James hits the rich with a right hand hook, and then comes back with a left jab to the oppressed. This last chapter shoots straight - don't read through it quickly, unless you don't want to be convicted.
Verses 1-6 are for the rich. That is you and me. If you live in America, you are rich. Don't measure your're wealth compared to where you live in Fort Wayne, or in Indiana. If you own a car, compared to the 92% of the world's population that does not own a car - YOU ARE RICH. Which means you ought to be convicted by the words of James in this chapter. Take it personally. Go ahead and be offended...and then repent.
Verses 7-12 are for the oppressed. The disadvanaged. The abused. BE PATIENT & DON'T JUDGE! DON'T CRUMPLE UNDER INJUSTICE - let your yes be yes and your no be no...no quibbling or buttkissing to those in power.
Verses13-20 is for everyone - if you are sick or unwell, before you go to the doctor, confess your sins one to another for healing. For those of you skeptical of this verse - it would help if you didn't automatically think of broken arms, cancerous masses, and other external wounds. Most people get sick and need healing because of their lifestyle and choices - STRESS, LACK of SLEEP, EATING UNHEALTHY FOOD, Not MEDITATING are major causes of MOST ailments: high blood pressure, anxiety, heart problems, blah, blah, blah. Holding on to hurts and grudges, staying bitter or fearful, being mean or coldhearted, staying bigoted or racist, etc will ruin your health and make you sick. CONFESS YOUR SINS - get a clean heart. Asking for forgiveness from God is good, but confessing your sins to God in the presence of other believers is how you experience the forgiveness.
As your pastor I am here to hear your confessions. If someone has wronged you, or you have wronged others, and you are holding onto those wrongs in your heart, you will make wrong decisions and stay burdened. You are driving a sinful wedge between you and God and you and others. STOP IT!!!!!!!! Oh wait, that's right, you don't really sin...at least no serious sins...you just get impatient once in awhile... nothing that serious.
There has got to be more to the Christian life then is evidenced by the Christians I know.
(Does this blog entry sound a bit...harsh? I'm just trying to match the directness of James - I don't want to soften the blow of his words of wisdom. And I don't write it with a chip on my shoulder or a sense of superiority...I write it as a seeker, one who is deeply aware of my sins, but one who is also deeply aware of God's grace. But sugar-coating your life, or trying to view it as more holy then it really is won't get you anywhere. Call it for what it is...then you can move forward in Christ.)
(I also realize as a young man there are many older Christians who are wiser and holier then I am. But those Xians are also the ones who acknowledge their shortcomings and gratitude on God's grace. It's hard to handle those Christians who never seem to do anything wrong. It's hard not to be skeptical.)
(Maybe I'm being too honest with my thoughts...but it's how I see things at this point in my life...and I know I still have a lot to learn about what Christiantiy looks like in my life and in the lives of others...especially with others whose story I only know fragments.)