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The discipleship of our wealth and our tongue
The letter of James contains a minimum of 36 teachings of Jesus- with 25 of them parallel to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-7,29; Luke 6:20-29). Given that there are only 108 verses in James, this letter appears to be an application of Jesus’ teaching. More significantly, it contains themes that reflect the social and ethical struggles of the Christian community- with the two most prominent ones on wealth and poverty, and the ethics of speech.
James warns of wealth as an illusion of permanence that it gives, especially to the rich who might have exulted in their earthly goods. The improper view of wealth has also led to the division within the Christian community, with favouritism being practised among members based on the high and low status of its members. To this, James issued two calls:
1) Call to share- we must respond to meet needs of distressed members with generous hearts, for this is true religion and pure piety. To James, the understanding of koinonia was not simply fellowship over board games or pot-bless, rather it was an unconditional sharing of our lives with other members of His body, and that includes our material possessions.
2) Call to impartiality- not to practise favouritism for there is no upper or lower classes in God’s eyes. In God’s sight, the richer brother is not more favoured in comparison with his poorer brother for wealth is never a sign of God’s favour. We must disciple our wealth in a way that it doesn’t enslave us nor make us think of ourselves more than who we really are. In fact, if our wealth is seductive and makes us prone to forget God, giving away our surplus is quite a good strategy for resisting the temptation that overvalues it.
Although it’s a small part of the body, the tongue when left untamed, it has the capacity to destroy. And if we are inconsistent with our speech (from praising God at 9.45am to cursing a sister in Christ at 11.15am), how can anyone see integrity in us? Thus, James calls us to disciple our tongues by striving for godly speech- and this is not done by purely being mechanical focusing only on our words- but more importantly, our hearts. Do we often find ourselves criticising another fellow believer? Or we often only grumble and complain, and always only pointing out the sinfulness in others? Could it be that the depository of our hearts contains mainly of bitterness, jealousy or evil desires, and the lack of love for others? Correct our speech by checking the state of our hearts. Tough leh? Sure. But I believe our hope lies beyond our own efforts. Jesus was tempted but sinless in his words (Heb 4.15), thus we can turn to him for help. Let us surrender our hearts, minds and mouths to him, and invite the Spirit to respond and refrain through us when we have opportunity to express ourselves (especially if you’re prone to speak like I do!)
Love God. Love people. Make disciples.
This is what we seek to do here in PJEFC.
Let us spur one another on to use the gift of wealth
and speech as a channel to do just that.
Ps Alexa Ho
Community Transformation (CT)
& Interim Executive Pastor
THE PRESSURE OF PARTIALITY
James 2:1-13 Pastor Jeremy Lim
THE PRESSURE OF WORDS
James 3:1-18 Pastor Chin Choon Meow
THE PRESSURE OF CONFLICT
JAMES 4:1-10 Cheong Chee Wai
THE PRESSURE OF RETALIATION
JAMES 5:1-11 Pastor Melissa Chan
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