Chapter 1

Roy Osborne
February 2014


John and Paul both tell us that we are all sinners.  Paul says we all fall short of the glory of God, and complains that what he would like to do, he does not, and what he does not want to do, he does.  In this first chapter, James further emphasizes the difficulty of living the Christian life in this world of evil where the earth man is always demanding to be satisfied.  He urges the Christian to use each occasion, in which we are tempted to follow the desires of the earth man, as an opportunity to strengthen our abilities to overcome and bring our life into the image of Christ.  This will make us more fitted to live with the Father in Heaven.

All of this emphasizes the difficult struggle that man faces in trying, in a world of sin where the devil is everywhere evident, to be spiritually minded, and to walk “in the light” with Jesus Christ.   Even maintaining our faith becomes a problem which demands much study, work and concentration on the reality of the eternal presence of God.

However, faced with this difficult task, I am afraid many of us strive to make Christianity easy.  We create churches which we think are legally correct, and trust our relationship with the Lord to our membership in the right church.  This is true across the whole realm of Christendom.  Leaving our righteousness to the rules and rituals of our church frees us from the difficult task of living like Jesus Christ in our daily life and in all of our contacts with the world every day.

In verse 26 at the end of chapter 1 James says, “If a man would be religious but controls not his tongue, his religion is in vain”.  This is one of those passages which are difficult to interpret, and take much thought and study to get the message.

In the final analysis, however, what he is saying emphasizes the necessity of living the Christian life twenty-four hours of every day.  It means that the man who appears religious when he carries out the rituals and forms of his religion, but talks and lives like a pagan in the other aspects of his life, is unacceptable to God.  The tongue is the spokesman for self -interest, and the things a person says reflect the kind of person he is.  Therefore, if your tongue is not speaking as a Christian would speak when you are out of church, your pretended religion when you are in church is hypocritical and void.

I once was told that a prominent member of the church had the reputation of having a very filthy mouth among his professional colleagues.  People are drawn to Christ, or are made to despise Christianity, often on the basis of what they see and hear from those who claim to be Christians.  In my many years of preaching, I have seen too many people give up on Christianity because of what they see as hypocrisy on the part of those who claim to be Christians.  This is no excuse for denying Christ, but it is a sorry condemnation of those who claim Him as Lord of their life only to ignore Him by their actions when out of the church building, and acting in the day to day world.  That is what James means when he urges those who would belong to the Lord to use the problems that the world throws at them as opportunities to strengthen their Christian faith and make them more like the King.  Let your speech outside the church building be as Christlike and humble as it is when you are being religious in the church building.