A common retort to someone who is known to be a Christian when they are perceived by another to have breached their understanding of the Christian code is, “That’s not very Christian.” Behind such a comment is often a flawed understanding of Jesus’ teaching and Christian priorities such as a Christian asserting Jesus own words, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ John 14.6 James does here though validate the view that our inner life and outward lifestyle should harmonise with the freedom from sin Jesus has achieved for the believer. If that is not the case the outsider’s scepticism has validity and we are self-deceiving. James 1:26
In this longer passage about living out one’s faith in loving obedience to Christ and loving heart attitudes to our neighbours James picks out three particular tests of the impact our faith has had in our lives. They both have a long biblical history. They are our speech, our practical attitude towards the poor and our resistance to temptation to sin. James 1:27
Test 1 – Speech.
James is asking Christians to examine themselves and check out the sincerity and depth of their discipleship. Does anyone of us want to stand before the Father and hear him say, “Your faith was worthless?” James 1:26 From the very beginning people have used speech to make excuses to God for their own sin. Adam tried to pass the blame onto Eve for his own disobedience in the garden of Eden account. Genesis 3:12 Cain lied to God about his own sin of killing his brother Abel, denying knowledge of his whereabouts as he lay dead in the field, ‘I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper.’ Genesis 4:9 The beginning of a relationship with God is honesty with him and not making excuses. It is vital to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about an understanding of the truth and integrity of our heart and speak to God candidly.
When we speak with God honestly with grateful love we will be able to speak with others as God would wish us to because he has purified our heart. Jesus said, ‘I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ Mathew 12:36
Our speech should display love towards other people that reflects love for them to the same extent that we love ourselves. Therefore, a good measure of what we say is, how would it benefit me if said to me, in terms of the words said and the way it is said. We need to be careful to not say things that may lead others into sin either by copying us or generating a desire to sin. ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’ Ephesians 4:29 When we apply this to work, family and friendship situations we are living out the gospel.
It is easy to be drawn into unhealthy speech through humour and to seek to gain peer approval by joining in with salacious or mocking conversation. Paul urges the Ephesians to, ‘Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.’ Ephesians 5:4
When faced with unfair accusations and harsh words Peter says, ‘Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.’ 1 Peter 3:9
Our speech should be intended to bring glory to God. Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.’ 1Peter 4:11
Are there any habits you have in your speech that you could change to build up the people you know?
Have you considered how your speech could glorify God?
Mighty to save