Today’s Thought: What do I worship more than God?
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3)
In The Letter of James, addressed to the twelve tribes of the dispersion, the author reflects frustration similar to what we read yesterday in Luke. James (generally identified here as the brother of Jesus) is trying to bring the early church together in serving God, but their personal wants and desires are getting in the way. James fears for their relationship with God, as well as the future of the church, and he doesn’t hold back in his letter.
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. (v1-2) Their fighting is rooted in their personal wants, not what they believe God wants for them. With each person arguing for their own desires, there’s no room for compromise.
Brief (but interesting) digression: In Douglas Moo’s commentary on The Letter of James, he explains how “murder” used in this scripture literally means murder! James was writing during the time of the Jewish Zealot movement, so it’s quite possible that these Christians were former Zealots (for whom murder was a valid option when “settling” an argument in the church). Furthermore, the biblical Greek verb form used here by James provides strong evidence that he was referring to physical violence. (The early church had some serious issues to deal with!)
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? (v2-4)
Here, James accuses them of not praying to God at all, or praying out of selfish motives. Previously, James had referred to his readers as “brothers and sisters,” but here he abruptly calls them “adulterers!” James is drawing on an Old Testament allusion to God’s relationship with humankind, and the need to put him first in all things: You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:4-5)
For James’s readers, their own wants and desires have become their idols and have taken the place of God in the holy relationship. James is reminding them in no uncertain terms that God demands their loyalty—a reminder we might want to think about this Lenten season as we reflect on the quality of our own relationship with God… and, the objects of our worship.
Wednesday’s Wisdom: You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship. (N.T. Wright)