This post is part of our Community Bible Experience on the book of James. If you would like to catch up, click here to view:
Today’s Verses (From the Message Translation)
1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?
A Few Thought’s
Oh how I long to be rich. “What is your wildest dream,” the lottery billboard whispers seductively above the red-lit numbers – $192 million.
What a life that would be I think as I subconsciously slip into a fantasy of hot tubs, private jets and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the building at my alma mater bearing a plaque that reads: made possible by the generous donation of Sam Eaton.
We have been programmed in this culture to believe that contentment is just around the corner with that next pay bump, promotion, or new job (you know the one with the better fertilized grass). I’ve learned through trial and serious error that this normal and parasitic way of living infiltrates everything we do from how much time we spend with our family to how we treat people who look different than us.
Brace yourselves for the truth: God has never operated that way. All it takes is a few minutes serving someone poorer than us to realize how good we have it and how much we judge the outsiders and the untouchables.
Our instinct is to protect and recluse. God’s instinct is to risk and extend a compassionate hug.
Out instinct is to avoid eye contact and push the unpleasant thoughts from our mind. God’s instinct is to look someone square in the eyes and sit in the uncomfortable call to help them.
Our instinct is to judge, to make excuses for their situation, to wait for the government to raise welfare and create affordable housing. God’s instinct is for his people to share their food with the poor whenever possible and to move lovingly towards anyone less fortunate.
Finding our way in this world of instant gratification is a long and treacherous journey that involves constantly shedding our human, entitled instincts and conforming ourselves to resemble this beautiful man named Jesus. We have wake up every single day and ask for God to give us eyes to see His people the way he does – with action-inducing compassion. We have to push back against a culture of ME and become a people of THEM.
That’s how Jesus lived with constant movement towards the lowest of the low.
Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived. -1 John 2:6 (msg)
Today I challenge you to look someone in the eye who has a harder go at this crazy world. There are literally billions of them out there waiting for you. Take a tangible, uncomfortable step towards the poor. It can be as simple as hello, how are you. We are constantly being formed to be more like Jesus or more like the world and you’re guiding that formation with each and every decision you make. Choose to become more like Him. Find your way towards a life that is fully and recklessly alive because when you start getting glimpses of that, you’ll never want to go back.
A Few Questions
1.) What words or phrases jumped out for you in this passage? Go to biblegateway.com and look up 2 different translations of this verse (I recommend NIV and TLB) Did anything new speak to you from these different versions?
2.) What are your feelings when you read this passage? No need to judge, just notice do you feel optimistic, excited, defensive, fearful?
3.) What is a cause of your life that God has placed on your heart? (If you’ve never asked, now is the perfect time. Sit and listen) What actions have you taken to help make a difference in that cause?
4.)Why is it so hard to find our way through this culture of appearances and consumerism? Why can it be so hard to live the way Jesus did?
You are such an incredible father who has walked our walk, who has felt these very same temptations to conform to the patterns of this world. Yet, you overcame them and have graciously given us the very same power. In the same breath as your invitation to change is a wind of compassion and encouragement. We know you delight in every step that we take towards becoming more like you and that even the baby steps can make a lasting impact on someone’s eternity.
Challenge me today, Lord. Invoke a new way of seeing those around me who desperately need a helping hand. Encourage me to make eye contact and sit in the discomfort of someone in pain. Teach me to live recklessly, God, on the edge of the tension between living for myself and fulfilling the good works you have planned for me to do (Eph 2:10).
Fill my heart not with guilt today God, but with an unquenchable fire to move. Push me out of complacency and invite me to live your way.
I’m with you God. Let’s do this.
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