Sunday we looked at what constitutes a “good catch” of God’s Word. In other words, how do you know if you’ve received the Word? As James so plainly states, it is both hearing and doing that constitute a true completion.
Still, a few flags were thrown (i.e., questions). Here’s what some people were wondering as we worked our way through James 1:19-27. (Yes, I’m done with the football allusions.)
- Does a presidential candidate have to be a Bible-believing. church-going Christian for me to vote for him? In my opinion, no. Your use of the words “have to” would leave you in a convictional quandary at some point given our current political process. This is not to say that the Scriptures aren’t a good filter of candidates. But could a candidate not meet your specific criteria above and still hold to certain biblical values that would qualify him or her to lead our country well? I think so. It may not be ideal, but our electing system often eliminates the one(s) you may like the most, leaving you with the “best of the worst.” What then? Since the Bible doesn’t prohibit voting for a non-Christian (not surprising since the Bible doesn’t speak precisely to a voting environment like ours), it’s an area of freedom to be guided by our conscience under the Holy Spirit’s leading and the Scripture’s principles.
- You said 1:19 references being “slow to speak (against God’s Word).” How do you draw the conclusion it is speaking about God’s Word, and not to being applied more generally to how we interact with anyone or anything? Verse 19 is sandwiched between two references to the Word—one in 1:18 (“word of truth”) and one in 1:21 (“implanted word”). For that contextual reason I see James’ admonition to not be angry or quick to speak in reference to how we react to God’s Word.
- What are some practical examples of avoiding spiritual amnesia in my daily life? Praying every day? Reading the Bible? Any other help? Those two you mentioned are effective no doubt. Keep in mind that James highlights action as the key to retention. So I suggest asking yourself this question each day, even multiple times: “What is the next right thing for me to do?” It may be an apology, an expression of thanks, a financial sacrifice, a witnessing word, an invitation to dinner, a meal to someone sick, forgiveness, and so forth. The point is to do what you’ve heard. So the best answer to your question is to think of practical action steps of obedience specific to your life. Yes, reading the Bible and praying are undoubtedly two of those. But there are many more that God calls us to throughout each day and week, many of which will be tailored to exact situations. When you hear what those are, do them. Promptly. Humbly. That’s how you avoid spiritual amnesia.
- Is it okay to break the law to protect orphans and widows? No. And yes. This is somewhat of a trick question, though probably not intentionally. Could there possibly be terrible situations one day in regards to widows and orphans—like forced euthanasia for single, elderly people—where we would obey God instead of man and protect our older citizens? By all means. But overall, when there isn’t a direct violation against God’s commands, the New Testament calls for a submissiveness from God’s people to the governing authorities (Rom. 13).
- Is the anger James is teaching against referring to anger at fellow believers or, in context, anger at the Word of God he next asks us to receive and do? I believe he is referring to anger at God, similar to his example of the person who blames God for a trial by accusing God of tempting him with evil (1:13). Furthermore, the phrase “slow to get angry” has the same bookends as “slow to speak,” which I addressed in question 2. So see that answer above for further proof.
- Do you think James’ urging to visit orphans and widows applied mainly to orphans and widows within the church or to non-believing orphans and widows too? Possibly both. (And I’m not just saying that to avoid talking a side.) Since the recipients of the letter were dispersed believers (1:1), I do think he has believing orphans and widows, many of whom were in that situation due to persecution, in mind. But the early writing of the letter means there were few actual churches planted yet in the dispersed areas. So the faith community was probably somewhat fluid, meaning it was probably hard to identify exactly which orphans and widows were part of the believing family. It is my opinion that James is calling for both, with a prioritized preference perhaps to those within the believing community. This could probably be read much like Galatians 6:10 where Paul calls for us to do good to everyone as we have opportunity, but especially “to those of the household of faith.”