Do you ever get onto Facebook and it reminds you of something that took place on this day, so many years ago? I have a horrible memory – so I’ve come to really value those reminders from the past. Today I got one of those reminders and I couldn’t help but get tickled because it was SO perfect for where the Lord has been taking me in Scripture. It was a small blurb about how my daughter had gotten ridiculously and needlessly angry. Earlier in the week, my three older kids had been preparing for getting to spend Saturday with their grandma. Grandma had thrown some ideas out to the kids but ultimately assured them no matter what they decided they would have fun. That morning when she came to get some love from the baby and pick up the other three – she mentioned to the kids that they would need to put their shoes on because she was taking them to the park to play. Without hesitation, without a breathe,
immediately got angry. “But you said you were going to take us to Celebration Town to jump on the jumpy castles…you said!’, apparently this was one of the options thrown out in their brainstorming. We encouraged Lacie to just get her shoes on and that she was going to have a great day, but she was already too upset. Instant frustration washed all over her face, her voice got loud as she reiterated ‘but you said!’ and she stormed up the steps to get her shoes. Grandma just sat there silently. In moments Lacie was back down, putting her shoes on, inwardly grumbling, and that’s when Grandma decided to speak. She said ‘Lacie, Celebration Town does not open until 10am, so I was going to take you to the park to play until they opened. But now…because of your reaction…we will not be going.’ Ouch!
Tell me this memory is not perfect in light of today’s verses – ‘My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ James 1:19-21. I would wager to say that we could think of many such scenarios where our children are in fact slow to listen (do they listen, really?), quick to pop off at the mouth and super quick to let frustration and anger pour out of them. It’s one thing when they are kids…but when we still behave this way as adults…woo. (You will notice I avoided any personal stories of myself here today – that was not by accident. 😉 I have read these verses countless times in my Christian walk. I have quoted verse 19 to my children, to my friends, to myself – repeatedly. But will confess that I usually don’t think much of the rest of the passage. Now I am a rule follower, ‘get the task done’ kind of girl…so of course when James gives us an instruction… I’m only gonna focus on the instruction itself. But he didn’t just give an instruction – as you can see he also gives the reason for it. And that is something worth noting today. In particular what stands out to me in this passage is the phrase to ‘humbly accept the word planted in you.’ Hhhmmm… ‘which can save you.’ Don’t make the same mistake that I have so many times before. Don’t discount the importance of the words in this verse. For some reason I can’t seem to get this phrasing out of my head and in fact it has me thinking of the parable of the four soils found in three of the gospels. Particularly in Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus is telling a parable about four different types of soils and the seeds that were trying to be planted in each. Following his story, Jesus goes on to explain that the seed along the path is ‘when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart (Matthew 13:19).’ The seed that fell on the rocky places? This ‘is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away (Matthew 13:20-21).’ For the seed that fell among thorns, Christ said that it represented ‘the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).’ And finally there is the seed that fell on the good soil…this ‘is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop… (Matthew 13:23).’
What I really love is how these words – directly spoken from Jesus’ mouth – are reaffirmed here in James. When Jesus is explaining the parable he tells us that the planting of the seed is when we hear or receive the word of God. If you will notice the first three don’t really listen. They half listen (in one ear out the other, kind of thing) or if they have questions they just don’t care to find the answers. Or they hear but still allow the hardships, or as Jesus said ‘persecutions’, worries and fears to cause them to flee from it. Okay – let’s stop – hasn’t James been telling us to get ready, trials and hardships are coming? You know what he is doing? He is tilling our hearts getting them ready for this seed of God to be able to really take root. Don’t you love that? Even in verse 18 he spoke of how the truth of the word was a first fruits of God. Do you see how God is incorporating these scriptures? Oh, it gets me so excited. Okay, so we see the Lord telling us, through James, that moral filth and evil are prevalent – we also see that in Matthew in the example of the four soils, that if we don’t get deeply rooted in the word, in Christ – it will take barely anything for that to be snatched away.
What a challenge to you and me. If we are not grounded in Him…if He is not the root of hearts…if we are not in the strong rich soil of His Word…if that Word is not planted in us – we will be devoured, our joy robbed and we will go nowhere. And if that weren’t challenge enough, James goes on to talk about how we should humbly accept the Word planted in us. We’ve already heard him explain that we need to be careful to walk in humility, but even Christ demonstrates this idea by explaining that the seed that hit the rocky places – sprang up quick – it was all about the ‘high’, the ‘look at me’ kind of moment. I would even venture further to say it’s the person that takes on the roles of Christian – a door greeter, one who does hospital visitation, who volunteers in the kids area, whatever – the one who becomes all about ‘looking the part’, but never taking the time to really grow in the Lord. Pridefully taking on roles or positions so that others will think – look at her, now that is one Godly girl, getting them-self ‘off the hook’ from having to actually become a Godly girl. (Oh, I would love to say that I have never fallen into that trap). And then – as if there haven’t been enough parallels – James finishes this section by telling us that humbly accepting the Word in us is what saves us! Jesus explained that we can hear the Word all day long, we can even know that He is Christ – but if we don’t let that take root, if we don’t let that change us, and if we don’t reproduce that seed to help yield a harvest – we will be snatched up, devoured, scorched, trampled, choked…in other words we will not survive without His word planted in us! God’s word is amazing. God is amazing!
So what is preventing the Word from being planted in us…well, if we are filled with moral filth and evil – there is no room for His Word to reside in us too. So we need to get rid of that junk. When does the moral filth take root? When our anger gets a hold of us so much that there is no place for His righteousness. Why does our anger get to that breaking point where there is no room for His righteousness and we give way to moral filth and therefore cannot have his word planted in us? When we are slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry. Hhhmmm…Quick to listen? When I think about it – the times that I am furthest from the Lord (where I haven’t been spending time with Him in His Word or in prayer), I have a quick temper, no patience and seem to just get angry on a dime. The times where I am deep in His Word, really seeking His face and trying to be about Him…I have a patience that can’t be explained. Being quick to listen is what got the first three guys in the soil examples into trouble and away the Lord. It got Lacie sitting on the sidelines instead of having fun with jump castles. It is a challenge for us – but such a worthy one, wouldn’t you agree? So are you quick to listen? Are you slow to anger? Time to get into that deep soil and let His word take root in you. Praying for you today.
My prayer for Today…
Lord, again I stand amazed by how connected and intertwined your Word is from one book to the next. I admit Lord, that there have been times where I have been in the wrong part of the field. There have been countless times, even recently, where I have been put to the test – will I be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger or will I only half listen – inserting all of my opinions and judgments into the mix; quick to speak – making sure the stupidity of the situation is made clear, spouting what I believe to be right and true; quick to anger – where in a split second I suddenly become like a cartoon character – eyes bulging, steam pouring from my ears with my head about to blow. First, I thank you Lord that in those moments it has been your Word, your truth, your encouragement found in Scripture that has quieted my voice and calmed my heart. I thank you Lord for the wisdom and guidance found in the words of Jesus, your son, and James, his brother. I thank you Lord for the reassurance that having your Word within keeps the various experiences of this world from devouring my heart and mind. Lord, help me as I hear of wrongdoings to a family member, help me as I hear pains of a friend, help me as I witness a family falling a part, help me when it is all directed at me or inadvertently in my path. May I hold to you, look to you, trust in you. May I remember that for every inch of space I give over to anger, that is one less inch of space for finding joy. The two can’t take up the same space. Which will I choose? Which will my friend here choose? I praise you Lord for your aword and knowing that it can, it does, it has, it will – SAVE us. We praise your name!!! I love you more each day sweet Jesus! In your name I pray – Amen!