Fill in the Blank
James is an eminently practical book. It is full of dos and don’ts. It is plain and to the point. James notices that there are often blanks or gaps which we need to fill in. Here a few.
The gap between believing and trusting. James says if a man lacks wisdom he ought to pray. “But let him ask in faith, doubting nothing” (1:6). It is one thing to believe that God could or might grant a request; it is another to trust that He will. We must pray from trust. If we do not, “Let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv. 7-8).
The gap between knowing and doing. We are in a great position to have knowledge. Access to God’s word is one of our richest blessings. Couple that with regular opportunities to learn from each other, in many cases brethren who have spent a lifetime studying the book. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers . . .” (1:22). Knowing God’s word is essential. But knowing what is right is useless if we never get around to practicing it. In fact, it is worse than useless. “Therefore to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17).
The gap between saying and doing. “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (2:15-16). Anyone can claim to do good. Our judgment will be based on what we do, not just what we claim (Matthew 7:21-23).
The gap between having and benefitting. Most of us are of a mind-set that more is better when it comes to material things. The opening paragraph in chapter five addresses folks who have plenty but do not benefit from it. Why not? Oh, it buys them lots of things, things that they enjoy. It gives them plenty of leisure time. They are having a lot of fun. But therein lies the problem. Wealth tends to produce a focus on self and pleasure. “You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter” (v. 5). Prosperity is beneficial only when we use it in God’s service.
The gap between waiting and being patient. Patience is elusive. It is hard to wait. We want hopes realized today and problems solved yesterday! But the Lord takes His time, so we must wait. In that context, James tells us to stop complaining (5:9). If we grumble and whine all the while until change comes, we are not being patient, we are merely waiting. “You too, be patient; strengthen your hearts” (5:8).