Tag Archive for 'James'

Reading Luke to Understand James

Luke 3:8-9
“Do those things that prove that you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act. Don’t say, ‘Abraham is our ancestor.’ I guarantee that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones.

9 The ax is now ready to cut the roots of the trees. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What should we do?”

11 He answered them, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who doesn’t have any. Whoever has food should share it too.”

12 Some tax collectors came to be baptized. They asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He told them, “Don’t collect more money than you are ordered to collect.”

14 Some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He told them, “Be satisfied with your pay, and never use threats or blackmail to get money from anyone.”

If you were to read starting from verse 10, it would just look like commands of what people need to do to please God and be one of his children, as opposed to the fact that they are descendants of Abraham being the only thing necessary.

Although James seems to make is clear in what he’s explaining regarding good works–writing that it’s the kind of faith that saves us (James 2:14), how good works show that our faith is genuine (James 2:22), James and John the Baptist using the word or metaphor of deadness (Luke 3:8-9, James 2:26 [stones, bad or dead fruit]) etc., some still seem to have a hard time with this. So we can go to other parts of the Bible like Luke, which happens to be written after James (did Luke know what James wrote?) to find more explanatory material. Luke explains that these good works are proof (as in God’s Word Translation, NET and NLT to name a few) while most say, Bear fruits in keeping with repentance as does ESV, NASB and NIV. If it wasn’t for the former, I’m not sure I would understand the latter, looking at that part of that verse by itself.

Joel B. Green, in his commentary on Luke, makes some very interesting (to me anyway) parallels on the current (in the narrative) descendants of Abraham who feel their pedigree is enough, to some of what’s written in the Old Testament. Since Luke’s narrative here is describing John the Baptist speaking to a specific nationality and religion, he can utilize their own heritage and knowledge to convict them of their prideful and incorrect view of their standing before God.

Such an understanding is repudiated by John, who insists that children of Abraham are not identified by birth into the covenant community but through response to God’s gracious initiative. The crowds are like the wilderness to which they have come to hear John — empty, unproductive, lifeless — and so they must become fruitful, producing in their lives behaviors that demonstrate their relation to God (cf. Acts 26:20).

John produces two warnings to the crowd, both of which follow hard upon his declaration that their privileged status is now insecure. First, he reminds them that they can be replaced by stones! John draws on a number of pertinent images — Abraham, the father of many nations; the ability of God to give Abraham a child (Genesis 18:14); the portrayal of “stones” as inanimate, used as a metaphor for lifeless gods and humans (cf. Acts 17:29); the election and shaping of a nation, God’s people, in the exodus and crossing of the Jordan, together with the stones to memorialize the event; the fact that God’s promises to Abraham have been coming to realization in the Lukan narrative (Luke 1:55, 73)…

As in the Scriptures, the behaviors for which John calls are not themselves the basis for membership in God’s covenant people; rather, they are manifistations of that relatioinship. To put it differently, these are the natural outgrowth of lives reoriented around the God who is himself merciful (cf. Luke 6:36).

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, pgs. 176; 178

Many other things could be written about like the Beatitudes, what Jesus Himself said about these things etc.

James 4

I was reading James 4 and was re-convicted. I’ve been convicted a lot lately about how negatively I say some things about people or say things I don’t need to say or say or thing things where pride has been creeping in (more than usual I guess). I was amazed at James 4. Can you imagine if every Christian who interacted with people quite a bit each day either in real life or online would read this every morning? I know it would make a difference. Kumbaya my friends.

James 4:2-4 GW
You’re determined to have things, but you can’t get what you want. You quarrel and fight. You don’t have the things you want, because you don’t pray for them. 3 When you pray for things, you don’t get them because you want them for the wrong reason-for your own pleasure. 4 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that love for this evil world is hatred toward God? Whoever wants to be a friend of this world is an enemy of God.

We want to be wise but how many people pray for it (Prov 2:1-6)? We want to understand the Bible but how many people pray for it and set out to achieve it? We want to be widely influential and get a new (but not used) car and clothes that make us look higher class but is this what God wants? How confusing it must be to be a new Christian in this (Western, where this blogger’s perspective is) society, pray for things and not get them and not know what they really need and some stay stuck there. I wonder how materialistic I am and have no idea. Not that I’m wringing my hands over it (but I mourn regarding the things written above, James 4:9; Matt 5:4), but I pray that I’ll love what God loves and hate what God hates.

What a great chapter.

Fire and Brimstone

In reading through James in many different translations, this verse and the surrounding passage really struck me in a Biblically fearful type of way.

Whether you know Greek or not, which do you think best gets the message across, especially with some literary flare, which I think is good for this passage? (The Message isn’t included here. No pun intended.) I remember us translation geeks doing this now and then. These selections of translations are just a little off the beaten path.

I read this in the NRSV. Then when I looked at many others, I found a couple that I like even better with one clearly the easiest for me to understand and appreciate. These are in alphabetical order.

James 3:6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell.

James 3:6 The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. Placed among the parts of our bodies, the tongue contaminates the whole body and sets on fire the course of life, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world. It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell.

#3 has antiquated words like member and iniquity, and I don’t understand “the course of nature”. #4 is similar.

#2 comes across well, but it’s nothing special here. It’s my 2nd or 3rd favorite.

#5 really does it for me with literary flair that contributes to understanding the verse.

There is such an abundance of sin in the tongue that it may be called a world of iniquity. How many defilements does it occasion! How many and dreadful flames does it kindle! So is the tongue among the members that it defileth the whole body. Observe hence, There is a great pollution and defilement in sins of the tongue. Defiling passions are kindled, vented, and cherished by this unruly member. And the whole body is often drawn into sin and guilt by the tongue. Therefore Solomon says, Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin, Ecclesiastes 5:6. The snares into which men are sometimes led by the tongue are insufferable to themselves and destructive of others. It setteth on fire the course of nature. The affairs of mankind and of societies are often thrown into confusion, and all is on a flame, by the tongues of men. Some read it, all our generations are set on fire by the tongue. There is no age of the world, nor any condition of life, private or public, but will afford examples of this. And it is set on fire of hell. Observe hence, Hell has more to do in promoting of fire of the tongue than men are generally aware of. It is from some diabolical designs, that men’s tongues are inflamed. The devil is expressly called a liar, a murderer, an accuser of the brethren; and, whenever men’s tongues are employed in any of these ways, they are set on fire of hell. The Holy Ghost indeed once descended in cloven tongues as of fire, Acts 2. And, where the tongue is thus guided and wrought upon by a fire from heaven, there it kindleth good thoughts, holy affections, and ardent devotions. But when it is set on fire of hell, as in all undue heats it is, there it is mischievous, producing rage and hatred, and those things which serve the purposes of the devil. As therefore you would dread fires and flames, you should dread contentions, revilings, slanders, lies, and every thing that would kindle the fire of wrath in your own spirit or in the spirits of others.

–Matthew Henry

I will probably post the translations tomorrow (Sunday) night or Monday.

Questions on James 1:5-6 and Wisdom

James 1:5-7
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

When making decisions, we should pray for wisdom. What form does this wisdom come in? Obviously God doesn’t answer all our questions or make all our decisions for us.

Whatever form God gives to us, we should expect to always receive it. I take this to be literal and not like a parable.

What do you say?

Wordle Word Clouds of Smaller Books of the Bible

Wordle has been getting popular among bibliobloggers. I thought I would do some smaller books of the Bible. Click on an image to see a larger one and use your browser’s Back button to come back.

Ephesians–TNIV on the left and HCSB on the right:

Ephesians - TNIV

Ephesians - HCSB

Malachi ESV:

Philippians ESV:

Titus ESV:

Philemon TNIV:

Jude ESV:

The Bible, Wordled – ESV Blog
The Wordle New Testament – The Crazy Australian
Tag Cloud of My Colossians Translation – According to the Scriptures
Wordle – Make Your Own