Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Those Dirty Clothes - James 1:21

My husband and I enjoy a show on the Discovery channel called "Dirty Jobs." Mike Rowe, the host, goes every show to new places and new dirty jobs. The jobs are as varied as can be imagined, with many different skill levels for each position. There is one common theme though, the people who perform these jobs (and film Mike doing these jobs) get dirty. One particular show, the job was so filthy and disgusting that Mike commented that no one on the crew wanted to even talk after the show was done. They just all wanted to get back to their hotel rooms and wash away as much of the filth as possible from their bodies.

James 1:21 states, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." Since I know it's been a while, lets quickly consider where we've come from. We see that James is a book about the evidences of our faith. James speaks of trials that we go through and the reasons for our joy even in our trials. James talks of the perfect, holy nature of God and how all that comes from God is good and perfect. We saw last time that all these things should have a dramatic impact on how we speak and listen and deal with other people. Here in verse 21 we have another response to all that we have seen in the beginning of the chapter. The first thing we are told is to "lay apart." This action is casting off or putting off like a filthy garment. Mike and his crew have no desire to go sight seeing around town in their filthy, stinking clothes. Joseph, in Genesis, put off his prison garments and cleaned up before being brought before Pharaoh. We too have things we need to cast off.

The first thing James says we need to cast off is "filthiness." This word is speaking of a moral dirtiness, a basic depravity. In our flesh we have this struggle. Paul speaks of this struggle in the end of Romans 7. He talks of his desire to do those things that are pleasing to God, but also speaks of a conflicting reality saying in verse 23, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." His members are generally speaking his body, or flesh as we sometimes say. So, going back to James, we are to cast off this proclivity to do that which is sinful. When we find that our clothes are once again stained, we cast them off again, training ourselves to do that which is pleasing to God rather than that which is contrary.

The second thing we cast off is "superfluity of naughtiness." Superfluity - abundance. Naughtiness - a delight in evil. We get no spring break to have our fling. I don't expect you to go wild down in Daytona, but the point is that the Christian life is a continual tempering of ourselves. We cannot live without self-control. Romans 15:1-3 states, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." Here in Romans we see again the necessity to live outside of ourselves. To deny myself for the edification of another because that is what Christ did.

As with most other passages that speak of the putting off, we also see in James 1:21 the putting on. We put off the wickedness and then we "receive with meekness the engrafted word." In "meekness" we have the opposite of "wrath" found in verse 20 ("For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God"). Meekness here is mildness or humility. We see a childlike faith of trust. Herein we see the acceptance of our trials. Do you remember talking back in verse 13 about how we can come to a trial and want to lash out at God? We come to the trial forgetting that everything from the hand of God is good and perfect (verse 17), and we question whether God is really trustworthy. Instead, we are to receive with humility the "engrafted word."

Take a look at "engrafted." This word means implanted. Think of the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. There is a good soil in which the gospel takes root and produces fruit. There is no other soil in which the seed took root. Here in James we are to receive the word that is already rooted in our lives. We know then that this verse is written to Christians. James here is not referring to salvation, but is referring to sanctification - that daily process of becoming more like Christ. Why are we to receive this word? Verse 21 finishes by saying that the engrafted word, "is able to save your souls." I like what Scofield wrote about "save." He states that we have been saved from the penalty and guilt of sin, and we are being saved from the dominion and habit of sin. We humbly receive the engrafted word so that we might not serve that innate nature which urges us to do what we want to do rather than what Christ wants us to do. We hide God's Word in our hearts so that we do not sin against God (Psalm 119:11).

The challenge then here is to every day be casting off those habits and patterns in our lives that are not for the glory of God. This is not because God doesn't want us to have any fun. Rather, we cast off these "dirty clothes" so that we can be clean vessels ready to receive the pure Word of God.

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