Today's Lectionary Text
What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings. You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world's friend becomes God's enemy. Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
I like to think of James as the “book of action.” In its five chapters, we find lots of important information about how to live out our faith. In this passage, James — the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and the likely brother of Jesus himself — is trying to help his audience reconcile their sinful nature and their call to righteousness.
James gets right to the point by exploring the motives behind actions. Verse 3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” In other words, people who ask for things that only benefit themselves are missing the mark. Like many of us today, it seems the people James is writing to are pretty concerned about themselves and may have been turning God into nothing more than a wishing well. Jesus clearly called us all to be more than that.
So how do we ensure our motives are pure? Or at least as best we can? James tells us in verse 7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” There are many ways to submit to God — consult Google for a laundry list — but one of those ways is to learn more about God.
Prayer is one way to strengthen our individual relationships about God, but to learn more about our Creator, there aren’t any substitutes for exploring scripture.
That’s the entire purpose of you taking part in a daily devotion time. So congratulations! You’re already on your way to submitting more completely to God!
As you read each day, I encourage you to set aside a specific time each day to study. And even if you have read the Bible cover to cover before, be humble and willing to learn something each and every day.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, open our hearts and minds to what you have to teach us through scripture. Help us to understand what we can learn today from words from so long ago, and help us to continue to learn each and every day. Amen.
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