to do, especially during the coronavirus outbreak as well:

  • warn the idle and disruptive,
  • encourage others,
  • help the weak,
  • be patient with everyone,
  • strive to do what is good for everyone,
  • rejoice always,
  • pray continuously,
  • give thanks in all circumstances.

And as we do this, may the grace of God be with us.

Stay safe.