The Humble Path to Peace: Study Notes on James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

The theme of humility runs all through the book of James. And here it is brought to a very practical level. We are reminded how fragile life is. The steam that rises from my cup of coffee is beautiful both in the way it swirls and because I love coffee, but it doesn’t last long. Same with this life. Our reliance on God should be evident and acted upon. Boasting never sounds good and turns people away. There is envy that rises from the pride that is displayed. Humility and confidence is what Jesus portrayed. Humility in submission and confident in who God is and how He provides.

Jesus was God walking on this earth. He above anyone could have displayed total pride and self-reliance. He made confident statements about who He was and why He was sent to earth. Taken out of context, this can be seen as boasting. But He relied on and submitted to His Father while living in human form. There was no question about His devotion to God. And there should be no question about mine. My words and actions hold the weight of perception. What do people see in me? Do my words and actions display arrogance and selfishness? I hope not. At the very least I am more aware. At most, and what I hope for, is that I give God His rightful first place in my life and He is glorified so others can see His love and care in me. The latter will prevent the exhaustion of striving and usher in the peace in relying on God, knowing He will provide.

Lord, Thank You for the dreams and desires You have given space in my heart for. Shed Your light on the path forward so I know I am headed in the right direction. Help me to notice the everyday goodness, take care of the little things, and serve others along the way. Reveal the motives in my desires and help me notice where selfishness and pride need to be checked and dealt with. Give me wisdom and the ability to lead and live with a servant’s heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Before reading James, I was guided to Psalm 46. A perfect companion in my heart, so I am sharing:

Psalm 46 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

God the Refuge of His People.

For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.

46 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in [c]trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

(Thoughts on Love) Study Notes for James 2:8

Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” James 2:8

Today I took a different approach in my study, or rather God took me down a specific path I did not plan for. After reading through James 2, I kept coming back to verse 8. All the other verses, and truly the entire Bible comes back to love, since it is the ultimate love story. I know some will say how can it be love when it says this or that…? And I agree that many parts of the Bible are confusing and disturbing especially when read in part. All I can do is testify to the power of Christ in my life. By reading the scriptures and praying for wisdom, I receive humbly, and share. So, here is my share for today:

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” is a commandment. It is Royal Law. By not doing so, I sin against God. So, who is my neighbor? Every. Single. Human. Each person I encounter should be a recipient of this love that lives in me. But there is judgement that rises, pride, hurry, and partiality is shown. And the truth is, I have been taught to love conditionally. My eyes have been socially trained to recognize false beauty as valuable. As the only good. All based on appearances, which can be thick and effective at hiding the true heart.

Look at what has been happening to our children. Bullying has become an epidemic. Look what has happened in the political arena, hate spews from both sides. Media pours out perfect images and slanted ideas of what is good and acceptable in the world, and everyone is saying something different. These images and misleading stories from humans on a platform cause us to hate our own reflection in the mirror, or we hate others. We tear down people who are different than us to build ourselves up. We spend countless dollars on creating a better image of ourselves. We cringe at the sight of ourselves in a natural photo without filters. Envy and judgement rises in our hearts every day. We are in bondage to the pride that holds us here.

Studies show that isolation and feelings of loneliness are on the rise. The only way to bridge the gap of judgement and pride is to address the isolation. The self-made platforms must be ripped away. We must stand with feet planted firmly on the earth and remember who we were created to be. We need to reach out and touch people. Spend less time in our little worlds and serve people out there in the big one. To get past partiality is the get past appearances. Whether we are drawn toward or away in judgement, whether attracted or repulsed, we must get past the initial decision and reaction, unless it is to show love.

I am learning to see the one who looks like they have it all together probably doesn’t, and the one who looks to be worse off may hold the very peace I am seeking. The only way to know for sure is to enter in and interact. This is the only way to get to their true heart. Communication leads to understanding. Reaching out to those in our path is the only way to find out what someone needs. Maybe they need money, maybe it’s spending time, either way I know everyone needs love. This is how Jesus lived. This is how I too must live if I want true peace and joy. Humanity suffers where there is hate and it thrives under the pouring out of love.

Lord, Show me to love like You do. Forgive me for my judgemental glances and selfish assumptions about people. Forgive me for my pride. Soothe my wounded heart so I can see past my own pain. Let humility reign in my heart and let love reign on my lips. Help me to keep Godly boundaries to wisely know what is helpful and harmful. Show me what it means to throw pearls before swine and yet still show love. Speak so I can hear You and slow me down so I can listen. Give me courage to step beyond my borders and safely walk with you in grace with eyes open to the needs around me. In Jesus’ name, amen.