False Wisdom??!!

Grace, mercy and peace be to you, from God, our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. There are times when Scripture, without someone else interpreting it, hits you right between the eyes. Even here clearly in the New Testament, James is beating on us with the truth of our bad behavior. James is one of those books that make us squirm no matter what part we are reading. James is one of two books of the NT that were written by Jesus earthly brothers. The other one is also short – Jude. James was a late convert to The Way, yet he would also become the head of the church in Jerusalem. He led the church through some tough times, including near starvation, persecution by both the Romans and the Jewish leadership and the successful effort to support them from churches around the Mediterranean Sea. Sts. Paul and Peter helped gather funds so that they could survive and be the ‘home church’ for the other Apostles as they evangelized the region. The church was in a real danger, from an earthly perspective, of not surviving. The world was really squeezing them and they were barely hanging on. But by faith, they did hang on and through the work of the Holy Spirit the Good News was shared throughout the known world and then into some parts that were not yet known. Little vby little, the Apostles spread the message of Jesus.   You can read about each of them and tradition has them traveling far and wide. India, China, Rome and beyond, yes, all parts of the world. Each of them, except for St. John, were martyred for their faith, but that did not stop them. Some were killed by sword, others by arrows and the most gruesome – skinned alive. But that is not what James is speaking about here…or is it? “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Who indeed? This man would also be killed for his faith and that does not seem like such a wise choice. James is speaking to us about out personal conduct and attitudes. In some ways he reminds me of St. Paul in that he is calling us out for our bad behavior and in other ways he expands on it and is even more direct. Bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting and false truths are attacked quite directly.   If you have doubt or thing there is some wiggle room James has an answer for that too. “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”(vs 15-16) The problem that I have is that this description hits real close to home. I see that person all the time, but I find him in the mirror. He combs his hair and brushes his teeth and shaves his face at the same time as me. I see him and recognize him and wonder how could God love him? But He does and I am and will be eternally grateful. Then comes the question. If God loves someone like you and you and you and me…how do we respond? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this; that your passions are at war with you? You desire and do not have.” And there we go…doing the things that we want, instead of the things that we know we should be doing. Our passions override the good that we would rather do and we find ourselves at war. Usually that war is within ourselves and it becomes a war that is impossible to win. Then loved ones, who know where to find our soft underbelly will attack us in the most painful way. That is how we do what James calls, spending our passion. He continues by addressing the people as an adulterous generation of people. This term grinds in our hearts very badly. Many here will jump up and say that they have never been unfaithful to their spouse…how could this man make such a claim and this Pastor suggest that it applies to us? That is a GREAT question. Sure some of us may know that someone has dealt with the sin of sexual adultery in their lives. But that is NOT what James is talking about here. Here he is accusing us of not living out our faith, but being unfaithful to our God and therefore adulterous before Him. This makes us friends with the world and enemies of God. He has given us everything and tells us to be His children, his family, His church…yes, HIS. In order to do this we are to live in such a way that people know we are Christians. This past week, we were able to put a new roof on the school building. This was done with the help of a special ministry from one of our fellow Christian churches. They have taken the gifts that God has given them and turned it into a ministry that helps others in need of their skills, their love of God and their witness. They came here and helped us with their expertise to finish in an economic way a new roof with a full set of roof vents spinning away in the wind. Recently, the PTL, our Parent Teachers League had a fund raiser to assist this church and school. It was a fun evening with good food and lots of silliness with the melodrama that night. Monday night, the Voters were presented a check for $1200 as profit for the dinner/theater. They also got other gifts in the amount of $120 that night. We also heard at the meeting on Monday that a hot-water heater at the school had been repaired. The company that did the work reduced the price for the benefit of the church and school. That bill was presented to the Voters in the amount of $1320.01 In other words, the Lord gave us an opportunity to collect the entire amount needed to pay for that repair, without having to dip into our already tight budget. Oh, by the way, it was short a penny, God has a sense of humor too. With this wonderful example, how can we ever think that we cannot do anything that God wants us to do? Yes, I know that the church has lots of different words that sound fancy and maybe seem unapproachable. But what I just talked about is called STEWARDSHIP. God gives us the gifts we will ever need. He gifts us and prospers us and provides us with everything that we need for our salvation. Our problem is that we rationalize, raise up new theories of our abilities and become what the world thinks we should be – in other words we follow false wisdom. We become exactly the people found in James’ warning. We become pour stewards of God’s gifts. The truth is that God has already done all the work. All we are to do is make good use of His gifts in RESPONSE to what He has done. Step out in faith, take a few risks based on that faith and live out the truth of His expectations for us. Our response is what we call our own Stewardship. We are to give back to God a portion of what He has given to us. He has given us time and we are to give Him 10% of our time. So how good are you at that? Do you give 2.4 hours of each day, or 1.6 waking hours back to God? We are to give our talents. That is exactly what was happening this week when the Baptist Church helped us put a new roof on our school. They knew what they were doing and shared that knowledge with all our members who were up on the roof with them. The third part of Stewardship is called financial stewardship and is what most people think we are talking about when we use the word stewardship. But that is only a portion of this big word. We are to make the best use of our earthly resources, work hard at school, be a good employee, even pay our taxes, all because God has blessed us with the ability to do all those things. As I said before, He has done all the work already, all we have to do is respond and live under His grace. And our response is – thanks be to God. Amen.