James completed verse 5 by drawing his reader’s attention to the jealous longing God has for His Spirit to dwell within us. The filling of the Holy Spirit is critical to the success of the follower of Christ. His presence is assurance that we will always have the presence of God with us…wherever we go!
God’s presence, dwelling within us, also provides us with the power to overcome the trials and tribulations in life with victory. James’ hope is that his reader will grow in their faith to the point of completion. That process includes demonstrating a heavenly wisdom, one that can only come from God. It will be demonstrated when we are filled with His presence.
In verses six through ten, James slightly redirects his reader’s focus away from the intense focus on God’s wisdom towards His grace. (Although I would submit that a wise person is forever aware of God’s grace!) It seems reasonable that the only was we can truly understand how to respond to God’s grace is through the wisdom He offers.
“But He gives more grace. That is why Scriptures says, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (6-10)
James’s first statement: God will give us more grace. One could wonder how much additional grace God could possibly grant. We have already received immeasurable grace through our salvation. “For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can BOAST.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
James is now assuring his readers that God’s grace will continue to be poured upon His people, grace we desperately continuously need. James has already drawn his reader’s attention to the truth that we are imperfect people. We have been reminded of Paul’s lament regarding his constant shortcomings and struggles. No one can declare categorically with integrity that they are “perfect.” It should be encouraging to hear James sharing that God’s grace is an endless supply. (Jimmy Slick is thankful for that assurance!)
That should be comforting to each of us because wisdom will tell us that we will continue to fall short of God’s glory. Even though we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we will continue to need God’s grace because we will continue to sin. It as if God is saying : “You need more grace……well here it is! Praise God! That is what James means when he says God gives MORE grace.
James’ next statement speaks directly to the heart and attitude of the “grace” recipient. James shares that scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor the humble.” It seems he is referencing Old Testament passages that refer to God’s attitude about pride and humility. “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” (Provers 3:34) “Though the Lord is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar.” (Psalm 138:6) “You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed, those who stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:21)
It is the proud person who says: “I don’t need anyone’s help. I am self-sufficient.” I will be a self-made person.” And it is the humble person who acknowledges the need for God’s grace. They have realized they are NOT strong enough to make it on their own. They are honest enough to admit their continued need for God’s grace. Rather than being prideful, they humbly seek the grace God so freely and continuously offers. THEIR HUMILITY WILL RESULT IN THEM BEING THE ONES WHO WILL RECEIVE HIS WONDERFUL GRACE.
Lest we conclude the receiving of God’s grace alone leads us to a place of effortless holiness, we need to understand that as God presents His grace to us, it also needs to be accompanied by a proper response. Paul addressed this as he mentored Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)
James is proposing that those who have received His grace have a mandate to be obedient to Him as grateful recipients. James shares the link between receiving God’s grace – it translates into our responsibility to live a life of obedience, which is where James leads his reader in verses seven through ten. We will begin looking at those next week.
However, we should also remember that as recipients of God’s grace, it is our responsibility to demonstrate God’s character in our lives – with the way we navigate life’s trials, with how we use our tongue, with the way we avoid fights and quarrels, with the way we refuse to show favoritism…..all of the examples James has provided for his reader to consider in the first couple chapters of his letter.
Are we, as recipients of God’s grace also known as grace-giving people? I would submit without hesitation that grace is not a present component when people are engrossed in fighting and quarrelling, judging others, cursing brothers, showing favoritism, etc.
We are challenged to evaluate, as those who have received God’s wonderful grace, if we are first: going to be obedient to God’s commands, and second: are we going to be people who offer grace to others?
Have a great day!