Friday, May 20, 2011

Hearer and Doer: Meditation in James

Job 34:19-
[God] ...shows no partiality to princes
   and does not favor the rich over the poor,
   for they are all the work of his hands?

As I read through Job 34 and considered this verse, my mind was directed to James 2 where the writer exhorts his readers to show no partiality to the rich and poor. After all, "Has God not chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of the Kingdom that the LORD has established for those who love Him?" (2:5).

The fact that God made both the rich and the poor and that He does not love one over the other is not new news to me. I know that despite grievous injustices in our world today, "the LORD, the Judge of the earth, will do right" (Gen. 18:25). As Asaph acknowledges by the end of Psalm 73, regardless of wealth or fame (or even a lack thereof), the wicked are all on a slippery slope headed for destruction while the LORD holds the hands of the righteous.

As I read through the book of James, however, I was struck by the fact that despite my awareness of God's impartiality toward rich and poor (or all people for that matter), my knowledge is not sufficient in and of itself. In 1:22, James challenges his readers to "Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

Honestly, I am not always even the best "hearer." It is so easy for me to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and hurting around the world (and in my own neighborhood) as I bask in the comfort of my surroundings. In fact,I often complain about discomfort and busyness as if the world revolves around me. I use busyness as an excuse for my ignorance, but that only lasts for so long. I can't turn on the tv or radio or read the newspaper these days without hearing about humans suffering all around me. As my grandpa used to always say to me, "You think you've got it tough..." There is no excuse for not being a hearer.

But as I said, being a hearer is one thing. Being a doer is another. James urges his readers to care for the orphans and widows (James 1:27), to show impartiality between rich and poor (2; 4-5), to walk humbly and wisely before Him (3:13-4:10), and to pray effectually and fervently (5:16-18). Without works, my faith is dead (2:20).

This morning I find myself pondering my responsibility as a "doer of the Word" to show my faith by my works (James 2:18). To ignore the call to love my neighbor as myself (2:8) is to sin, for "to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin" (4:17). I don't know exactly what that is going to look like, but I do know that my prayers for the hurting need to be more intentional, my generosity toward the needy needs to be more cheerful, and my time spent helping others needs to be more abundant.

"LORD, show me where my wisdom is lacking, my judgments are clouded, and my actions are misguided. Teach me to sympathize with the hurting , to serve the needy, and to love all men as You love me. I need you to help me hear, I need you to help me do, and I need you to help me discern between the two. My answer is, 'yes,' LORD. Now what's the question?"

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