It’s Tuesday night and really early Wednesday morning, and I’m thinking of James 1 and 2 as I prepare to sleep for a few hours before the drive to Timisoara and the long flight home. Today I preached at Logos Baptist Church to the pastors of the Baptist association here (pic included). It was a six-hour drive along two different routes, and many of the rough and winding roads took us through parts of Romania that I had not explored.
That drive and this midnight solitude has prompted me to ponder God’s reminder that we all “like a flower of the grass … will pass away.” Specifically James says that the rich man will “fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” Here’s why those verses are running through my mind. Despite the natural beauty of this country, it’s impossible to drive more than a few kilometers without coming face-to-face with poverty. At the same time, I observe a happiness and a contentment among God’s people here that is nothing short of confounding.
What am I to make of this portion of the Scriptures? For starters, I want an alive and active faith that is more than cheap talk. I hear God’s marching orders to love and serve those who need my help, like the “orphans and widows in their affliction” mentioned in the text. And I know that I’m to treat all people with respect and dignity, whether or not they’re wealthy or able to make my life easier. Those are the parts of James that are easier for me to understand. I get it.
But what I don’t always get is that richness in faith has nothing to do with money. Oh, sure, I get it theoretically. But I often find myself so attached to the comforts of this world that my focus is more on the City of Man than the City of God. If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, they date back to St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.), who made the point that we as believers in Christ are living in a place dominated by self-love, while we’re citizens of a kingdom built on love for God.
Though you and I have been called by Christ to die to ourselves (John 12:24), this side of heaven we will always struggle with attractions to power and position. But how marvelous is the kingdom of our Lord! Even when and where there are no earthly resources to speak of, God by His Spirit pours out the fruits of love and joy and peace. Priceless and amazing.
It broke my heart to say good-bye to Julian and his family. Eileen, Joshua, and I have been forever changed by the summer of 2016. We are so grateful to God for lessons learned, and lessons being learned. All of grace. I just wish I weren’t such a slow learner.
The ESV renders 2:2 as “a poor man in shabby clothing.” In the economy of Jesus, he just may be the happiest guy in the room.