Sunday, February 10, 2008

White-washed Tombs

James 1:26-27 (NKJV)26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Having exhorted us to be not merely hearers of the word but doers thereof, James now exhorts us not to be mere jabberers about the word but to put its precepts into practice. Here we see the remarkable wisdom of Jesus’ brother and that he too learned from his parents to evaluate things in light of the Word of God.

Most of us hear the exhortation to be doers of the law and not merely hearers and its truth resonates with us. That’s right, James, we say – doers not hearers. We need to be doing what the word says not just hearing it. And immediately having heard the principle we apply it in all the wrong ways.

"Hey you, George, get off your duff and go help that elderly man mow his lawn." "Fran, can you believe that my husband wouldn’t help me do the laundry last night?"

You see rather than hearing the word and doing it ourselves, we hear the word and apply it to our neighbor. You all need to be doing what the Word of God says by gum! Meanwhile we sit idly by, imagining that dictating others’ obedience is the same as being obedient ourselves.

Nowhere is this tendency more noticeable than in our homes. Husbands demand their wives submit to their decisions, but never think to model what submission looks like by dying to their own desires. Wives demand that their husbands talk with them and reveal their innermost thoughts and dreams but wouldn’t dream of uncovering themselves without the lights off. And as parents we do this type of thing all the time with our children. “How dare you raise your voice to me?” we scream as our child retreats into his room. We demand of our children far more than we would ever dream of demanding of ourselves and then have the audacity to call ourselves “good parents” rather than white washed tombs and hypocrites.

What is James’ remedy for our hypocrisy? In short – shut up, mind your P’s and Q’s, and go help somebody who needs it. Stop jabbering about what your neighbor should do or what your child should do and set the pattern yourself. Be an example. James once again exhibits his John the Baptist style – saying it like it is, not pulling any punches.

Reminded that we fail to maintain the same standard for ourselves as we do for others, that we long to take the speck out of our brother’s eye before taking the log out of our own, let us kneel and confess our sin to God.