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Pastor's Blog

Warning of Three Traps

By January 30, 2023No Comments

In the New Testament book bearing his name, James writes about how to practically live as a follower of Jesus Christ. It makes the exploration of James a worthy journey for those who are investigating the things of Christ, as well as those who have walked with the Lord for many years and anyone in between. Following James’ teachings on living wisely and humbly, he warns of three traps people can fall prey to that would hinder them from living in such a way.

The first trap is defamation. James writes, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor” (James 4:11-12)? Defamation is the act of communicating statements about a person that injure that person’s reputation.

A defamatory word may be perfectly true; we don’t need to tell lies to defame. The fact that something is true does not always give us the right to say it. Defamation is forbidden as a breach of loving humility. Unfortunately, one of the common expressions of our flesh (old self) is to attempt to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. My task as a believer is not to publicize others’ faults nor to privately berate them but to go to them and speak words of truth and life in loving humility. We avoid the pitfall of defaming others by seeking to walk in the lowliest humility with God, knowing that the way down leads upward in our ability to know our Lord and make Him known.

The second warning James has for us is against presumptuousness. We read, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:13-17). How do we guard against presumptuousness? James shares that first, we need to admit our ignorance (4:14). We don’t even know what is right around the corner. This fact alone ought to keep us humble before God, who created, controls, and apportions time. Second, we need to acknowledge our frailty (4:14). Our mortality should be enough to keep us from presuming we are in control and joyfully placing ourselves in God’s capable hands. Lastly, we need to accept our dependence. The very existence of tomorrow is as much part of our dependence on God as is our life itself and our abilities. We avoid the pitfall of being presumptuous by seeking to walk in the lowliest humility with God, knowing that He is in control and can be trusted.

The third and final warning James has for us is against covetousness. James 5:1-6, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”

We discover in James 5:1-6 three pits of covetousness. The first pit to avoid is hoarding (5:2-3). Hoarding is a denial of proper use (Lk 12:33), of true trust in the Lord (1 Tim 6:17), and of godly expectancy (1 Tim 6:18-19). It’s wasting what God has given us to steward on His behalf. The second pit to avoid is fraudulence (5:4). Specifically, James speaks against dishonest and dishonorable paying of wages to employees by their employers. Thirdly, we are to avoid the pit of indulgence (5:5). The picture James provides through His choice of words is a life without self-denial, corrupt, and offering no resistance to sin where there is a promise of comfort and joy, which can ultimately come only from the Lord.

James calls out in no uncertain terms the sin of covetousness that acknowledges only money and self as lord and plots a pathway ahead where others suffer. James is not saying it’s a sin to save, be wealthy, or enjoy what one has earned due to hard work and God’s blessings. Covetousness is saving without regard to kingdom stewardship of what the Lord has entrusted you. Covetousness is gaining wealth by dishonest means and dishonorable practices. James calls those trapped in the pit of covetousness to repent! We avoid the pitfall of covetousness by seeking to walk in the lowest humility with God, knowing that nothing goes unnoticed by our Lord.

Would we be surprised by how often the Lord has taken second place in the way we think and speak of others, plan, and use our wealth, no matter how large or small? In our life of wisely walking with Christ in humility, the traps of defamation, presumptuousness, and covetousness must be avoided. We avoid these pitfalls by seeking to walk in the lowest humility with God, knowing that the way down leads upwards in our ability to know our Lord and make Him known, He is in control and can be trusted, and nothing goes unnoticed by Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!