Monday, April 21, 2008

James 2:8

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.
(NIV)
This verse is a great stand alone kind of verse. All by itself, it is saying that you are doing well (or right) if you are loving your neighbor as yourself.

But this verse is not stand alone. In the NIV it leaves out an essential word at the beginning of the verse. The NASV does a little bit better of a job on this one.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.
Notice the word however. When it is left in, it is kind of like saying, "OK. You have heard the wrongs of favoritism. Let me show you what is opposite to favoritism..." In other words, you can't be loving your neighbor as yourself and showing favoritism. They stand in opposition to each other.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

James 2:6-7

But you have insulted the poor.
Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?
Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?
Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
(NIV)
(Now, before I continue on with this discussion, I think that it might be important to do a little background here. Consider the commentary on James 2:2-4, and also consider James 1:9, 10, & 11.)

These two verses are very real-word-ish or maybe you could describe them as a reality check. It is almost like James is saying, "...umm guys. Ignoring the wrongness of discrimination based on the outward for just a moment... You are insulting the poor people, when it is the rich people who are doing all of this stuff. Your logic doesn't even make sense!"

Sometimes it can be very useful to take a step back and really look at things. Really look at the results of our actions or really look at the logic of our reasoning. God's word is true, but guess what... God's word is really true. It is true in this world that we live in, not just in some hypothetical universe.

Outward appearances do not always show a reality. Riches do not always mean the blessing of God and being poor is not a curse.

Monday, April 14, 2008

James 2:5

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
(NIV)
God has not discriminated on the basis of possessions. There are those people who in the eyes of the world are considered to be poor. They are not the types of people that the world would say had "arrived". Yet, has not God chosen them to be rich in faith? Are not some of the people who we might turn away from potentially kingdom inheritors... maybe even ahead of us?!?

Maybe for you it isn't riches. Maybe it is skin color. Maybe it is nationality. Maybe it is their clothing choices. Maybe it is their family. Maybe it is their language. Maybe it is the nation that they currently live in or they are from. All of these things are superficial. God chooses all types to inherit His kingdom.

Friday, April 11, 2008

James 2:2-4

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
(NIV)
I have tried to stick with a verse a day, but every once in a while there are a few verses that it would confuse the matter to separate them. The thought would become muddled by trying to discuss the one thought over a few separate days. So, I am keeping these verses together.

In James' day, there was a discrimination going on between the rich and the poor. Rich people would many times make assumptions about poor people based on their outward appearance. If they were poor, they were probably not very spiritual. The reason for this was because there was the incorrect philosophy (which was supported by the pharisees of the day) that if you were living righteous, then God would bless you... If you were blessed by God, then you would be prosperous... If you were prosperous, then you would be rich. You can see this philosophy seeping through when Jesus makes the comment about the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven. His disciples respond with, How in the world can anyone get into heaven, because for them the rich were surely the most righteous because God had blessed them.

James is challenging this thinking. We cannot determine a person's character by their outward appearance. Any form of judgment based on a person's appearance is a sinful judgment, which is rooted in evil thoughts.

Don't let this be confused with the discernment that comes from evaluating character based on actions. The whole rest of this book is about that exact thing. You can also go to several different places in the Bible that talk about making "judgments" based on behavior. (I Cor. 5:12-13, I John 3:10, Matt.7:15-20)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

James 2:1

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.
(NIV)
Simple enough, right?

There are some people who would not say that favoritism is a struggle at all. There are others who would say that they struggle with it all of the time. The need here is to be honest with yourself.

Do you show favoritism?

Strong's Concordance defines this word in this way:

he fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities

I would also like to point out that the verse states, "...as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ..." Favoritism and true faith don't go together. The New American Standard puts it this way:

"...do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism."

In the original greek, that idea is definitely there. It is not a simple, don't show favoritism... It is a, BECAUSE you have FAITH... Don't show favoritism. This goes along with so much that James is supporting with his connection of True Faith and Your Life!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Psalm 90:17

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
(ESV)
This is an excellent way to end this Psalm.

"Favor" could also be translated as "beauty" or "pleasantness". This is what we desire. We want those beautiful qualities of the Lord to be upon us. We desire for our own character to match that beautiful character of God. And we also desire to have what we do be firm and solidified, but only if what we do is matching His beauty.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Psalm 90:16

Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
(ESV)

In the previous few verses the Psalmist is speaking of getting the heart right, getting the perspective right. After he says it though, he still calls out to God to "see" God. He still wants to see what God is doing while he is here on this earth. He knows his days are short, he knows he needs to be satisfied in God and find his joy in God, but he still has the desire to "see" God, and he doesn't want to wait until he is dead.

He also wants his children (and the children of all who are seeking after God) to "see" God now. So he cries out for God to allow His work to be shown, for His power to be shown.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Psalm 90:15

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
(ESV)
If you have lived on this earth for any significant amount of time, this verse will mean something to you. It might mean something different to you than it does to me or than it does to another person who lives on the opposite side of the the world or just the opposite side of the street, but if they sit down and they open their Bible and they read it... it will mean something.

There will be some hard thing that you have gone through or are going through that will pop into your head. Maybe it will be multiple things or things that span the entire course of your life. But the moment that word "afflicted" entered your eyesight, there was something that popped in there.

This is part of the human experience, to go through trials, to go through affliction. So, we cry out to God to make us glad in the middle of all of this. Though we only exist on this planet for a few short years, they don't feel short to us.

There is a gladness that God can bring. Seek the gladness that is in Him and through Him. That gladness comes from an eternal source, like nothing you will find on this earth.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Psalm 90:14

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(ESV)
In this Psalm, there is this building sense that we don't have that many days... not really. When you begin comparing us to the generations of people that have lived, or to the length of time the earth has been here, or more importantly, when you compare us to the creator of us. We don't have all that many days here.

This is why it is important for us to cry out to our God. Our time is short, but we want to rejoice and be glad all of our days, however few days we have.

God is the eternal one who pays attention to His creation. His lovingkindness (or as it is translated here, His steadfast love) is satisfying to the ones who seek it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Psalm 90:13

Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
(ESV)
Don't forget us Lord. We are down here, and you are up there! When are you coming back?

This idea of the servant who is waiting is an on-going theme throughout scripture. It is a topic that Jesus talks about with His disciples. It is a topic that the apostles write about in their letters to the churches. We are always to be waiting on the Lord.

He will come. He is faithful.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(ESV)
If I were to pick a key verse for this chapter, it would be this verse. In many ways it summarizes the main ideas of this Psalm.

Correct evaluation of your time, with an eternal perspective is essential in gaining true wisdom. This is a wisdom that is beyond gaining head knowledge, it is a wisdom that resides in the heart, the control center of your life.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Psalm 90:11

Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
(ESV)
This is really a transitional verse. It is adjusting the thoughts from our perspective to God's perspective. After all of these thoughts on the fleetingness of our days, he immediately jumps to God's wrath, to God's anger.

We don't like to make this logical leap. Especially in these modern times that we live in. Any mention of God and angry in the same sentence usually brings up mental images of some backwoods preacher screaming from a pulpit amoungst intermittent deep inhales and a crowd of amens.

Here we see the two ideas tied together by Moses, a brilliant man of God, and a leader of a nation for 40 years.

It is the natural outcome of the consideration of the shortness of men's lives. Why? Think about it through God's perspective or continue reading this Psalm or both.