Without preamble, James just jumped right in, talking about persevering through trials, maturing faith, seeking and following through with God’s wisdom, understanding the grave implications of temptation, and the costliness of faith.
What Makes Faith Grow?
The first way is through one’s response to external testing in trials, outlined in James 1:2-8.
The second way is through one’s response to the internal testing of temptation.
The third way James teaches that faith grows is by believing the word of God in faith and expressing God’s word in actions
To produce the righteousness of God we must receive the implanted word of God.
Having willed it, [God] brought us forth by the word of truth so that we might be a kind-of firstfruit of His creatures.
You know this, my beloved brothers, but:
—let every person be quick to listen,
—slow to speak,
—slow into anger.
For the anger of a man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore having laid-aside all filthiness and abundance of badness, receive with gentleness the implanted word being able to save your souls.James 1:18-20 (DLNT)
What did James mean by that?
The Implanted Seed
James was speaking of Jesus’ parable of the four soils, one of the rare times Jesus explained what his parable meant.
“Behold—the one sowing went out that he might sow. And during his sowing,
—some seeds fell along the road. And having come, the birds ate them up.
—And others fell on the rocky places where they were not having much soil. And immediately they sprang-up, because of not having a depth of soil. But the sun having risen, they were scorched. And because of not having a root, they were dried-up.
—And others fell on the thorns. And the thorns came up and choked them.
—And others fell on the good soil and were giving fruit—one a hundred, and another sixty, and another thirty.
Let the one having ears, hear”.
. . . Anyone hearing the word of the kingdom and not understanding it—
—the evil one comes and snatches-away the thing having been sown in his heart. This person is the one having been sown the seed along the road.
—And the one having been sown the seed on the rocky places—this person is the one hearing the word and immediately receiving it with joy. And he does not have a root in himself, but is temporary. And affliction or persecution having come about because of the word—immediately he is caused-to-fall.
—And the one having been sown the seed into the thorns—this person is the one hearing the word, and the anxiety of the age and the deceitfulness of riches is choking the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
—And the one having been sown the seed on the good soil—this person is the one hearing the word and understanding it, who indeed is bearing-fruit and producing: one a hundred, and another sixty, and another thirty”.Jesus, Matthew 13:3-9, 19-23 (DLNT)
God’s word is like a seed, with the potential to bear a harvest of righteousness in a person’s life. Sometimes the seed never even germinates. Sometimes the seed does spring up, but it never reaches the point where it can bear fruit.
Jesus said “Those who have ears, let him hear.”
But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.James 1:22 (DLNT)
Hearing is not the same thing as doing.
This is perhaps James’ most pointed principle in the whole of his letter.
Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one is like a man considering the face of his birth in a mirror. For he considered himself and has gone-away and immediately forgot what-sort of man he was.
But the one having looked into the perfect law of liberty and having continued, not having become a forgetful hearer, but a doer of work—this one will be blessed in his doing.James 1:23-25
The more you and I look into the mirror of God’s word, the more we are going to see the ways we can apply God’s teaching to our lives.
The Meaning of Wheat
So what is the “wheat”?
If anyone thinks that he is religious while not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his heart, the religion of this one is worthless.James 1:26 (DLNT)
James again chose as his illustration something from Jesus’ own teaching
How are you able to speak good things, being evil? For the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart.Jesus to the Pharisees, Matthew 12:34 (DLNT)
God looks within our hearts and within our characters, for the harvest of wheat sown into our spirits. The fruit of the Spirit is the wheat God looks for.
Religion that is worth something, according to James, is proven out by how we take care of each other – what is within will be revealed by our words and our actions among each other. Jesus said His disciples would be recognized by their godly love.
Fruit of Godly Love
Godly love shows no favoritism.
This is not about having to love every person the same amount, or be best friends with every Christian. It is understood that we might show our partners, our children and family, our closest friends preferential treatment. This is not about that.
Two people show up to church. The rich person, or talented and skilled person, gets the red carpet – maybe they will give generously, or their talents will enhance the church! Maybe they will offer their skills, pro bono, because after all, it is ministry. Leaders gather and laugh at all their jokes. Influential people curry their favor.
The poor person, the regular joe with no particular skill or talent, no particular influence to leverage, slips in and slips out unnoticed.
Except, it was not an illustration! James had observed this behavior in at least some of the assemblies he had visited, and did not hold back in his admonishment.
Favoritism violates God’s law of love.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]—this is the great and foremost commandment.
And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. The whole Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”.Jesus, Matthew 22;37-40 (DLNT)
To God there is no class system of Christians, no first tier, second tier, and so on. God does not value the rich and accomplished more highly, and neither can you or I. If we really believe in grace, then we have to relate to people on the basis of God’s overflowing love and joy towards everyone who comes to the Lord, not on the basis of human merit—gender, age, “usefulness to the kingdom,” ethnic background, or any other category.
James wrote with a fiery pen,
So speak and so do as ones going to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to the one not having done mercy.
Mercy vaunts over judgment.James 2:12-13 (DLNT)
Remember that James was writing to Christians.
- Where the Lord finds repentance and faith, the Lord will show mercy.
- But where God finds unrepentant sin God will administer justice, correction and discipline.
Genuine faith is not just knowing God’s word, it is obeying God’s word
How can faith be recognized?
How is it made visible?
Our beliefs drive our behavior
- Faith does not indulge the old nature: our temper and our tongue are under Holy Spirit administration.
- Living by faith means having nothing to do with what James called the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our fallen world.
- Faith humbly receives God’s implanted word – faith is the rich soil God’s word takes root in, and grows to produce a harvest of godly character and godly love
- Faith not only listens to God’s word, faith applies God’s word to daily life.
- Faith does not show any partiality, any prejudice. If a person is prejudiced against another person for any reason, and treats that person like they are not as important, then James says that is not genuine faith. Faith does not allow for treating some people as more important and more valuable than other people
[Field of wheat | pxhere.com]