Meditations in James: 13 : Clean and Planted
Jas 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Whenever a verse starts with ‘therefore’ it is a consequence or requirement flowing on from what has gone before. Context we have so often said is very important. The verse before, that we looked at yesterday, said, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Our verse today therefore flows on from the thought of the righteous life that God desires.
The most simple thought that flows on from that is that God has specific desires. Some people think that God is just some disinterested ‘Being’ who is ‘out there’ and who really doesn’t care at all what happens here on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has designed this world to work in a particular way and the role of science is to discover part of that way. However, note that it is only part of that way because science has so far locked itself in to measuring only the ‘material’ aspects of existence. Part of this ‘particular way’ that the world has been designed to work, involved having God in it, and when it comes to human beings this is no less so.
God has designed us to operate best when we are living and working in relationship to Him. He is Life and relating to Him means we receive that additional dimension to existence which means we are more than electrically charged brain cells ensuring blood is pumped around the body and breath is inhaled and exhaled to charge the lungs. Now why are we saying all this? We are saying it to convey a broader sense of the meaning of the word ‘righteous’. Very simply a righteous life is one that is living in harmony with God conforming to God’s will as received through the Scriptures and confirmed and applied by His Spirit. If we are ‘word and Spirit’ people we will be seeking to live in harmony with Him, our Lord. When we do this we will be living righteous lives, not lives focused on rules but on Him, lives that are living out in accordance with His design.
Now you don’t have to look around you very far to see many people living out lives that are clearly not in accordance with God’s design as seen in His word. If we were able to be a fly on a wall we would observe many people who are lacking peace, many people who are stressed and worried and anxious, many people who are being unkind and selfish, many people not caring about anyone else apart from themselves, many people seeking to harm others, many people following self-harming practices as they disregard their Maker. You only have to see the fruit of these lives to know that there must be a better way, for this is fruit that is self-destructive and destructive of others, but then that, we know from Scripture, is Satan’s desire for God’s creation (Jn 8:44). James sums all this up as moral filth and evil that is so prevalent.
Look, he is saying, that is how the world lives, but it is not the righteous life that God desires for us, a life of love and fulfillment being lived out with Him. Get rid of all this he says. That is your responsibility; that is your part of the life in Christ. You have the capability of choosing and making an act of will. Exercise that free-will by making sure that none of that stuff is left in your life. As we’ve said previously, you are a different person, a special person, a God-person, someone living a much better life, a more fulfilling life, a righteous life in harmony with God. As we’ve recently seen, God is good and therefore evil has no place in Him or in those who relate to Him. Get rid of it.
But James doesn’t leave it just with a negative injunction; he adds a very positive one: humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. In verse 18 he had spoken of God choosing to give us birth through the word of truth, a reference to the way that God brought us to Himself. God had brought the truth to bear on our lives and when we saw the truth we realized our need and accepted the truth about Jesus and gave our lives over to God who promptly cleansed, forgave and energized them. Now God’s word is described as “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Jesus’ parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-8) was all about the effects of God’s word in different heart conditions (Mt 13:18-23). It finished with, “the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown,” (v.23) a clear picture of God’s word, His truth, working within us to bring great changes.
Now there is one little uncomfortable word that we have not considered so far: humbly! The old life was proud and arrogant and thought it knew best. When we came to Christ we realize that we didn’t know best and so we submitted to him and to his word. In other words we came humbly to him, but I wonder how many Christians, as they go through life, lose some of that humility? You know the answer to that as you think about how you view God’s word and how you think about the sermon that is preached in most churches every Sunday. If you come to it with a hungry, open heart that is teachable, you are coming in humility, but if you come with indifference you have allowed pride and arrogance to grow. We will only grow in our Christian faith if we come to God and to His word humbly, with open, teachable hearts. See what James says this approach does; it can save you. Yes, you have been saved, but your life on this earth is the process of being saved so that when you get to heaven you will be well and truly saved. The word saved has connotations of wholeness. If you want to come to a place of wholeness under God’s hand, allowing Him to restore you to the design He has in mind for you, then you will humbly allow His word to work in you. That is how He has designed it to be. Let His word do that, let Him keep on changing you to bring you into that wholeness that He has on His heart for you.